In an article today in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, hidden in the middle of a nice homespun story is some of the bleak facts for folks buried on the Packer Season Ticket Waiting List.
In all, 126 names fell off the list this year, which is now reaching epic proportions at 88,831. The protagonist of the article, Tina Dollar-Hibbard, was placed on the list back in 1970...when she was five years old.
Thanks to stadium expansion in 2003, the wait for Dollar-Hibbard and many others was accelerated, but for those of us who didn't get on the list as infants, the wait still appears to be so long that we hope for tickets for our grandchildren instead of ourselves.
99.6 percent of all the season ticket holders renewed this past year, compared to 99.4 percent in 2009. Last year, 192 names came off the list. Before that, the average number of new season tickets since 2003 averaged between 50 and 60.
Certainly, the economy has to have many season ticket holders making some tough choices, and this year's somewhat startling ticket price increase didn't help. Granted, many of these tickets may also be from fans who own 8-12 tickets, and may just be paring down their number of seats. But for those folks who are giving up a family heirloom, it's got to be a tough decision, because they aren't going to get those seats back anytime soon.
Now, that backlog of waiters on the season ticket list give Mark Murphy and the Packers a lot of flexibility to take some risks. After all, it's not like Murphy has to worry about empty stadiums in his lifetime, much less over the next couple of hundred years. At about #31,000 on the season ticket waiting list, I was looking at well over 500 years before my name came off, at the rate before the recession. I can now project that, if we continue to lose a hundred-plus names off the list each year, I can now look forward to getting my tickets in only 291 years.
In other words, Murphy can gently push the prices of the tickets up over the next couple of years, gradually pricing some people out of the stadium, only to be replaced with an endless list of folks willing to take their place. And, as we know, the Packers still rank less than the middle of the league in ticket prices, so Murphy has little to stop him.
This seems like as good of a time as any to reiterate my plan for the potential 8,000 seats the Packers are considering for the South End Zone expansion. I do agree with Brian Carriveau that the Packers are unlikely to simply add more seating, but will start creating some year-round attractions such as a beer garden or other fan-friendly fare.
But, in conjunction with the inevitable 18-game regular season that Murphy is pushing, here's how I propose to clear the list:
* The Green Package season ticket owners will keep their six home regular season games.
* The Gold Package season ticket owners will keep their two home regular season games.
* The Green and Gold Package season ticket owners will no longer have a preseason game, as the preseason would likely be shortened to two games, with only one home preseason game.
* A new package (called the Gridiron Package) will be introduced, in which they would get the one preseason game and the one extra home game offered by an 18-game regular season.
Now, people on the list can choose to bypass an offer of the Gridiron package and wait for a Green or Gold package to become available, but for many fans sitting in the tens-of-thousands, a Gridiron package will be better than nothing in their lifetime.
This would create 8,000 new Green package tickets (in the South End Zone), 8,000 new Gold Package tickets, and about 80,000 new Gridiron Packages....thus clearing much of the list and getting more fans into the game. Certainly, many fans with a Gridiron package would resubmit their names to the list in hopes of getting a Green or Gold Package in addition, so the list itself wouldn't shrink by too much, leaving Murphy will still much of a cushion to work with.
Now, this makes complete sense to me, a fan, but probably very little sense to the Packers, who would not be too enthusiastic about completely clearing the waiting list. It probably wouldn't be very popular among present season ticket holders, who would not have access to the additional game (and lose a preseason game in the process). But, when you read stories about people who are waiting 40 years for their tickets today, realizing the list is far longer now, it's a potential way to make a lot of people happy.