A report on the expense to take a family to the ole ballpark made the rounds this week, and it’s a good reminder just how pricey it can be to have a pretty standard experience.
It’s also a reminder that Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs remain one of the more expensive outings in Major League Baseball:
To be sure, you don’t *have* to get food or drink when you go to a game, and you can take public transportation to a park like Wrigley. But I think for many families, when you go to a ballgame, it’s the kind of “event” activity where you would get some food and drink, and maybe even a souvenir. The point is, for some families, that kind of experience is only barely accessible, if it’s accessible at all.
As further pointed out by Hustle, and then underscored by Megan Brown, the prices on many of these items – including tickets – has at least doubled since the 1960s after accounting for inflation. In other words, it’s twice as expensive (or more) to go see a baseball game as it was in the ’60s.
There are other ways that fandom is created and cultivated – watching on TV (where available … ) and playing the sport yourself – but actually going to see games sure seems to be an important element, too. I would think that the sport and its owners would have a strong interest in ensuring their attendance was as strong as possible throughout the year, even if it meant squeezing a fewer nickels out of that day’s ticket prices or beer sales. In the long term, sustaining your fan base – to say nothing of growing it – seems to be pretty important, no?
So far, it’s not going so well this year (Yahoo):
According to publicly available data delivered by Baseball Reference, 70% of MLB clubs (21 out of 30) have experienced a decline this season and attendance at a league level is down 6% (through Sunday July 17, as compared to 2019). “If MLB as a whole is down about 6% in tickets sold, that equates to roughly eight million less people going to games,” Lou DePaoli (managing director executive search and team consulting, General Sports Worldwide) said. “That is concerning.”
The attendance issue doesn’t necessarily seem to be a sports-wide issue, either:
I wish I could say the owners would regard these data points as sufficiently concerning that they start making fundamental changes to their pricing structures, but we have not seen much evidence of that kind of long-term thinking from MLB over the last couple decades. Short-term profits and franchise valuation boosts have been the order of the day, and 2040 problems can be dealt with in 2040 (likely by some other owner).
I care about these long-term issues because I’d like the sport to still have a robust national presence when my kids are older and, perhaps, talking to their own kids about baseball and MLB.