THE SPORTS SCENE:

How Much Are You Paying?

by Darrell K. Carter
       In the Baltimore/Washington corridor, more than 20 major and minor league teams are competing for your hard-earned entertainment dollars. Except for the Orioles in recent years, average sports attendance has soared in recent years. Sad to say, sports fans are being used, and most don’t even see it.

       Let’s take a look at regional pricing for a family of four at a sports event.

NHL Hockey

       If you take a closer look at the Washington Capitols hockey franchise, and realize how much it costs to enjoy a game, you’d have a right to expect a Stanley Cup every year in return for your dollar. An average family of four spends about $170 for tickets, plus $150 for souvenirs, parking, and food. Total: $320!

       Last month, the Capitals—Southeast Division Champions —acquired five-time scoring champion Joromir Jagr from Pittsburgh. Team execs must figure Jagr’s $10 million salary this season and next must justify these ridiculous prices. By the way, the New York Rangers top the National Hockey League with an average price of $66 per ticket—$264 for that family of four before any extras.

NBA/WNBA Basketball

       The Washington Wizards’ recent player salary purges and trades saved the team close to $100 million in guaranteed contracts. You would think a reduction in debt would translate into customer savings—but not a chance. National Basketball Association ticket prices have increased at a staggering 100% rate since 1991. Wizards tickets run about $60 (compare—you can see the New York Knicks for about $66). A family of four spends about $375 for tickets, concessions, souvenirs, and parking to attend a Wizards game. Tickets to Washington Mystics games, of the Women’s National Basketball Association, average $31.

NFL Football

       The region’s two football teams are close in proximity, though not in prices. World Champion Baltimore Ravens’ average ticket prices are around $45, while the neighboring Washington Redskins have the highest prices in the league, averaging around $75 per ticket. A family of four at a Ravens game spends about $350 to enjoy all the amenities. (On a positive note, Redskins owner Daniel Synder decided not to charge fans to attend training camp.) Last season, Synder and the Redskins became the first team in the National Football League history to charge for training camp admission.

Major League Baseball

       Baltimore Orioles fans will be delighted to know that the New York Yankees top Major League Baseball in ticket prices, averaging around $23 per ticket. The Orioles average around $20 per ticket. What a deal! A family of four spends on average only $175 per game. Ownership has only raised ticket prices twice in ten years. Maybe that’s because the Orioles are one of the wealthiest teams in baseball. Still, despite the relatively low cost, attendance has dwindled from 47,000 to 35,000 fans per game.

MLS/WUSA Soccer

       Washington, D.C. has capitalized on the worldwide craze for outdoor soccer, with the highly popular men’s Major Soccer League team called D.C. United, and the women’s team, Washington Freedom of the Women’s United Soccer Association. Both teams play in the ancient RFK Stadium. D.C. United averages $24 per ticket, while the Freedom average ticket price is $17.

NPSL Indoor Soccer

       Indoor soccer has been successful in Baltimore for 21 years. Many leagues have come and gone. The Baltimore Blast, of the National Professional Soccer League, has enjoyed a core of fans since the team changed ownership and their name from the Spirit. The average ticket price to Blast games is $14; a family of four spends about $100 per game for tickets and amenities.

MLL Lacrosse

       The Baltimore Bayhawks’ inaugural season in the Major Lacrosse League thus far has been a success. Ticket prices average $15. The team plays its home games at Johns Hopkins University. Nationally, Baltimore is known as a college lacrosse mecca.

The Real Bottom Line

       Though cost is a huge issue for most of us, you’ll notice that you never hear a sports owner or a player discussing fan affordability. That should tell us all something about what these sports are really about.

 


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This story was published on August 1, 2001.