Following a season of sagging attendance and in the midst of a slow-moving economy, the majority of the teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) are mostly holding the line on all fan fees this year. Some clubs are even slashing ticket and concession prices dramatically.
According to Team Marketing Report, six out of the 30 MLB teams have lowered ticket prices this year, while 13 more teams have either held steady at 2009 rates or have increased ticket prices only slightly. Overall, MLB has seen declines in attendance the last two years, after four straight years of increases.
The San Diego Padres cut their average ticket price by 15.4 percent this year, down to $15.15, the second lowest price in the league. Following a disappointing opening season at Citi Field, the New York Mets dropped their prices by 12.9 percent this year. But the lowest average price this season goes to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Keeping prices at last year’s rates, the D-Backs have an average ticket price of $14.31 per game.
Some clubs also cut prices on their “premium” seating, which offers ticket holders some added amenities and privileges. Premium seats for the New York Yankees are sold at an average of $312.11 this year. That number is down from the phenomenal $510.08 of last season, when the Yanks took quite a bit of heat for high ticket prices in their new stadium. The Mets also cut prices on their premium seats this year.
Interestingly, price slashing by many MLB teams did not result in a lower average ticket price for the league as a whole. Price increases by 11 MLB teams this season contributed to a 1.5 percent rise in the average cost of a ticket, at $26.74. The most notable among these ticket price hikes belongs to the Minnesota Twins, which are playing in a new outdoor facility this year and carrying the team’s highest-ever payroll of $97.6 million. This year, the Twins are charging fans an average price of $31.47 per ticket, which is a 45 percent increase over last year’s rates.
Also raising prices by 10.1 percent this year, the Chicago Cubs take the title of the highest average ticket price in the league, at $52.56. The Boston Red Sox, which historically charged some of the highest ticket fees in the league, came in second this year at $52.32. The Yanks come in third at $51.83.
Most notable this season are cuts in concession and merchandise costs enacted by some clubs this season. This has led to a slightly cheaper global fan experience, as expressed in the FCI, or Fan Cost Index. The FCI is calculated as the total cost of four average tickets, two beers, four soft drinks and hot dogs, parking, two programs and two adult caps at each stadium.
This season, the average FCI for the league is $195.08, a decrease of nearly a dollar over last season. The Diamondbacks lead the League here again, with an FCI of $115.24. The Padres come in second at $120.60, having dropped $50 off their FCI of last season. The club accomplished this by making several changes to fan costs, including dropping the price of the smallest beer from $6.50 to $5.00, dropping soda from $4.25 to $4.00, selling a new cap at nearly half the price of the original, and eliminating the cost of programs. The Cincinnati Reds, with one of the lowest FCI’s at $151.26, are selling one dollar hot dogs and sodas for the second year in a row.
The price decreases established by some clubs, along with lower collateral costs for the fan experience, seem to be in line with early trends in the secondary market. MLB fans have been able to get some good deals on opening day and early season tickets, with some selling very close to face value.
Not surprisingly, Fenway Park provides the priciest average fan experience this season, with an FCI this year of $334.78. The Cubs are not far behind at $329.74, and the Yankees place third again at $316.32. The Minnesota Twins, with their hefty cost burden this season, have an FCI of $206.88, an increase of 21.8 percent over last season.
By Kelly McWilliams