May 6, 2004 -- Less than two weeks after the Knicks' first-round playoff loss to the Nets, owner James Dolan socked it to season-ticket holders with a price increase as high as 20 percent in some sections, The Post has learned.
Dolan's hike comes after two prior lottery seasons in which he opted not to raise prices. But with the addition of $100 million in future payroll from the Stephon Marbury trade, and after finally qualifying for the playoffs, Dolan let loose.
Garden president Steve Mills informed Knicks patrons in a letter mailed to season-ticket holders this week. The Knicks claimed the ticket increase averages to 11 percent because 7,000 plans will go unchanged. A team official said most of the hikes came in the ritzier seats.
However, in many of the 200-level sections, prices went up 20 percent. Season tickets priced $67 last season are up to $80. The 200-level sections toward midcourt are rising from $79 to $95. Club-level sections (44 to 61 and 73 to 90) by the court are up from $210 to $240.
"They are increasing prices on hype and not on substance," said Michael Epstein, a season-ticket holder of 16 years from Forest Hills.
A Garden statement released yesterday to The Post stated, "For the first time in three years, the New York Knicks are raising prices for select tickets for the 2004-2005 season, amounting to an overall increase of 11.0%. The Knicks will offer our season subscribers the option to pay for season tickets over eight payments."
Last summer was the first time in years the Knicks did not have a waiting list for season-ticket holders. One concern season-ticket holders have is the trouble of selling off the unwanted games as easily as in the past. The Knicks have an Internet exchange program only for higher-priced seats.
"Before the Marbury trade, you'd e-mail people in your company to try to sell your tickets and you'd hear crickets," Epstein said. "They're not there yet. It's still a tough sell for anybody."
The Knicks sold out 26 games this season, up from 17 in 2002-03. They finished the season selling out 15 straight.