Whether due to concerns about COVID-19, local health and safety guidelines or just a lack of interest, attendance is down (per-game average is 18,308) substantially across all of Major League Baseball compared to 2019 (average was 28,317) and other pre-pandemic years. But, that hasn’t stopped the cost of going out to see a game from going up, per a new analysis of ballpark pricing.
Taking the price of non-premium tickets, soft drinks, hot dogs, beers and parking spots into account, it now costs an average of $253 for four people to attend an MLB game, a 4.5% year-over-year increase. (The year-over-year comparison is based on planned costs for the 2020 baseball season before it was cut to 60 games without fans.)
According to the 2021 Fan Cost Index, the costliest fan experience is going to see the Red Sox play at Fenway Park in Boston. For a family of four to attend a game at Fenway, which is one of MLB’s smallest stadiums and can only hold approximately 38,000 fans, it costs an average of $376, a 4% increase. On the flip side, the least-expensive team for a group outing is the Arizona Diamondbacks at $144, a 0.2% decrease over last season’s planned costs. The D-Backs, who play at Chase Field, have had the lowest Fan Cost Index in MLB for the past 13 seasons.
To some extent at least, you get what you pay for. At 83-65, the Red Sox won’t win the AL East but they are in contention for a playoff spot and would be in the postseason if the season ended today. On the other hand, the Diamondbacks are 47-99 and sit in last place in the NL West and that National League as a whole.
Curiously, the team they are tied with for the worst record in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles, have the 14th-most expensive fan experience at $245.77, a price that’s up 29.4% compared to 2020. The average price for a ticket to get into Camden Yards in Baltimore has actually fallen by 48 cents, but the Orioles are now charging more for food and drink with the cheapest beer at the ballpark now $10 for 22 ounces. The opposite of the Orioles with the best record in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays (90-56) have the third-cheapest fan experience in MLB at $179 and are probably baseball’s best deal. Good luck naming a player on Tampa’s analytics-based roster though.
“Twenty years ago, the MLB FCI average was just shy of $138, meaning the cost for a family or group of four to attend a game has increased 84% since then,” according to The Athletic.