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Mets Fans May be Madoff’s Final Victims

Could Bernie Madoff raise the price of a hot dog at Citi Field?

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Though the Mets owners remain mum about what impact – if any — the $162 million settlement over profits reaped from the Ponzi schemer will have on the team, experts say the hefty sum could eventually be passed on to fans. Tickets, peanuts and cracker jacks could all get more expensive, says Maury Brown, founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes BizOfBaseball.com. “They will cautiously go after higher prices — but they’ll have to be selective about it,” he says.

The owners agreed to settle the case to avoid a high-profile and potentially costlier civil trial, according to reports.  As part of the deal reached in Manhattan Federal court, the Mets won’t have to make a payment for three years, and must surrender any recoveries from their claims against the bankruptcy estate, which amount to about $178 million. It comes at a bad time for the Mets: Ticket sales for premium seats at the 42,000-seat Citi Field plummeted to $50.6 million through 2011 from $99.3 million the year before, according to Newsday, while concession sales fell 28% since 2009, to $10.9 million in 2011.

Due to the team’s less than stellar performance in recent seasons, a massive ticket spike may not immediately be in the baseball cards, experts say – but a small one is possible. “The average Mets ticket price is $62 — much lower than the $89 for the Yankees,” says Mike Janes, general manager of ticketing site NextTag.com. “So there’s certainly room for upside,” he says. But the team will be able to maximize profits per game thanks to new “dynamic” ticket pricing being put into use this year. Qcue, a Texas-based ticketing technology company, allows the club to adjust prices up and down based on demand. Designed to help fill empty seats during a slow game, it also gives the team more flexibility to pump up prices, analysts say. “If that erases some of this debt and gets fans to come out to the ballpark the Mets will be happy,” Brown says. Given the enormity of the Madoff settlement, the introduction of dynamic pricing comes at a good time, says Will Flaherty, spokesman for ticket site SeatGeek.com. “There’s no doubt that it will help them generate incremental revenue this year,” he says.

To be sure, some commentators say the Mets fans are lucky the $162 million figure wasn’t a lot higher. Kristi A. Dosh, ESPN sports business commentator, says the settlement could have reached over $380 million had the case gone to a jury trial. (The Mets did not respond to requests for comment.) Also, in the team’s favor is the three-year window to pay the settlement, experts say. “If the team is doing better this or next season, it will be able to recoup some of the losses from this case and make additional profits,” she says.

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