Ticket prices going, going...up
Survey finds 5.4 percent increase in average baseball ticket prices, though big jumps aren't as bad as they initially appear to be
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - As the new baseball season starts, teams will be looking for fans to dig deeper into their pockets this season, according to a recent survey which shows a 5.4 percent rise in average ticket prices, with 21 out of 30 teams raising prices.
America's cheapest pastime
The survey, conducted by industry trade publication Team Marketing Report, showed a $22.21 average price for a major league baseball game this year. That's a fraction of the cost of the average ticket for any other major team sport, and the 5.4% increase is also slightly less than the 6.3 percent rise in average ticket prices found in the 2005 survey.
Major League Baseball set an attendance record by selling 73.1 million tickets in 2005, and it opens the 2006 season with fewer seats available, as some teams have trimmed capacity.
Team Marketing Report also calculates a "Fan Cost Index," using the cost of food, parking and souvenirs at a game for a family of four. That calculation rose slightly less than did the average ticket price -- 4.6 percent to $171.89.
But the ticket price hikes aren't as steep as they would first appear.
For example, the Oakland Athletics posted a average price increase of 25.2 percent, the biggest jump in the majors. But a big part of that increase comes due to a 14,000-seat reduction at the team's stadium, which closed off most of the upper deck, thus reducing the supply of the cheapest seats. The cheapest seats left increased to $9 from $8 a year ago, a 12.5 percent increase, while the most expensive seats rose about 7 percent, to $32 from $30.
The other team posting a big ticket-price increase, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is instituting a two-tier pricing plan. The team's regular tickets, which are good for about three-quarters of home games, are actually less expensive than last year's tickets. But there are 22 premium games against teams such as the New York Yankees, where fans in attendance will pay between 25 and 100 percent more than they do for the regular games.
Team Marketing Report calculates that Devil Rays tickets have jumped by 24.7 percent, although at $17.09 the average price of a ticket is still below the league average. Team spokesman Rick Vaughn points out that prices for the majority of its games are still lower than a year ago. "I don't know what formula they used," he said. "We made the ballpark experience here considerably less expensive than it was."
The Devil Rays could have been spurred to cut ticket prices at most games because they had the majors' worst attendance in 2005, with only 1.1 million fans. Some of the other teams that are struggling on the field, and at the turnstile, such as the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates, are leaving prices unchanged. The Royals have the cheapest average ticket price: $13.71.
The two teams to cut average ticket prices were the Atlanta Braves and the Colorado Rockies, trimming average prices 2.5 and 1.3 percent, respectively.
Some other teams saw relatively modest price increases.
The St. Louis Cardinals' average ticket price went up 12.1 percent to $29.78, giving it the third highest average price in the majors, behind the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. But the Cardinals just moved a new stadium, and the jump in their ticket prices was far smaller than the 50 percent average increase seen in the last ten teams to move into new homes since 2000.
The Cardinals new stadium also trims the supply of tickets available to 43,975 from 49,676 at the old park.
The Chicago White Sox, who won their first World Series in 88 years last year, raised prices only 2.5 percent, even though world champions generally see a big jump in demand the season after they win the title. In 2005, the defending champ Boston Red Sox raised prices 9.3 percent, even though it already had the league's most expensive tickets.
The Houston Astros, who made it to their first World Series in the team's 45-year history in 2005, raised prices 7.4 percent.
The Red Sox again kept the title of the most expensive average ticket price at $46.46, up 4.3 percent.
But much of that was due to the fact that the Red Sox added 1,500 seats, the majority of which were in premium areas of the park. The highest ticket price at Fenway went to $90 from $80 in 2005.
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