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Finding seats a bit easier for Fenway faithful

Red Sox’ recent poor record means ticket prices have dropped for the home opener and other games

All of last year’s games were sold out, but empty seats were evident early and late in the season.

YOON S. BYUN/GLOBE STAFF/FILE

All of last year’s games were sold out, but empty seats were evident early and late in the season.

Ben Anderson recently listed his $99 ticket to the Red Sox home opener on eBay, expecting to turn an easy profit. But there was not a single bid when the online auction ended last week, despite a modest starting price of $120.

“I figured for Opening Day, there would be no problem,” said Anderson, 36, of Plainfield, Conn. A few days later, Anderson managed to sell the ticket in a second auction for $125, netting just $15 after taxes and fees. “Barely got my money back,” he said.

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A year after the Red Sox posted their worst record in decades — and two years after team’s infamous late-season collapse — fans are not clamoring for tickets as they once did. The average price of a ticket to the home opener on the secondary market is barely half of what it was three years ago, according to TiqIQ, an online marketplace that aggregates inventory from major resellers like StubHub, eBay, and TicketNetwork.

In 2010, the going rate for a ticket to the Sox’s home opener was $439.01, a whopping 73 percent higher than a pass to see any other team. Now, as the team begins a season with unusually low expectations, fans bidding for seats at the April 8 home opener are paying an average of $230.69.

“The secondary ticket market is the worst it’s been in the nine years I’ve been doing this,” said Victor Pitcock, a 73-year-old retiree from Escondido, Calif., who typically resells about 400 Red Sox tickets per season. “It’s awful.”

“Awful” is a relative term. Despite the Red Sox’ recent disappointments, a ticket to Fenway Park remains one of the most desirable in baseball (though, as Anderson discovered, a single ticket without a companion is tougher to sell). The average price on the secondary market is still almost three times face value, third highest in the majors.

But the steep price drop is the latest signal that the business of Red Sox baseball — although still robust — just isn’t what it used to be.

“It really shows fans’ sentiment about where the team is at this point,” said Chris Matcovich, a spokesman for TiqIQ.

Even the Red Sox acknowledge that spinning Fenway Park’s turnstiles will be uncommonly difficult this year. Team executives openly predict that the Sox’ 793-game sellout streak will end early in the season.

Last week, the club announced an unprecedented new draw: discounted concession items in the month of April, including two-for-one hot dogs, $5 drafts, and free kids’ meals.

And as part of a move toward digital ticketing, the team is piloting a loyalty program that aims to reduce no-shows at the ballpark by rewarding regular attendees with chances to win perks like throwing out the first pitch at a home game or helping to operate the famous Green Monster scoreboard.

Several factors appear to be making ticket selling — and reselling — more challenging than usual this spring. After almost a decade of contending for playoff berths, the Red Sox could struggle just to post a winning record, many baseball analysts predict.

The face of the franchise, designated hitter David Ortiz, has begun the season on the disabled list as he recovers from a partially torn Achilles tendon suffered last July.

Unlike in recent years, the Sox have not added the kind of big-name star players who excite casual fans.

Then there is the schedule: The Red Sox will play a whopping 17 home games over three weeks in the soggy month of April, none versus the Yankees and many against mediocre opponents.

The result is that more and more tickets are available for less and less money. The average preseason sale price for all Red Sox games on the secondary market is $118.72, down from $151.10 at this time a year ago. Meanwhile, inventory is up 10 to 15 percent, Matcovich estimated. There are at least 5,000 available seats for one in every four Sox home games.

“My advice to fans would be wait to buy, because prices usually drop right before a game,” Matcovich said. “There are definitely going to be some good deals.”

At ScoreBig.com, a website that helps teams unload unsold tickets below box-office prices, the supply of Red Sox tickets is larger than normal. Though he declined to provide hard numbers, ScoreBig chief executive Adam Kanner said hard times on Yawkey Way mean that even the Red Sox require his company’s service.

“This is a standard story,” said Kanner, a Sox fan. “The live ticket market is a cyclical business. It’s certainly not unique to Boston, but Boston’s not immune, either.”

Pitcock, who developed an affinity for the Sox while stationed at the Fort Devens Army base in the 1950s, anticipated lower demand this season and bought half as many tickets as usual. In the past, he has waited as long as nine hours to make his mass purchases, while hordes of fans clog the Red Sox’ online ticket system, but he said there was little delay on the first Saturday in December, when the digital box office opened.

Normally, Pitcock sells his haul for profit on StubHub and eBay and uses the proceeds — along with money he makes reselling tickets to concerts and other sporting events — to take his wife on vacations and contribute to his grandkids’ college savings accounts.

But as he contemplates the team’s outlook for the coming season — and examines his early sales figures — Pitcock fears he overestimated the loyalty of Red Sox fans and might actually lose money on his tickets.

“I just sold some $28 bleacher seats for $11,” Pitcock said. “Unless something changes, I probably won’t be selling Red Sox tickets next year.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com.
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