NFL fans are big spenders—by necessity

Fans headed to The People’s Stadium on Sunday to watch the Vikings beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-17.
Photo by Charles Hallman

If you attend an NFL game, you probably know it isn’t cheap. According to Statista, the average NFL ticket price has increased over $42 since 2006 ($62.38) to 2020 ($104.73), at least a five-dollar increase each year and an eight-dollar yearly increase between 2016-18.

Last season, Statista added, a Minnesota fan’s cost for a family to go to a Vikings game was $562.35—the NFL average was $553.53. This includes four average-price tickets, two small beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking, two game programs, and two least-expensive adult-size caps.

Two seasons ago, food prices at The People’s Stadium in downtown Minneapolis ranged from a $5.75 hot dog on the low end and a pulled pork sandwich for $14.50. Before last Sunday’s Minnesota-Seattle game, we checked on this year’s stadium prices:

Hot dogs went down 36 cents to $5.39, but outside of fries ($5.19), that was the cheapest food to buy.  The pricier items included a brat ($7.49), a cheeseburger ($8.69), chicken and fries ($8.29), and a slice of pizza ($8.01 for cheese, $8.99 for pepperoni). Combo meals included chicken and fries ($8.29), hot dog and fries (10.58), brat basket (13.59), and chicken tenders and fries (21.96).

Among the specialty food offerings were cheesesteak ($13.49), a loaded taco (13.59), and street tacos (14.79). If you want just snacks, there’s candy ($4.69), popcorn (5.19), peanuts (5.39), and a drink to wash it down—$5.19 for a fountain drink and $8.39 for one in a souvenir cup.

Merchandise: A foam finger was the cheapest item at $10, and a player’s jersey was highest at $115 in 2019. We stopped by one fan gear booth this year and found $3 will get you a car window decal and $79 a sweatshirt. A deck of playing cards costs $5.

We also talked to several Black fans, all of whom agreed to speak with us save for a Black couple who were wearing blackface. A longtime Black stadium worker told us he estimates that between 25-30% of the fans at Vikings games look like him, adding “maybe 5% more when Chicago or Detroit comes to town.” 

Our three-question quick survey consisted of: 1) what kind of fan they see themselves as—avid (or huge fan), causal, or no fan at all; 2) how much they spend or expected to spend at the game, and 3) do they get their bang for their bucks.

 “I’m a diehard Vikings fan,” declared DeMarco Cavil, who was there with his two sons.  Janahai, age nine, said he’s a big fan like his father.

“I’m a causal fan,” said Marty (not his real name). “We spend about $6,400 per year for two season tickets. We feel the money is well spent…[and] is a good experience as a Black fan.”

Sarah (not her real name), 51, and 37-year-old Jamarcus Artis from North Carolina both saw themselves as avid fans. “I’ve been a fan since I was a kid,” said Artis, there with his wife as they celebrated their first-year wedding anniversary.

“[I’m] not really into it,” admitted a 20-year-old Black woman who was there with her 48-year-old mother, who also saw herself as a causal fan. “My husband is a diehard fan,” said the mother of three, whose husband is a Vikings season ticket holder.

Sarah, who lives in New Orleans, said she spends “around $2,500,” which includes airfare and hotel.  Artis estimated his expenses at “a couple of thousand dollars” for him and his wife. Cavil said he spent around $450 for himself and his kids. And a 26-year-old Black male predicted he would spend “more than $150,” mostly on beer.

“Everybody has been good,” concluded Artis of his first NFL game of the season. He plans to attend at least two more games later this season in his home state of North Carolina.