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Why Are Sports Events So Expensive?

2 minute read

The price of attending big-league ball games has spiraled out of control. A family of four spends, on average, $219 to attend a Major League Baseball game, according to Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index, a 24% increase since 2007. That’s 1½ times the rate of inflation over that period.

There are a few reasons for the surge. A robust ticket-resale market on platforms like StubHub helps spike prices for seats, which are expensive to begin with. The average price for an MLB ticket is $31–a relative bargain compared with the NBA ($56) and NFL ($86). And once teams put captive fannies in the bleachers, they can goose prices for concessions. At Fenway Park, a standard 12-oz. beer costs $7.75, according to Team Marketing Report. The New York Mets and Miami Marlins both sell hot dogs for $6.25–tops in the majors. And that’s before buying that ice cream in the mini batting helmet your kid can’t go without.

As a result of these prices, many Americans who once loved going to the ballpark are choosing to stay home. “What you’re seeing is a bifurcated system, where the top 10% can afford to go to the games while everyone else watches on television,” says Roger Noll, a sports economist at Stanford.

At least one franchise is offering relief: the Atlanta Falcons will sell $2 hot dogs and refillable sodas at their new stadium, which is set to open in 2017. “We see low prices as a long-term investment in the fan experience,” says team president and CEO Rich McKay. “It didn’t seem right that a family of four couldn’t afford to eat in our building.”

Let’s hope more teams follow their lead.

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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com