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Baseball Is Getting Really Expensive

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#1 Parker Hageman

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 02:56 PM

That pain you've felt in your wallet attending games over the last few years is real. And that is one reason people are staying away from the ballpark. 

 

Baseball Prospectus' Rob Arthur crunched the numbers and found that approximately 40% of baseball's attendance decline is due to increases in ticket pricing (link $$) over the last five years. For those without BP memberships or the tl:dr crowd, Arthur breaks down some of the key findings in a tweet thread.

 

"A sad finding in this article is that the effect of rising ticket prices doesn't reduce attendance enough to offset the additional revenue they get from charging their remaining fanbase more $$$," Arthur tweets. "[W]hich means that it's in owners best interests to continue increasing ticket prices, further reducing MLB's attendance while juicing revenue. There's really no sign of that leveling off any time soon considering some teams charge >2x the median ticket price."

 

In short, owners found that they can make more money on the luxury price-paying fans at the expense of the value-seeking ones. Arthur says that while attendance has fallen by 5%, owners are making 10% more per ticket.

 

Now, the average family of 4 is actually paying $23 more per visit than they did as recently as 2015. I would like one loan to take my family to watch the baseball men, please. But really, prices keep rising, water is wet, right? This isn't unexpected. 

 

While teams offering things like dynamic pricing, Baseball America's JJ Cooper reminds us that it isn't designed to fill the ballpark.

 

"Dynamic pricing, etc. is not about getting the most fans into the ballpark. It's about getting the most revenue possible," Cooper tweeted, adding that organization have dedicated Moneyball analytics teams that are charged with optimizing returns.

 

The Twins, in fact, are looking to add an analyst for their Business Intelligence team. This position's role includesassisting "in the execution of industry specific business analysis and predictive modelling efforts including, but not limited to; variable ticket pricing, churn modelling, baseball ticket sales forecasting, dynamic ticket pricing, event giveaways/promotions, ticket discounts and secondary market ticket sales (i.e. Stubhub)." 

 

At the end of the day, this is big business. It shouldn't surprise anyone. All businesses are interested in maximizing profits. But the reality is that owners, while making a profit in the present, may be costing themselves in the long run as they price themselves out of the middle market (maybe with the exception of the Oakland A's who actually gave kids free tickets last September). This feels like the classic finite mindset of business rather than the infinite one. If families aren't attending games as regularly anymore, teams may lose out on fans (and profits) down the road. 

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#2 biggentleben

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 03:23 PM

A couple recent examples have studied various angles on this, and I've been watching with some level of curiosity at both. The Atlanta Falcons offered significant food discounts to season ticket holders of any package recently and continued that this season with some modifications with how those food discounts would be handled for tickets acquired on the secondary market from a season ticket holder.

 

The other angle that's been attempted is with teams that own the licensing/rental for all food and apparel vendors to greatly reduce ticket prices for certain portions of the stadium, lower or maintain rent prices but with the caveat that a percentage of food/merchandise revenue goes back to the team.

 

I've not sat down to really study out which has born out better financial returns, but knowing a few minor league teams that tracked their attempts at both directions, I could make a few contacts and find out some info.

 

All said, there's going to be major money spent when you go to a game. If you don't spend it to walk in the door, you'll spend it once in the door. It's really a sort of "six of one thing, half dozen of another" when it comes to spending with a family.

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#3 Vanimal46

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 03:25 PM

Yeah... I've accepted a while back I probably won't see an MLB game again after leaving Minneapolis. The price, and drive (3.5 hours to either Arlington or Houston) have contributed to that decision.

I get my live baseball fix watching AAA Round Rock Express. Tickets range from $10-30 with nightly promotions... My favorite is Thirsty Thursday, a 24 oz craft brew for $4!
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#4 adorduan

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 04:01 PM

Triple A baseball for us.Groupon gets us 10 general admission tickets for $15. Can park for free close enough to walk to the ballpark. Can't beat that.


#5 Parker Hageman

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 04:19 PM

Triple A baseball for us.Groupon gets us 10 general admission tickets for $15. Can park for free close enough to walk to the ballpark. Can't beat that.

 

 

As a bonus, MLB wants to rid some people of access that pesky cheaper alternative, reducing the minor league teams down from 160 to 120

 

I'll say this, with a family of 5, I make it a point to try to bring them to one Twins game a year but we've gone to several more St Paul Saints games each year and the value you get out of bringing the family to that is huge. Love having both as options in the market. 

 

 

 

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#6 nicksaviking

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 04:22 PM

Ah, about a decade an a half late in joining the baseball analytics movement but at the forefront of the business analytics movement! 

 

We're starting to catch up around here!

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#7 laloesch

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 04:27 PM

No worries, in about 20 years (+ / -), I'm almost certain half the teams in baseball will have folded or will be folding. Millennial's couldn't care two hoots about baseball or hockey for that matter. They aren't really interested in the NFL either.   

Edited by laloesch, 08 November 2019 - 04:30 PM.

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#8 gman

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 04:41 PM

It's amazing how often I go to a game where the announced attendance or people pursuing alternative ballpark entertainment is way more than the people watching the game. Everything has a price ceiling.

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#9 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 01:53 AM

As a crafty consumer there are deals to be had at Target Field (at least up through 2019). I scooped up buy one/get one tickets and then $5 tickets on flash sales, all with no fees. I take light rail (essentially for free) as my metro card through employer is 24/7 access so no parking costs. Also, the early season ballpark access deals have been unbelievable. If memory serves, a recent deal was $99 for 33 games. The deals are there, although I am convinced that after the Bomba Squad's success of 2019 that the deals will be much less frequent.
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#10 Craig Arko

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 07:11 AM

No worries, in about 20 years (+ / -), I'm almost certain half the teams in baseball will have folded or will be folding. Millennial's couldn't care two hoots about baseball or hockey for that matter. They aren't really interested in the NFL either.


You say this like it’s a bad thing.
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#11 nclahammer

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 07:15 AM

I have a pair of tickets with a 20 game partial season ticket package and for a modest price ($14 per ticket), I feel I get an exception deal for my money.The season ticket perks like concessions discount, (even for my 20 game package), make it even a better deal.I bring my own sunflower seeds, peanuts, water bottle to refill, etc. into the ballpark (Target Field is one of the few that you can I hear) and can watch a game and not break the bank.  

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#12 Sconnie

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 07:22 AM

I went from 30-40 games a year in the 02-09 run to 2-5 games a year now.

I just can’t afford it anymore, and they’ve sucked until recently....

#13 Parker Hageman

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 09:04 AM

 

As a crafty consumer there are deals to be had at Target Field (at least up through 2019). I scooped up buy one/get one tickets and then $5 tickets on flash sales, all with no fees. I take light rail (essentially for free) as my metro card through employer is 24/7 access so no parking costs. Also, the early season ballpark access deals have been unbelievable. If memory serves, a recent deal was $99 for 33 games. The deals are there, although I am convinced that after the Bomba Squad's success of 2019 that the deals will be much less frequent.

 

I should add that, yes, there are values to be had, like theBOMisthebomb outlined here, and ways to price hack. If you can be flexible and wait for deals, they are there.

 

The standing room-only early season deal was a good one for fans -- if you had the flexibility to partake. The cynic in me wonders if the Twins' business analytics group crunch the numbers and figured that only X amount of people who purchased that deal would actually utilize a majority of the dates. 

 

It seems too that we are heading more for that subscription model of pricing. As one of the oldest millennials, I can speak for the entire generation and acknowledge that we do prefer this type of pricing. Almost everything we do/pay for is through this model. So it makes sense that baseball would try to pivot to this system as well. From the team's perspective, it's genius. You get more people who would likely go to a handful of games a year to commit to paying $99 for 30 early season games and reap the benefit at the concession stands (where prices have also increased steadily). 

 

As one of the few suburban home-owning, married and lousy with children millennials (sick brag, I know), I would say that the system is also better designed for the more prototypical millennial (the mortgage-less, single and childless types) or perhaps those with older children and fewer obligations and condos downtown (cough *JOHN BONNES* cough) who can take advantage of this. By my calculation, you would need to hit 6 games in that 30 game pack in order to break even.  

 

But the option is good. 

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#14 Sconnie

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 09:29 AM

I should add that, yes, there are values to be had, like theBOMisthebomb outlined here, and ways to price hack. If you can be flexible and wait for deals, they are there.

The standing room-only early season deal was a good one for fans -- if you had the flexibility to partake. The cynic in me wonders if the Twins' business analytics group crunch the numbers and figured that only X amount of people who purchased that deal would actually utilize a majority of the dates.

It seems too that we are heading more for that subscription model of pricing. As one of the oldest millennials, I can speak for the entire generation and acknowledge that we do prefer this type of pricing. Almost everything we do/pay for is through this model. So it makes sense that baseball would try to pivot to this system as well. From the team's perspective, it's genius. You get more people who would likely go to a handful of games a year to commit to paying $99 for 30 early season games and reap the benefit at the concession stands (where prices have also increased steadily).

As one of the few suburban home-owning, married and lousy with children millennials (sick brag, I know), I would say that the system is also better designed for the more prototypical millennial (the mortgage-less, single and childless types) or perhaps those with older children and fewer obligations and condos downtown (cough *JOHN BONNES* cough) who can take advantage of this. By my calculation, you would need to hit 6 games in that 30 game pack in order to break even.

But the option is good.


I think you hit the demo and price structure.

nobody cares about us Gen X... the older half (like Bonnes) is a very small population and the younger half is house/student loan poor and has kids at home, and again is a small population (compared to Boomers and Millennials).

#15 Riverbrian

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 09:43 AM

Excellent Article Parker!

 

As attendance, ratings, basically all the critical numbers decline. Getting more out of what remains is a way to make up the difference.  

 

Of course, as the critical numbers continue to decline, eventually, they won't be able to make up the difference anymore. Those critical numbers need to be increased... not milked to eventual exhaustion.

 

You better start planting trees now before the last of them are harvested. 

 

 

 

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#16 Rosterman

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 11:05 AM

Different levels for different fans. Like going to the State Fair, or making a Concert choice (or buying the Santa picture package of the kids)...you have x-amount of dollars to spend and figure out how to spend it. What are you going to spend for a game experience, including food, merchandise, parking.

 

Amazingly you can always find discounted tickets.

 

But like our Twins, I'm sure the success fo 2019 will see even more raised prices in certain areas. Disguise the raise in price, control the revenue. The Twins are actually coming off a couple of seasons of reduced season ticket sales, but in the end improved revenue because they controlled the single game ticket sales.

 

The flipside is the availability of baseball games on most cable systems. If people can't watch it, they go in other directions.

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#17 ND-Fan

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 01:20 PM

I guess i am to old being part of baby boom generation but i would make point yes this is maximizing return now but no thought about the future. Yes your getting maximum from people that can afford to pay more for tickets. The question is there loosing family with children that will be there future fans. What happens to this generation if they don't attend become followers of the sport in the future you have lost whole generation and people now attending will be gone then where you are forced to try to get people back to the game. The problem here is love of baseball is learned when your younger in my opinion and when you get older you loose the patience to learn the game. The love of the game is taught from one generation to the next generation. I come from back ground where my dad was not into sports much but he could watch baseball and was something he played when he was young. I grew up with other sports and played them and usedto follow them quite closely but older i get less interested in them. Football and basketball has come to me as freaks of human size where they are not like watching normal people play a sport anymore. They are great athletes but i have lost interest watching because they are not even close to average person anymore. But getting back to baseball people playing baseball for most part look like average person and it game of more thinking and stategy. I look at baseball you could be great athlete buthitting a baseball requires eye hand abilities plus being able to comprehend what your trying to hit to succeed which i find interesting because its what seperates baseball players. you don't find in other sports where players from 5' 6" to 6' 2" is common size of the player. But getting back to cost of going i feel they are slowly killing the future of the game.


#18 spycake

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 08:47 AM

 

As attendance, ratings, basically all the critical numbers decline. Getting more out of what remains is a way to make up the difference.  

Local TV ratings are up -- I read local MLB broadcasts were ranked #1 in prime time in 24 out of 25 markets. I'm not sure national TV ratings are "more critical" for the sport.

 

Also, Twins attendance was up. If you're talking league attendance, you have to factor in the lack of new stadiums recently -- only 1 new stadium in the last 7 seasons, compared to an average of 1 new park per season from 1980-2012. (And even the new stadiums now are probably seen as less of an "upgrade" over the ones they are replacing and providing less of a boost.)

 

That's not to say that MLB shouldn't work to improve/grow/etc., but the numbers don't suggest any critical imperatives right now.

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#19 spycake

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 09:05 AM

 

Now, the average family of 4 is actually paying $23 more per visit than they did as recently as 2015. I would like one loan to take my family to watch the baseball men, please. But really, prices keep rising, water is wet, right? This isn't unexpected. 

I don't doubt that costs are rising, but as an aside, I wish the Fan Cost Index was different. They still include the cost of two caps at the stadium and two printed programs, for a family of four. But those things are less likely to be purchased at the stadium than ever before, representing a (modest) cost savings for modern fans that's not reflected in the FCI.

 

Probably doesn't shift the numbers too much, but it just annoys me.

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#20 Melissa

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 10:25 AM

My fiancée and I are thinking about buying one of the 20-ticket flex options for next season, if we understand the terms properly (any combination of number of seats and games that add up to twenty tickets, can choose seats in advance from available options).