Pricey MLB fixtures dwindle attendance



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Tiger Stadium Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

A report on the expense to take a family to the ole ballpark made the rounds recently, and it’s a good reminder just how pricey it can be to have a pretty standard experience.

‘Bleacher Nation’ stated that it’s also a reminder that the 41,649-capacity Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois (US), and the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Chicago Cubs remain one of the more expensive outings in MLB.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization and the oldest major professional sports league in the world. As of 2022, a total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball – 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League – with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

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 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.

‘Bleacher Nation’ further stated that the total cost for four tickets, four hot dogs, two beers, two sodas and parking in 2022 in a MLB ballpark has shot up.

The prices on many of these items – including tickets – have 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.

According to publicly available data delivered by Baseball Reference, 70 percent of MLB clubs (21 out of 30) have experienced a decline this season and attendance at a league level is down six percent (through July 17th, as compared to 2019).

Commented Lou DePaoli (Managing Director Executive Search and Team Consulting, General Sports Worldwide), “If MLB as a whole is down about six percent in tickets sold, that equates to roughly eight million less people going to games. That is concerning.”

The attendance issue doesn’t necessarily seem to be a sportswide issue, either:

The owners should regard these less attendance issue as sufficiently concerning and start making fundamental changes to their pricing structures, but till now not much evidence of that kind of long-term thinking from MLB over the last couple of decades have been noticed. 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).

The owners should show concern over these long-term issues because the sport need to have a robust national presence when today’s kids get older and, perhaps, talking to their own kids about baseball and MLB.

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