Outrage inbounds over Chargers ticket price hike By Matthew T. Hall3:49 P.M.JAN. 11, 2013 The headline seemed too matter-of-fact: “Chargers lower some ticket prices, raise others.” The Chargers, without a playoff appearance or winning season in three years and with a front office in turmoil, actually raised ticket prices? Boy, did they. The Chargers jacked up season ticket prices by 11 percent to 22 percent on 24,000 of their most loyal customers — those with the best field, plaza and press-level seats at Qualcomm Stadium. That $900 season package? It now costs as much as $1,100. And that’s for 10 discounted tickets, bought in bulk. Single-game seats in those same sections went up by a whopping 33 percent, from $98 to $130. To be fair, 45,000 seats in the venue will cost the same or less this year. For example, nearly 10,000 seats will cost about $50 as the team tries to fill a stadium, win more games than it has and prevent a recurrence of the four TV blackouts that were caused by poor ticket sales in 20012. The Chargers also are trying to bring ticket costs in line with other National Football League teams, most of whom have been increasing their prices. “We needed to make some adjustments there so we could remain a viable and competitive team financially, but also find a way to fill as many seats as we can,” Chargers spokesman Bill Johnston told me. “Obviously, it’s never a good time.” But couldn’t this calculus work the other way, creating more empty seats by alienating fervent but cash-strapped fans and leaving a bigger glut in the secondary market where $98 tickets don’t fetch face value now? I threw the question to a couple dozen fans. But first, I did some math. Since the team’s 14-2 high-water mark in 2006, it has lost about 16,000 of its 62,000 season ticket holders in a stadium with room for 70,000. The good news? Until now, ticket prices hadn’t risen since 2008. The bad? The cost for parking and beer had. When you add in these expenses, Chargers games were the seventh-most expensive in the 32-team NFL last year and the average ticket price was 10th. A family of four paid $466.20 per Chargers game last year, according to the company Team Marketing Report. The league average was $443.93, but still. Worse for fans? A cup of beer at Qualcomm was the NFL’s priciest — $9. The only other team that charged $9 a cup were the Bills, but their fans got 20 ounces instead of 16. Now back to the Jan. 4 announcement of the 2013 Chargers ticket “rescale.” A news release downplayed the increases as $10 or $20 a game, and a separate email to ticket holders framed the higher-priced packages in terms of how much “you save!” over new single-game ticket prices. Some business model, I thought. After bleeding fans for years, the team’s now bleeding them dry? San Diego’s laid-back, but shouldn’t there be outrage? I found some in Coronado at the home of Roy Gayhart, whose two seats at the 30-yard line would cost him $400 more a year if he renews. A season ticket holder from 1974 to 1986 and from 1994 to now, Gayhart said he’ll walk away because of the higher cost, the team’s poor play and the ease of watching games on TV. “My wife would have liked me to sell the tickets two or three seasons ago,” Gayhart said. “She doesn’t understand the masochism that comes with spending that kind of money.” He added: “It’s an emotional decision, but I’ve done it before.” Another fan emailed me: “I don’t mind paying $3,600 a year for my four seats I’ve had since 1988, if they’d put a team on the field that wasn’t so inept. Very frustrating, thinking of getting rid of two of my four.” These guys seem to be in the minority. Take Chuck Piro of La Mesa. “After 33 years, after being a season ticket holder for that long, I was just going to say, ‘Screw it. I’ll watch it on TV. Then I talked to my brother and the other guys we go to the game with and my brother said, ‘You’re going to let $100 stop you from going, when we’ve been going for so long and we always have such a good time?’” Piro said. Some will renew without hesitation despite higher costs. And those spared increases are all too eager to see what a new general manager and head coach might do. But others are forking over more money reluctantly. Fletcher Hills tailgaters Al and Josephine Thoryk won’t miss out on their parties in the H4 section of the parking lot despite the pricier tickets. But their streak of attending every home game since they began buying her uncle’s tickets 13 years ago may get reset in 2013. “I don’t know if I’ll go to all the games,” Al said. “I just can’t wait to find out much they’re going to charge us for parking.” It’s too early to say what the pricing’s impact will be, Johnston said. Ticket sales don’t spike until the NFL draft in April and summer training camp. “Our goal is to fill the stadium and to sell as many seats as possible, which obviously gives us that strong home-field advantage, which helps us win, and which helps us sell tickets,” Johnston said. “That’s a cycle that we just need to get back into.” Las Vegas may already have a betting line on how many TV blackouts the Bolts will have in 2013. You think the fans and the under will come through?