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Baseball Attendance Down? High Prices Are to Blame

June 1st, 2019 · 2 Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I have held a Baseball Writer’s Association of America press credential for the past 30 years or so, which goes a long way toward explaining my shock and horror at the price of Major League Baseball tickets.

BBWAA credential-holders do not pay to enter the stadium. Any MLB stadium.

In my mind, when I get around to buying tickets, I am looking for prices from three decades ago. When even then it seemed a bit pricey for a family of four looking to see their favorite team play — in person.

But now?

A story appeared earlier this week noting that MLB attendance numbers are down for the fourth consecutive season. And we probably could come up with a half-dozen reasons why that might be, but by far the biggest reason has to be:

Cost. The unconscionable cost.

The eye-watering, price-gouging, house-payment-expense of buying tickets, a direct cost placed on fans — some of whom cannot justify to themselves the expense, and which should make baseball’s owners and players take into account a future with lower revenues.

This story notes that attendance is down without really spending much time blaming it on cost. Which has to be reasons No. 1, 2 and 3 why crowds are dwindling.

The numbers?

The average attendance given for an MLB game through May 29 was 26,854 — down 1.4 percent from a year ago, leaving average game attendance at 27,242.

There is talk about games being too long and home runs taking over the game and too many teams fielding teams with zero chance of having a winning record.

But I don’t even broach those complaints when a couple of the worst seats in Dodger Stadium are going for $17 to $21 on the Vividseats site. The former would be a seat in the Top of the Ballpark, which may have the altitude to pose a risk to planes landing at LAX; the latter, which might be closer to L.A. City Hall than home plate, would be on the reserve level in the right-field corner.

You prefer seats were the players appear to be bigger than ants?

If you have to ask how much they are, you cannot afford them.

Well, OK. Here goes. (And, remember, this is a company that offers seats nearly always for a smaller cost than walking up to the ticket booth at the yard. Often, they are seats held by season-ticket holders who attend irregularly and peddle the rest of the tickets to sites like this.)

Sitting in the Field Box MVP 3 section, not far behind home plate? That costs $107. Each.

For the Loge Box 135 section, behind and a bit above the Dodgers dugout, seats are going for $73.

This is crazy. Way too expensive. Way. And it does not reflect the added expenses of parking and food/drink. (Remember, Dodger Stadium has a $21 hotdog, these days.)

Baseball is supposed to be the populist game, with access open to all. But the prices are exorbitant. A family of four can expect to pay $500 and ancillary expenses (a cap, a soda, a malt) for seats anywhere near the game.

The news in this story is that MLB teams still get away with charging what they charge.

We should be finding franchises cutting their prices by 70, 80 percent. I mean, who wants to see the Miami/Florida Marlins stumble around or the Baltimore Orioles make fools of themselves — just to name two hopeless clubs — for the kind of prices being posted? Those teams should charge pretty much nothing, just to get some kids into the stands where “crowds” are smaller than 10,000.

We have to consider that baseball’s waning cultural influence and ever spiraling costs have created an unsustainable level of income. Clubs cannot continue to charge what they charge, can they? Players cannot expect to be rewarded with contracts worth tens of millions dollars.

Cut costs. Slash costs. Do it now.

I live in France, and I spend the baseball season here. So the anger I feel is at a remove — feeling badly for regular folks who are asked to spend a cost equal to a month’s worth of groceries just to see guys in funny clothes play.

In the next day or two, we will examine another issue striking at the heart of the game I (and many others) have loved since childhood.

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