After selling out this season, Jazz raise season ticket prices in a major way for 2019-20

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fans pull the Utah Jazz flag before the start of their game against the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of the NBA playoffs at the Vivint Smart Home Arena Sunday, May 6, 2018 in Salt Lake City.

Many Jazz season ticket holders figured their prices were going up next year, thanks to a season in which the Jazz sold out all of their season ticket and half-season ticket packages. But they didn’t expect to see the increases they did Wednesday in an email from the team to season ticket holders.

In the upper bowl, ticket prices increased drastically, with many more than doubled from the 2018-19 season to the 2019-20 season. Tickets which cost $6 dollars per game will now cost $15 per game. Tickets which were $12 per game are now either $15 or $30, and $18 tickets are now either $30 or $36.

The number of pricing tiers in the upper bowl has been decreased from seven to four — in the lower bowl, 11 tiers were consolidated to 10 — and as a result, the prices for many ticket holders has changed significantly. Many saw big increases, though a few rows in the arena actually saw decreases as their seats were reclassified.

Tickets in the lower bowl saw much smaller increases, from about 4 to 7 percent depending on the tier.

Here’s the pricing map and tiers for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Jazz decision makers cited two rationales for the price increases on the cheaper seats. First, they noted the prices would bring Jazz tickets more in line with other sports experiences, including local teams and NBA markets around the country.

“Cheapest ticket for Utah football is about $30, BYU football $20, Real Salt Lake $16, Utah Grizzlies $14, and even the Bees is $8,” one email sent to fans explained.

And it is true that NBA teams' tickets typically cost more, even in smaller markets. Portland’s cheapest tickets cost $17 for season ticket holders, Oklahoma City’s cost $16, while San Antonio’s tickets begin at the same $15 range. However, markets where interest is low typically have cheaper tickets, like Memphis' $9 tickets or New Orleans' $7.50 tickets, and Dallas sells $10 season tickets to try to maintain their sellout streak.

The Jazz’s $6 tickets were a holdover from the Ty Corbin era, when the team sold the three top rows of season tickets to fans for $5 each — a “Pay the Pick” promotion where Jazz fans signed up to pay the price of the draft pick that the Jazz would get in the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery. The Jazz got the 5th pick (used to select Dante Exum), so fans paid $5, an amount that was increased to $6 in subsequent years — the cheapest season ticket in the NBA. With higher interest now, they feel comfortable raising prices to San Antonio or Oklahoma City levels.

Junior Jazz ticket prices are not changing, which accounts for 2,100 tickets for nearly every game.

The team also noted that tickets in those $6-12 ranges are typically sold for much more on the secondary market. Thanks to a new deal with Ticketmaster, the Jazz have a better idea of what tickets are being sold for when they’re re-sold.

“We’re able to get all of that data. Then we as a group look at the entire arena, and look where there are glaring holes," Jazz senior vice president of ticketing Chris Barney explained.

“Our lowest ticket prices were being sold for $16 on average for the lowest, E rated games” — say, the Tuesday night games against a low-profile team — “For AA games, that jumped to $54 tickets in resale price,” Barney explained.

Forty percent of those seats frequently found themselves on the re-sale market, but for the other 60 percent of fans, the Jazz know that this move could price them out. For those fans, the Jazz say they’re trying to make accommodations, whether it be moving to a cheaper price point, half-season tickets, or a “fan pass” idea which would guarantee just standing room only tickets to fans at some games, but better tickets when there’s availability.

But while the organization’s rationale for raising ticket prices is understandable, it didn’t make the jump in prices any easier to swallow for those fans.

“It really feels like a slap in the face that they’d reward the loyalty of fans like us by sticking us with this kind of price increase out of the blue,” Bentley Mitchell, who has three season tickets in row 5 of the upper bowl baseline, said. “We love the team and love the organization, but this really stings.”

And with those raises comes some tough decisions.

“Obviously it’s tough to say right now if it feels worth it, given the sudden big jump with no added value. We would certainly have to make sacrifices in other areas of our budget if we wanted to keep them," Jazz season ticket holder Mitch Nall, who has tickets near the top of the upper bowl, said. "Right now we’re leaning towards opting out of the season tickets and just buying individual games that we want to attend.”

Season ticket holders have been given until Jan. 31 to decide to opt out of their tickets for next season.