Retail

Take Your Wallet Out To The Ball Game

With the Major League Baseball (MLB) season entering its first full weekend today (April 8), many consumers throughout the nation, no doubt, have America’s pastime on their minds, finding themselves yearning to get out to a game in person, where they can breathe in the smell of freshly cut grass, hear the crack of the bat…

And maybe eat a meat popsicle (if they attend a Detroit Tigers game).

Even the most casual of baseball fans are aware of the fact that venturing out to a live professional contest is going to come with a price tag. The one avoidable cost is that of the entry ticket, of course; in addition to that, MLB game attendees — unless they’re fortunate enough to live within walking distance of the ballpark — are going to have to pony up to stash their vehicle somewhere.

Can the baseball game experience really be considered complete, though, without a hot dog? Heck, no. (If a hot dog isn’t within an arm’s reach of a person, in fact, it’s either not baseball season, or they’re not even in America.) So, a fan will likely be paying for one or two (or three or four?) of those as well.

And beer! (See: observation re: America above.) Most adults at a ball game are also likely to purchase a number of foamy spirits.

Just how much can a consumer expect to pay for those four items that are — if not “essential” (save for the ticket(s)), then at least (widely considered) “standard” — elements of the live baseball experience?

The answer to that question depends very much on which specific ballpark the fan is visiting — and the field (no pun intended) is fairly wide-ranging.

To mark the start of the 2016 MLB season earlier this week, GOBankingRates provided an analysis of the average cost for two people to attend a game at every one of the league’s 30 stadiums.

Using the retail purchases of two tickets, two hot dogs, two beers and parking (the last of which is arguably more of a rental than it is a purchase) as its median factors, the outlet determined that the average cost across all the venues is $77.92.

Seems reasonable enough. Then again, absolutely no one will be attending “Average Baseball Stadium” (to watch, theoretically, the “Hometown Generics” host the “Visiting City Other Team”) this season. The variance of cost among the individual (and actually existing) ballparks, as meted out by GOBankingRates, is rather something to behold.

The most affordable place to take in a game this year, according to the study, is Angel Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim? Aren’t they still officially called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a name incorporating two cities that are about 30 miles apart from each other?). Two tickets, two hot dogs, two beers and parking at an Angels game will cost a fan an average total of $47.50.

At the (very far away, both geographically and financially) other end of the spectrum is … probably Yankee Stadium, right? You’ve got to be thinking it’s Yankee Stadium. Those Yankees are all about the money.

They are, but it’s not.

It’s Fenway Park, home of the (Boston-based PYMNTS.com’s beloved) Boston Red Sox.

According to GOBankingRates, that same collection of items — two tickets, two dogs, two beers and a parking spot — will run entrants to the hallowed grounds of the oldest baseball stadium in America an average of $157.

(That’ll at least give Yankees fans something to crow about, even though their team is only two spots down on the study, coming in at $109.40.)

$157 to $77.92: that’s about an $84 difference for the same four purchases.

Naturally, a baseball fan might argue — and a fan of, specifically, either the Red Sox or the Angels would almost definitely argue — that they’re not the same purchases: different venues, different teams, different quality of hot dogs and beer, different … uh … concrete mixes at their respective parking lot options.

Different venues? To be sure. But Major League Baseball specifically markets the experience of a live baseball game to consumers based on that very experience in the most general sense. According to that organization, baseball is great no matter where you see a game.

Different teams? See previous argument. Also, the Red Sox and the Angels will face each other seven times this season, meaning that, in three instances at Angel Stadium and four at Fenway Park, fans in attendance will be paying an $84 difference to watch the exact same two teams play each other.

Hot dogs and beer are hot dogs and beer. Let’s be honest with ourselves.

Similarly, we defy anyone to prove that there are characteristics of the experience of leaving your car somewhere and not thinking about it again for three or four hours — at which point, you can’t remember exactly where you left it — unique enough to warrant a price difference of $35 (the average Fenway parking cost) and $10 (the average Angel Stadium parking cost).

What real explanation is there, then, for the fact that MLB stadiums can present such a wide range in prices for what is, effectively, the same experience?

Geography and basic math, it would appear.

For a consumer with the unlimited time and resources that allow him to fly to any city that is home to a Major League Baseball team whenever he pleases (i.e., very much not the average MLB consumer), there are 30 options of locations to take in a game.

For everyone else (i.e., average MLB consumers), there is arguably one option: the baseball stadium closest to his place of residence. If the consumers within that majority category like the local team enough — or, in the broader sense, like the game of baseball enough (again, as the corporation behind its professional offerings encourages people that they really ought to) — they’re going to pay whatever is the cost to take in at least one game this year.

MLB stadiums have done that math and concluded that they can charge people pretty much whatever they please (within reason, although that concept gets a little more liberal every season) and the fans will still turn out. Attendees to games at stadiums that are on the higher end of the cost spectrum will likely be a little more irked about it than those visiting stadiums on the lower end, but most every baseball fan — if he or she can find the time — will be willing to pay, at least once this season, to share the very experience of an American tradition.

It’s a consumer reality that can pretty much be summarized by paraphrasing the famous line from that Kevin Costner baseball movie—

(Not that one.)

(Not that one either.)

(That one’s about golf.)

—“Field of Dreams”…

“Whatever you charge them, they’ll still come.”

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