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Want a ticket to the All-Star Game? At StubHub.com, the cheapest ticket offered – a seat in the no-alcohol bleachers section – cost $357. The most expensive? $29,500 for a Field Championship seat.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 7/14/2008 6:44:26 PM ET 2008-07-14T22:44:26

During the Midsummer Classic in 2002, the game of baseball hit a nadir.

Held in Milwaukee, Commissioner Bud Selig’s hometown, the All-Star Game ended in a tie, something unheard of in the sport. Though managers had run out of pitchers in extra innings, fans wondered: couldn’t an All-Star shortstop hurl a few strikes?

Fox’s broadcast notched the lowest ratings ever for an All-Star Game at night. The annual exhibition game was starting to both draw yawns and anger fans, as displayed by the bottles tossed onto the field at Miller Park once the tie was announced.

But as Yankee Stadium prepares to host its final All-Star Game July 15, the Midsummer Classic has been revitalized. In fact, on the revenue front, the All-Star Game has never been healthier.

Ticket prices are setting records. The most expensive face-value seat for Tuesday’s contest is $725 – more than twice as pricey as the top ticket in San Francisco last year and nearly triple the 2006 benchmark of $250, when the game was played in Pittsburgh.

Given the nostalgia of the final season at Yankee Stadium (which will be replaced by a new Yankee Stadium in 2009), along with a host of baseball legends slated to appear, the secondary ticket market has exploded. At StubHub.com last week, the cheapest ticket offered – a seat in the no-alcohol bleachers section – cost $357. The most expensive? One could choose to pay $29,500 for a Field Championship seat (or use the money to buy a well-stocked new car).

Even the non-game events are drawing New York prices. The cheapest face-value seat for the State Farm Home Run Derby on July 14 is three figures, which is akin to paying $100 to watch batting practice on steroids. The All-Star Fanfest at the Javits Center is predicted to draw records crowds despite a $30 ticket price for adults and $25 for children.

Television advertising sales have been phenomenal for the 79th All-Star Game. In 2005, Fox sold 30-second commercials for an average of $375,000 apiece, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Those numbers rose respectably for the 2006 and 2007 contests to $405,000 and $425,000. This year? By May, top prices had reached $550,000, according to SportsBusiness Journal, and sales proceeded at a brisk pace.

In 2006 and 2007, MLB All-Star Game television ratings began a trend upward, and there’s no doubt the 2008 version should continue that wave. According to USA Today, Fox is planning some audience-pleasing moves, such as placing Hall of Famers in the broadcast booth and asking every player, coach and manager to don a microphone. Whatever the final numbers, the game, which began in 1933 in Chicago’s Comiskey Park, still draws millions of more viewers than the All-Star offerings of other sports.

The pre-game hype will be unmatched, the type of hoopla that could only be generated in New York City. More than three dozen Statue of Liberty replicas will dot streets in colors of various MLB teams. Home of some of the world’s best-known parades, from Macy’s Thanksgiving spectacle to ones in the Canyon of Heroes honoring astronauts and championship teams, Manhattan will feature Hall of Famers and others in open cars for nearly 20 blocks the day of the game. Also tied into the All-Star Game festivities: Jon Bon Jovi is playing a concert at Central Park on July 12 (Bank of America is the presenting sponsor).

According to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the 2008 All-Star Game overall should generate about $150 million in new business for the city. Compare that to the 2000 All-Star Game at Turner Field, which the Atlanta Sports Council estimated made less than a $50 million impact on the surrounding area.

Of course, this All-Star Game may end up being an aberration for MLB. The advantages this summer are ample: the history surrounding Yankee Stadium, the buzz generated by the New York market. Next year’s venue, St. Louis, will have a tough time setting a new standard for revenue.

But there’s no doubt the All-Star Game has come a long way since the dreaded tie in 2002. There’s already a winner in the 2008 game, and it’s Major League Baseball.

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