Mets struggle to seat a full house in Flushing

As of last night, there were still seats available at Citi Field.

Are you a New York Mets fan? Odds are you won’t be at Thursday’s Opening Day game.

Unlike the Yankees or the Phillies, the Mets are struggling to sell out their Opening Day. Dave Howard, the team’s executive vice president for business operations, said Tuesday there were still “several thousand” tickets available for today’s home opener, illustrating just how sour the mood of the fans has become.

The Mets are, of course, eager to fill their 41,800-seat ballpark for the first home game of baseball season, but in order to get a packed house, they will need brisk sales today and anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 walk-up fans to buy tickets, Howard said, according to the New York Post.

The team ownership’s involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal and hemorrhaging funds have caused them to part ways with some of their best players to cut payroll. The Mets’ $52 million reduction in payroll from last year represents the largest reduction in baseball history.

And attendance at home games dropped 7 percent last year, to its lowest levels since 2004.
“It’s not lack of enthusiasm, it’s just realism,” said lifelong Mets fan and Bronx resident Ramsby Roland, 32, yesterday, of his low expectations for the team this year. “I think they’re going to battle it out with the Nationals for last place. They’re not better than the Phillies, they’re not better than the Braves; they lost Jose Reyes. I don’t even know who their closer is.”

It’s a far cry from years past. The Mets have sold out every home opening game since 1997, and it’s often one of the hottest tickets of the season.

Compare the Mets’ scramble to fill seats this weekend to New York’s other baseball team. The Yankees season opener on April 6 in Tampa Bay against the Rays is sold out, as is their opening game at home, on April 13. And Mets archrival, the Phillies’ April 9 opener is sold out, setting an MLB record with 204 straight sellouts.

Cheap seats

Some fans may just be waiting for cheaper tickets. Opening Day Mets tickets average $133, the 10th highest across the MLB, according to SeatGeek.com, which aggregates ticket listings from 60 different sites, such as StubHub and eBay.
  
That’s a steep increase from last year’s Opening Day game against the Marlins, which cost fans on average $93, while their 2010 opener against the Washington Nationals cost $101 on average.
   
But tickets for the weekend will drop back down again. The Saturday and Sunday games in the Mets-Braves series are averaging $67 per ticket. Tickets to the next series at Citi Field against the Washington Nationals average just $39.

Mets make odd offer

In a particularly desperate move, the Mets sent out an e-mail last week to some fans who had already purchased tickets, according to Capital New York. “You can still purchase tickets to watch the first pitch … And to thank you for your support, you can choose to come back on Saturday or Sunday for free.”

Summer looks bleak

Opening Day should be packed, and it’s usually later in the season when fans drop off. For example, prices for a Mets home game against the Cincinnati Reds later this year average at just $41.



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