About BTiell Sports Reports

Dr. Bonnie Tiell writes a monthly column for the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune Sports Department (http://www.advertiser-tribune.com/). This blog archives each column and dates back to the 2008 Olympic Academic Experience in Beijing, China. Check out the Blog Archives to read more. Check out info about the TU Olympic Academic Experience at http://www.tuolympics.blogspot.com/ and contact Dr. Tiell at btiell@tiffin.edu

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June 16, 2009 Take me out to the ball game — and don’t forget your credit card

There aren't a lot of Braves fans in Tiffin, Ohio.

A few caught on to America's Team when Ted Turner's TBS turned them into a classic mainstay five to six times a week, and I have met others who have family ties in the great southern capital of Georgia. I had the fortune of growing up in an Atlanta suburb in the '70s and '80s, where Fulton County Stadium was only a 30-minute drive and there were plenty of $2-to-$5 bleacher seats behind Dale Murphy in the outfield. We even knew the side streets to park for free or occasionally we took the transit system (MARTA), which was only 75 cents each way.

Being a Braves fan was a lot easier back then - the games were affordable and accessible.
Who can say that now? Even in Atlanta, the games may be accessible to area residents, but certainly they are no longer considered truly affordable.

Sure, Tiffin residents can access a few value deals, such as a $5 skyline seat in Comerica Park or an $8 upper deck reserved seat at Progressive Field.

These deals, however, are very limited, which gives the discount perception to what is actually a pricey entertainment market that capitalizes on ancillary sales by the mainstream baseball consumer (beer, parking, grub, gas and merchandise) and gouges those who choose to afford box seats and luxury suites.

With the widely acclaimed economic downturn in America, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig created the Commissioner's Fan Initiative, a league-wide fan-value-corner on http://www.mlb.com,/ where each team advertises ticket promotions.

Unfortunately, attendance is still way down on the year. Half-price value seats, walk-up prices, six-pack discounts, all-you can eat nights, BOGOs, fireworks, and giveaways such as Magglio Ordonez sunglasses, Justin Verlander hats, Curtis Granderson replica gloves and Brandon Inge Jersey backpacks aren't packing the stands. The record-setting attendance at Comerica Park last year is reportedly 30 percent lower this season.

Have you considered the increase in the cost of taking a family of four to a ball game over the years? The cotton candy and merry-go-round rides in Detroit can add up. A visit to PNC Park in Pittsburgh last year was refreshing in that a corner of the stadium featured a $1 stand with hot dogs, pop, and candy.

There is actually a report (the team marketing report) that calculates the fan cost index (FCI) based ONLY on ticket and concession prices for a family of four. In 1989, the FCI was $70, in 1999 it rose to $121 and in 2009 it is around $200. The FCI doesn't consider gas or the postgame McDonalds' drive-thru or parking or the Grady Sizemore replica jersey or a number of other add-ons.

To put the context of increasing prices into perspective, I researched some interesting statistics through various reports on the economic history of Major League Baseball and consumer financial data [please note that reports vary on the exact cost of goods in a given year and the statistical data and computations are intended to be approximations that provide the context for exploring economic changes].

The year is 1989: George Bush was president and the Oakland A's were the World Series champions. The median household income was around $30,000; the average home was $150,000; gas was $1.12; a gallon of milk was $2.34; the average MLB ticket price was $9 and the average player salary was $700,000.

The year is 1999: Bill Clinton was president and the New York Yankees (over the Atlanta Braves) were the World Series champions. The median household income was around $40,000; the average home was $200,000; gas was $1.17; a gallon of milk was $2.32; the average MLB ticket price was $16 and the average player salary was $2,000,000.

The year is 2009: Barack Obama is the president and maybe the Atlanta Braves will be the World Series champions. The median household income is around $50,000; the average home price is $250,000; gas prices average $2.49 (I bought it for $2.63 this week); a gallon of milk averages $3.62; MLB ticket prices average $27 and, the average player salary is more than $3,000,000.

Here are the increases in prices in the last decade (1999 to 2009):
* Household Income: 25 percent.
* Average Home Cost: 25 percent.
* Gas Prices: 113 percent.
* Gallon of Milk: 56 percent.
* Average MLB Ticket: 68 percent.
* Average MLB Salary: 50 percent.
* FCI (Family of Four): 65 percent.

What can we learn from reviewing these statistics? Gas prices have increased ridiculously over the decade!

Here is another interesting finding - In the decade between 1989 and 1999 the average player salary increased 185 percent! One more interesting stat is that an ESPN report noted box seats at Yankee stadium over the years cost an average of $7 in 1979, $12 in 1989, $50 in 1999, and $250 in 2009. That is an increase of a whopping 400 percent in the last decade. The luxury market is where stadiums are really trying to pump up their revenues to compensate for those exorbitant player salaries.

The more I consider the cost of attending a ball game, the more I consider the purity of Al Stephenson's column last month describing his experience with the Charleston RiverDogs minor league team, where his daughter is interning this summer. We have a Tiffin University student, Tom Waugaman, who is also interning with a minor league team this summer (the Salem Red Sox in Virginia). I just love the mascots of minor league teams, where the Hickory Crawdads meet the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Great Lakes Loons meet the Lansing Lugnuts.

In the minor leagues, affordability is still a possibility, salaries are respectable, and the Mud Hens are only an hour away. Go catch a ball game soon and stay tune for more summer sport tidbits next month.

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