The price for a season ticket to see the Buffalo Bills is going up for the 2021 season.
In a letter going to season ticket holders Monday, the team will break down the increase, which on an overall weighted average comes out to $8.02 per seat, per game. The average price per ticket (factoring in club and regular seats) will be $101.69, an increase of 8.6% from 2020.
“There is really so much that goes into our pricing every year,” Chris Colleary, the team’s vice president of ticket sales and service, told The Buffalo News. “We look at historical sales, comparable NFL markets, and really try to determine the market value for each seat. We're literally going in row by row, seat by seat, evaluating the season ticket sales history for the last three seasons, if the seat was available on a single-game price, what it sold for, and then if that seat was ever sold on a resale site, what it sold for, and really trying to come up with what we feel is a fair market value for each seat.”
The breakdown of the per-game increase:
• 25% of seats will increase $13 to $19;
• 46% of seats will increase $6 to $12;
• 29% of seats will increase $5 or less.
This week’s mailbag starts with a couple of questions about the approach to the draft and free agency.
The team is planning on full capacity at Bills Stadium, but if state or NFL guidelines limit attendance because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, season ticket holders will have priority access to tickets. Traditionally, the renewal process for season tickets starts after the Super Bowl in February, but the Bills held off for a month to try to get some clarity on what the 2021 season might look like. With the vaccination effort across the country ramping up and Covid-19 case numbers gradually declining, there is a feeling of light at the end of the tunnel.
“We're planning and hoping on 100% capacity,” Colleary said. “We certainly don't know that to be the case, but we're planning that way. We're hoping for the best. We're planning for the best-case scenario.”
The average cost of a general admission seat will be $82.14 in 2021, an increase of $7.68 per game. A club seat will average $253.96 per game, an increase of $10.48. Despite that, the Bills expect that they will remain in the bottom quarter of the 32-team league in average pricing.
“We're comparing our 2021 pricing to the other NFL teams’ 2020 pricing, and we're roughly 20% lower than the NFL average, still,” Colleary said.
Based on the 2020 NFL Fan Cost Index published by the independent Team Marketing Report, the Bills’ average season ticket price for a general admission seat was the most inexpensive in the NFL. The Bills offer 20% of the seats inside Bills Stadium for less than $55 per game, and 64% of their seats for less than $100 per game.
“We try to look at the dollar increase, as well as the percentage and the impact on people and try to be fair,” Colleary said. “Any time when there is any type of rescaling or repricing, it varies for some people. There are some accounts, similar to years past, their invoice cost might go down a little bit. There are others that go up.”
With that number of unrestricted free agents on the roster, the Bills have some serious maneuvering to do to bring back even some of them.
In all, the Bills have 33 price levels, ranging from $390 to $3,675 per seat for the 2021 season.
The Bills’ season ticket package is based on 10 games. Traditionally, that has meant two preseason and eight regular-season games. This year, however, it could mean just one preseason game and nine games that count. That is dependent upon the NFL expanding the regular season to 17 games. The AFC would host the extra home game in 2021 on a rotating basis, meaning the Bills would have eight regular-season home games and two preseason games in 2022.
A price hike is not a surprise coming off a successful season that resulted in the first AFC East divisional title since 1995 and a trip to the AFC championship game. With fans not allowed in attendance for the regular season because of the pandemic, the team started taking season ticket deposits for the 2021 season in October.
“As the season went on and the team's success went on, we saw really, really strong demand. From November through January, we haven't seen demand like that in season ticket sales in years,” Colleary said.
During that three-month stretch, the Bills took about 5,000 deposits for season tickets, Colleary said, almost an entire offseason worth of sales.
“There is really a lot of excitement out there,” he said. “I think a lot of fans want to come back. I think the playoff games were a reminder of what that atmosphere could be like. Part of the sense of being a season ticket member is the community and being there and being there in person and sharing that experience with friends and family.”
Veteran players hitting the market who are not stars will feel the pinch. For the Bills’ free agents, that could mean everyone except for top unrestricted guys – tackle Daryl Williams and linebacker Matt Milano.
When it became clear last year that fans were not going to be allowed for the regular season, the Bills gave season ticket holders the option to “opt out” of the 2020 season without losing their account seniority and seat location for 2021.
Only about 20% of season ticket holders did so, with the remaining 80% choosing to leave their money as account credit. Doing so gave them the first crack at tickets if the state allowed fans at any point. That ended up happening for both home playoff games, with a plan allowing for about 6,700 fans approved. Accounts with seniority dating back to 2015 had the opportunity to purchase tickets, according to Colleary.
“We're so excited to be able to open up the stadium, hopefully on full scale,” he said. “That little bit of taste for the playoff games, what a great reminder of what that stadium is like when it's full. As I've noted before, we're super fortunate to have such a passionate, loyal fan base that has been with us through so much over the past 20 years and certainly stepped up this year in any capacity they could.”
Other updates for season ticket holders include:
• The Bills will continue to offer interest-free, extended payment plan options. Fans who pay for their season tickets with either a four- or 10-month payment plan will have their seats automatically renew unless they inform the team during a 30-day opt-out window that they wish to cancel their tickets. According to the team, about 70% of season ticket holders used the extended payment plan option. Season ticket holders who pay their entire cost up front are not part of the automatic-renewal program. Even some of the accounts that opted out last year and were refunded may still be part of the automatic-renewal program.
• If the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed, season ticket holders from Canada can either have money paid applied to an account credit or can request a refund.
• The cost for parking passes for season ticket holders remains the same as 2020: $220 for the general admission cash lot for a season pass and $300 for the premium lots. Game-day parking prices have not yet been finalized.
• In addition to the three divisional games against New England, Miami and the New York Jets, the Bills will host Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh at Bills Stadium. If the 17th game is approved, the Washington Football Team will also visit Orchard Park.