Sox Ticket Prices Up 250% in 10 Years

One of the benefits of MLB's new centralized Internet portal,, is the opportunity to comparison shop for tickets. Talk about information John Harrington doesn't want you to have.

Last July, I predicted that for 2001, the Red Sox would hike ticket prices from an average of $28.33 to $31 or more. In retrospect, that was like forecasting “a good season” for Pedro Martinez. The average seat at Fenway now costs $36.08 – nearly twice the MLB average of $18.99, and $7.16 more than the second-place Yankees.

Since the Sox wrested the title of Most Expensive Team from the Yankees in 1996, New York has won four World Series in five years. The Red Sox...haven't. But they have Pedro! And Manny! And Nomar (eventually)! And the World's Most Expensive Bench!

Most importantly, they have baseball’s most loyal fans. The Sox have raised ticket prices 27.4% since 2000, 134% since 1996 and 250% since 1991 – yet even with a team that never led its division after June, they set a new franchise attendance record and sold out the second half of the 2000 season.

Overall, the cost of an average major league ticket has risen by “only” 117.5% since 1991. But simply comparing Boston to the major league average ignores the changes in other cities. In addition to the four new franchises, 10 clubs have moved into new ballparks, and several others have renovated their parks. Each of these moves and renovations has been accompanied by a major price increase.

The Red Sox have done nothing to improve Fenway’s amenities. In fact, as part of their push for a new ballpark they publicly disparage it as an uncomfortable, rapidly-deteriorating relic in need of immediate replacement. Nonetheless, the Sox have raised prices twice as fast as the average team.

   1991  1996  2001
 Red Sox  $10.30  $15.43  $36.08
 5-year increase    49.8%  133.8%
 10-year increase      250.2%
 MLB average  $8.73  $11.32  $18.99
 5-year increase    29.6%  67.7%
 10-year increase      117.5%

According to Team Marketing Report's "Fan Cost Index, " a family outing to Fenway -- two adult tickets, two children's tickets, four small soft drinks, two small beers, four hot dogs, two programs, parking and two adult-sized caps -- will run $214.32. (The best deal? MLB's cheapest program, still $2 thanks to competition from the magazine you’re reading. The average MLB program costs $4.03.)

By contrast, MLB's cheapest ticket is just 300 miles northwest of Fenway. Montreal's Olympic Stadium may be the ugliest sports facility in North America, but that hypothetical family of four can watch a game there for $80.08. The Sox will be there from July 15-17 -- with Montreal's average ticket price just $9.70 (U.S.), a road trip to see the Sox in Montreal could pay for itself.

If you want to see a lot of live major league baseball but aren't particular about your seats, move to Minnesota. Last year the Twins sold almost 2,000 season tickets in the outfield bleachers at the bargain price of $99 for all 81 home games. Although those same tickets cost $149 this year, that’s still a tenth the price of similar seats in Fenway.

And promotions make Twins games an even better value. Every Wednesday, concession-stand hot dogs sell for just $1, while on Fridays, the same $30 that buys one seat in Fenway’s right-field roof section can purchase four general admission seats at the four slices of pizza, four soft drinks and a $5 gift certificate at a local supermarket.

Good deals aren't limited to the small markets. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a good comparison to the Red Sox: a high-payroll, large-market team that owns its own ballpark. Every seat at Dodger Stadium costs less than Fenway's cheapest ticket! Field boxes in Los Angeles cost $17, or just $15/game if bought by the season. Even the Yankees sell bleacher tickets for $8. While the Sox offer discount tickets to about a quarter of their home dates, these are the least attractive games on the schedule – and since the discount is only available for tickets purchased before the day of the game, last-minute buyers pay full price.

If the Sox duplicate this season’s price increase, an average ticket in 2002 will cost $45.96. I don’t think they’ll go that far...but expect to pay over $40 next year.

Copyright © 2001 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the May 2001 issue of Boston Baseball.

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