It's not cheap to go to a major league sporting event anymore. The Washington Times reports that baseball tickets have increased by as much as 344% for some major league teams since 1957, after adjusting for inflation.
Today's prices prove that heading to a ball game isn't cost-effective family entertainment. The average cost for a family of four to attend a game, purchase food and drinks, park the car and come away with a baseball cap or two is $207.68 (Subtract $18 if you already have your favorite team's hat). The average price of one Major League Baseball ticket is $26.98, making the cost to see the game about 50% of the total cost.
However, that cost may be significantly different at your stadium. For Boston Red Sox fans, the average ticket price to attend a home game was nearly twice the average price. At $53.98 for the average ticket, the family price comes to $336.99. If your home team is the Arizona Diamondbacks, then you're looking at an average ticket price of only $15.67.
If you're more of an NFL fan, prepare to pay up. The average single ticket price in 2011 was $113.17. The most expensive stadium to visit is MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets. The average price of a Jets ticket is $120.85, which amounts to a family price of $628.90.
If the game is sold out and you purchase tickets online through a broker, the cost will be much higher. If you plan to attend a New York Giants game, the average cost is $332, nearly three times the amount of the stadium price of $111.69. The cheapest tickets in the NFL belong to the Cleveland Browns, which are $54.20 a seat on average.
The National Hockey League has an average ticket price of $57.10, costing a family of four about $326. Finally, the NBA had the cheapest average ticket price at just over $48, with the New York Knicks sporting the highest average price of $117.47.
Why the Disparity?
The range between the lowest and highest priced ticket in each sport is large. In football, the highest average price is more than twice the price of the cheapest ticket. The reason, according to the New York Times, is that sports tickets are viewed as commodities. Just as the price of gold is based on a complex set of economic factors, the price of game tickets includes a host of variables.
Most professional teams use dynamic ticket pricing, a method that allows executives to re-price tickets based on real world factors. Much like the airline industry re-prices tickets daily to reflect factors such as the price of jet fuel, ticket prices are adjusted in response to demand and other variables. If an upcoming baseball game features a popular opponent or the opposing teams' major stars, then ticket prices will rise.
If the team is in playoff contention or is playing another team that may get a post-season berth, box offices adjust prices for what they believe will be increased demand. Everything from winning streaks to weather conditions may affect prices.
Dynamic ticket pricing means profits for franchises. When the San Francisco Giants tried dynamic ticket pricing with only 2,000 seats in the farthest corners of the stadium. As a result, they sold 25,000 extra tickets and earned an additional $500,000 over the course of one season.
When the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers piloted dynamic ticket pricing, they tested 20,000 seats over 25 games, with an average increase of $9.25 per ticket. The studies show that franchises make more money using dynamic ticket pricing. Because of that, nearly all professional sporting events now use this method.
The Bottom Line
If the price of a game ticket seems high to you, it's likely the market that is to blame. Sports venues are now pricing tickets in much the same way that secondary markets have done for many years. Based on factors including the quality of the team, the day of the week, weather forecasts and the visiting team, ticket prices are adjusted based on the perceived value of the event. If you live in New York, your ticket prices are likely to be higher than most other cities, due to the popularity of local sports teams.
More From Investopedia