"We've been looking at it for three or four seasons now," Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini said. "I was of the mind that teams with the bigger demand are doing it. We've been watching and benchmarking those teams. We've been slow to move to that model."
Castellini noted that the Reds have been doing their own mini-version of dynamic pricing for a few seasons. The club already charges more for Opening Day tickets, and have bundled tickets to the opener with other games in less demand. There have also been higher prices charged for premium weekend series against division rivals like the Cardinals and Cubs as well as various discounted coupons, two-for-one specials and senior citizen days.
"The biggest difference is the ability to manipulate it during the season," Castellini said. "A lower demand game, you might see us drop prices to try and move some volume in certain sections of the ballpark. In a higher demand, we'd have to ability to slightly uptick.
"We've been very cautious in evaluating it. You'll see us be cautious in how we execute it this year. You'll see us making very nominal changes with this dynamic, little moves here and there and nothing significant that jumps off of the page. We've conservatively delve into it this season and continue to measure the demand and results of that activity throughout the season -- and not get too aggressive in each direction."
Single-game tickets, excluding Opening Day, will go on sale at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, and will be available at reds.com, by phone and in person at Great American Ball Park and select Kroger stores.
Ticket prices for season-ticket holders will not be affected by dynamic pricing and at no time will prices for single-game tickets trend lower than season-ticket prices. The Reds are hoping that fans who prefer to not get season tickets will buy their single-game tickets early to save money. Ticket prices could increase as the game date gets closer.
"What we don't want the consumer to do is be conditioned to wait," Castellini said.
The Reds will be employing a company, Austin, Texas-based QCue, to assist with price adjustments that are based on factors like the day of the week, team performance, weather forecasts and ticket inventory.
"All those things go into a spreadsheet formula that spits out recommendations for pricing," Castellini said. "You can take that information and religiously follow it, or make your own adjustments to the suggestions based on your market knowledge."
It also creates flexibility for the unforeseen. Known around baseball as "The Strasburg Effect," after Nationals young ace Stephen Strasburg, there will be times that visiting clubs have a new star acquisition or prized prospect making his debut in Cincinnati to create a suddenly high demand.
"You might have the opportunity to take advantage of some of that demand," Castellini said. "At the same time, in April, when the kids are still in school and it's tough to get people to the park, you'll see us dynamically downward price some inventory to try and move volume. We're working in both directions."
Some things won't be changing at all. For example, $5 outer view level tickets will be available for 64 of the 81 home dates and longtime discount offers like Sunday family days and the four tickets for $48 weekend deals remain in effect.
The ability to still be a spur-of-the-moment walk-up ticket buyer will also be possible, even with dynamic pricing.
"You don't want to move the meter that you negatively affect the volume of the walk-up fan," Castellini said. "It's not changing every minute where the guy standing in line in front of you has a different price than the guy four steps back. There will be small incremental changes to certain sections of the ballpark. It's not every seat, every game at a different price. There will be no less than 24 hours advance where we communicate it on the web site."
As a small-market club that will have its 2013 payroll reach the $100-million mark for the first time in its history, the Reds expect the new pricing plan to help them remain competitive on the field and help them add new players.
"Every dollar we increase on the top line we've put back into the product -- Major League payroll, baseball operations, player development, scouting and the Minor League system and all the things that go into developing the team," Castellini said. "That product also includes the game day experience, improvements to the ballpark that make the fan experience as good as it could be. We re-invest in the product."