For 5th Year in Row, Sox Tickets Most Expensive

If you bought this issue of Boston Baseball at Fenway Park, you won't be surprised to learn that for the fifth year in a row, the Red Sox have Major League Baseball's highest ticket prices. The average ticket at Fenway now costs $28.33, up 17.8% from 1999. The Sox charge $2/ticket more than any other team -- and more than twice as much as you paid for the same seats five years ago.

Over the past two years, the only clubs to raise prices faster than the Sox have been the New York Mets and the teams which moved into new stadiums. Imagine what will happen when the Sox add a new stadium to the mix! If other cities' experience is a precedent, many season ticketholders may need second jobs to afford their seats in New Fenway. Of the three teams to open new parks this season, the Astros raised ticket prices by 50%; the Giants raised theirs by 75%; and the cost of attending a Tigers game more than doubled, from $12.23 at Tiger Stadium to $24.83 at Comerica Park. At that rate, the average seat at a new Fenway could cost $50 or more.

But believe it or not, the Sox' concessions are reasonably priced by baseball standards. Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index estimates that a family outing at Fenway (four average tickets, two small beers, four small sodas, four hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two adult-sized caps) will cost $168.82. That's cheaper than attending either of the New York parks, and $22.42 less than a similar outing in Seattle. In fact, when the cost of tickets is subtracted from the Fan Cost Index, the cost of extras at Fenway is close to the major league average.

Team Marketing Report has been conducting these surveys since 1991. In those 10 seasons, the Red Sox have never been less than the fifth most expensive team in the majors. The Sox have raised ticket prices in seven of the past nine years: all but 1995, in the aftermath of the strike, and 1993, after a horrendous 73-89, last-place finish.

But even at a record-high average of $16.67/ticket, Major League Baseball remains far cheaper than the other three major team sports. In 1999 the average NFL ticket cost $45.63 -- almost three times the MLB average, and over 50% above Fenway's prices. The NHL and NBA were even more expensive, with the average hockey fan paying $45.70, the average basketball fan a whopping $48.37.

As I noted in the last issue, the Sox will continue to raise ticket prices so long as the demand for seats remains high Last season the Sox filled more than 90% of their seats, and no one expects that the price increase will cause any significant attendance drop.

Of course, some games are more desirable than others -- the September 8-10 weekend series against the Yankees would sell out at $60/ticket. To fill the park for lesser opponents, the Sox rely on promotions and discounts. Except for promotions tied to the schedule or calendar, the Sox' major giveaways feature games against Oakland, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox -- opponents for whom the expression "plenty of good seats still available" was invented.

Similarly, discounts are confined to the least attractive games so the half-price crowd doesn't fill seats that could be sold for full price. Youth group, family and senior citizen discounts are available for 12 games: an April weekend series with Oakland, nine weeknights during the school year, and the day after Labor Day. The 10 group-discount dates include an equally unattractive mix of midweek games. In fact, of the 22 "discount" games, only one is scheduled for midsummer (against the Devil Rays), and only one, an April night game against the Indians, matches the Sox against a playoff-caliber opponent.

So long as the Sox continue to win and the local economy remains strong, cheap seats at Fenway will remain as rare as efficiency at the Big Dig.

Red Sox Ticket Prices, 1991-2000
   1991  1992  1993  1994  1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000
Average ticket price  $10.30  $11.67  $11.67  $13.51  $13.51  $15.43  $17.69  $20.63  $24.05  $28.33
 Rank  3rd  4th  5th  3rd  2nd  1st  1st  1st  1st  1st
Fan Cost Index  $90.11  $94.48  $100.18  $102.55  $112.55  $117.72  $128.26  $144.52  $160.21  $168.82
 Rank  2nd  5th  5th  9th  5th  5th  2nd  2nd  2nd  4th

Copyright © 2000 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the May 2000 issue of Boston Baseball.

Back to Doug's Boston Baseball column index

Back to Doug's Business of Baseball menu

To main menu