Miami Marlins

Marlins rolling out new ideas, cheaper seats to lure new fans

The Marlins are lowering season-ticket prices in an effort to boost attendance at a ballpark that has struggled to draw fans since its opening in 2012.
The Marlins are lowering season-ticket prices in an effort to boost attendance at a ballpark that has struggled to draw fans since its opening in 2012. Miami Herald Staff

Mark Hopkins is a baseball purist, an ardent fan of the Marlins, and a season-ticket holder since 2000. When Hopkins opened an email from the Marlins earlier this week, though, he discovered a surprise.

The Marlins had lowered the price of his seats for the 2019 season.

“This year I paid $9,856 for them,” said Hopkins, who buys a 41-game package each season for Diamond Club seats behind home plate. “Next year, they will be $9,396 — $460 less.”

Hopkins would prefer the last-place Marlins under new owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter improve the product on the field (“It’s very difficult to be a Marlins fan,” he said). But he’s not complaining about the price drop.

He probably isn’t alone.

The Marlins are cutting costs on season tickets in a bid to fill seats at Marlins Park, where average attendance this season of 10,088 ranks last in the majors.

“I don’t want the narrative to be we’re lowering ticket prices because we have to,” said Chip Bowers, the Marlins’ president of business operations. “The reality is we’re lowering ticket prices because we screwed up to begin with. We weren’t very smart. So we had to take a step back and say everything needs to be scraped.”

The season-ticket push is the first for new ownership, which took over in October after season-ticket sales were already in full swing. Bowers said the goal is to retain existing fans and entice new ones to start showing up at a ballpark that has struggled to fill seats since its opening in 2012.

To do that, the Marlins aren’t just lowering prices by up to 25 percent depending on location and tenure. They’re also increasing “member” benefits with discounted food and beverage prices, as well as a points-reward system fans can use to interact with players, watch batting practice on the field, and change the bases between innings.

“We gave them better incentives to be a member, everything from introducing a 12-month payment plan for most of our members,” Bowers said. “We took a really, deep hard look at how do you create more value around being a season-ticket holder?”

Bowers said when the Marlins open the 2019 season March 28 at home against the Rockies, fans can expect to find new concessionaires that better reflect Miami tastes, to “to be authentically Miami.”

He said they’re also creating new seating sections for “millennials,” including lower-cost barstool seating and standing-room only areas.

“The first step of any is admit you have a problem,” Bowers said of past pricing strategies. “We had a problem. We weren’t structurally sound. We weren’t strategically sound. Our goal in this was multi-fold. It was to clean up what was a broken infrastructure in how we engage our season-ticket members. And we felt year one of ownership was the right time to do it.”

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Garrett Cooper’s first season with the Marlins has been one to forget. Now, after months of trying to recover from a wrist injury that’s been plaguing him from day two when he was hit by a pitch, it appears all but certain he won’t play again.

Cooper re-injured his wrist Friday for Single A Jupiter and will be returned from his injury rehab assignment for further medical evaluation. His latest setback occurred when he ran into an outfield wall.

“I’d say (there’s) a pretty good chance it probably ends,” manager Don Mattingly said of Cooper’s season. “It’s a setback for sure.”

Cooper was the Marlins’ Opening Day right fielder after being acquired over the winter from the New York Yankees. But the wrist issues have limited him to 33 at bats in which he hit .212.

— The Marlins transferred center fielder Lewis Brinson’s injury rehab assignment on Saturday to Triple A New Orleans. Brinson hit just .130 for Double A Jacksonville as he tries to make his way back from a mid-season hip injury.

The Marlins still expect to activate Brinson from the DL, most likely in early September, but first want to see his timing improve at the plate.

“We let him struggle through the season here,” Mattingly said. “But I don’t think we want him to come back and start again like that.”

— Dan Straily was claimed by an unidentified team while on revocable waivers but was pulled back by the Marlins, a source said. Derek Dietrich and Starlin Castro remain trade options if either draws interest before the Aug. 31 trade deadline for players put on waivers.

— With National League East teams facing American League Central teams next season in interleague play, the Marlins will be hosting the Indians, Twins and Royals.

Herald staff writer Barry Jackson contributed to this report.

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