Is pro baseball pricing itself out of existence?

What is the true cost of attending a game for the average baseball fan? New research shows that attending an MLB game these days is not as reasonably priced as once believed.

According to a new PlayNJ report, the average cost is $5,270 if you attend all 81 home games. In addition to ticket prices, also factored in are the costs of parking, buying an alcoholic drink, a soft drink, and one hot dog, plus a team apparel item, such as a baseball cap.

Chicago Cubs ($15,722), Boston ($12,712) and New York Yankees ($12,547) are among the top 15 most expensive MLB teams this season. Minnesota ($6,365) is sixth among the 15 least expensive teams, and the Los Angeles Angels ($4,520) is the least expensive.

A Black Twins fan (“Mike,” his real name not used by request) recently told us that he spent over $200 after attending two games this season. “With tickets, parking, I probably spent about $90 dollars – that was by me,” he stressed.

Mike then itemized his game spending, which included two drinks for him and a friend at $35 apiece; $15 parking and $12 on food. “I looked at a [Twins] sweatshirt,” but said he found the $55 price tag too much.

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

The 2018 Team Marketing Report (TMR) Fan Cost Index (FCI) in a separate report shows a 2.4 percent increase to attend MLB games this season, with average ticket prices rising to $32.44 and the average FCI for a family of four at $230.98. Minnesota, with an average FCI for a family of four this season of $237.72, is nearly $7 above the MLB average. The Twins (nine percent), Toronto (15.7 percent) and Milwaukee (8.9 percent) show the largest FCI increases, the TMR report adds.

Pete Spike is the district general manager for Delaware North, who runs concessions at the Twins ballpark. Asked earlier this season about rising costs, Spike responded that the time will come “when we are going to price ourselves out.”

What about the crosstown St. Paul Saints? Their prices are cheaper than the Twins, which is expected since they are a minor league club: $28 the highest ($27 for seniors and youth), and $5 the lowest.

Nonetheless, whether it’s the Twins or the Saints, traditional baseball food – hotdogs, peanuts, hamburgers – seem to have given way to hotsy-totsy food usually found at four-star upscale restaurants: blue-cheese tenderloin, Middle Eastern dishes, rice bowls and day-game brunch items. “The Belly Buster” (cornbread and mac and cheese), “Chicken on a Stick,” and “a true vegan Italian sausage” are all new offerings this season at the Saints ballpark.

Most fans still “want to get a hot dog, a soda, [and spend] probably $12-$15 per person,” Spike said. I am among this group but not at these prices.

“People are looking for that wild, crazy food,” Saints Chef Ray Remier said as this reporter shook his head in disbelief. “You’re not happy because you want that simple hot dog,” the executive chef continued, correctly guessing my facial expressions. “A hot dog? You can [have that]. We have plain old cheeseburgers, good old-fashioned hot dogs and brats.”

Two questions remain: the first is how much is too much. The PlayNJ report summarized that “a shocking 42 percent of baseball fans” say they are not willing to pay so much simply to watch baseball games in person.

And the second question: Has baseball gotten too expensive? “I think it is,” Mike said. “If you get a standing room ticket, it’s cheaper. A baseball game is much longer [than other sports, which have game clocks], so you will spend more money.”