- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Average ticket prices in major league baseball rose 11.8 percent this season to $16.67, a worst-ever increase spurred on by new stadiums in Houston, San Francisco and Detroit.

The increase, far outweighing a 3.2 percent rise last year in the Consumer Price Index, comes on the heels of hefty ticket price increases last year of more than 6 percent in the NFL and NHL and 14 percent in the NBA. Baseball's $16.67 average ticket price is a whopping 93 percent higher than the 1991 figure of $8.64.

This year's price hike, however, is somewhat deceptive. Eleven teams reduced prices from last year, held steady or topped out price increases at 3 percent. Numerous teams, including the Baltimore Orioles, also are offering for the first time family packages in which tickets are sold along with parking, food and beverages at a reduced rate.

At the other end of the scale, the three new stadiums by themselves moved the average price considerably. The Detroit Tigers, playing this year in Comerica Park, raised prices an average of 103 percent from $12.23 to $24.83. The new downtown stadium features "Tiger Den" seats behind home plate that cost as much as $75 each.

The Houston Astros, opening Enron Field, jumped 50 percent from $13.30 to $20.01. The San Francisco Giants, playing in Pacific Bell Park, raised prices 75 percent from $12.12 to $21.24.

The trio moved from the bottom third in the league in average ticket prices to the top 10. That hasn't stopped fans, however, from buying. The Giants boast a league-leading season ticket base of 30,000, while the Tigers and Astros expect to set club attendance records.

"If you just belly up to the ticket counter on the day of the game and try to buy the best seat in the house, you're definitely going to pay a lot more than in years past," said Matthew Freedman, editor of Team Marketing Report, a Chicago sports industry newsletter that conducted the price survey. "But if you do your homework and find out what promotions teams are offering, you can often do a lot better."

The Boston Red Sox topped the list for the fifth consecutive year with an average ticket price of $26.31. The Orioles ranked 11th at $19.52, down 30 cents because of the family packages. The Minnesota Twins, offering for the second time a $99 upper-deck season ticket, came in last with an average price of $9.33.

The Seattle Mariners topped Team Marketing Report's fan cost index, which tallies the total cost of two adult tickets, two children's tickets, four small sodas, two small beers, four hot dogs, parking, two programs and two caps. The total bill for all that at the Mariners' new Safeco Field came in at $191.24.

The Montreal Expos offer the cheapest day at the ballpark with a fan cost index of $88.54. The league average was $131.88, up 8.7 percent from a year ago.

"When you move into a new stadium, it's like comparing apples to oranges," Tigers spokesman Tyler Barnes said. "Unlike Tiger Stadium, there are a number of premium seats. The goal was to provide something for all tastes and all pocketbooks."

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