Sox Ticket Prices Up 250% in 10 Years
One of the benefits of MLB's new centralized Internet portal,
mlb.com, is the opportunity to comparison shop for tickets. Talk
about information John Harrington doesn't want you to
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
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.
TABLE: TICKET PRICES, 1991-2001
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.)
| Red Sox
| 5-year increase
| 10-year increase
| MLB average
| 5-year increase
| 10-year increase
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 Metrodome...plus 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
Copyright © 2001 Doug Pappas. All rights
Originally published in the May 2001 issue of Boston
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