- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

Baseball's average ticket price has risen another 12.9 percent this season to $18.99, more than twice the cost just nine years ago.

The game's highest one-year increase in average costs has been fueled by new stadiums and massive free agent contracts. Two new parks, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Miller Park in Milwaukee, open this year at a collective cost of $628 million, representing the 14th and 15th new parks to open in baseball since 1989.

Since the New York Yankees wrapped up their 26th title in October, baseball owners have tendered more than $1.1 billion in long-term guaranteed contracts.

Such costs are typically passed on to the fans, and the result is the fourth double-digit increase in ticket costs in five years. The current average, compiled by Team Marketing Report, an industry newsletter, beats the 1992 mark of $9.30 by 104 percent far above any local or national measure of inflation.

"This is definitely a big jump, even from last year. But not only do we have the two new stadiums and the signings, but several stadium renovations," said Kurt Hunzeker, Team Marketing Report editor. "The Reds have dropped out more than 12,000 seats at Cinergy Field to make room for the construction of their new ballpark. They lost more than a fifth of their capacity and didn't cut payroll. The White Sox are working on Comiskey Park. We ultimately see those costs."

The Boston Red Sox topped Team Marketing Report's list for the sixth consecutive season with an average ticket cost of $36.08. The Red Sox raised prices a whopping 27.4 percent just before signing slugger Manny Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million contract in December. Red Sox fans, however, were undeterred at the increase; the team is projecting record ticket sales for 2001.

The Minnesota Twins sell the cheapest ticket in the big leagues with an average cost of just $9.55. Baltimore, which has held prices steady for four years, ranked 14th with an average $19.78.

The Pittsburgh Pirates posted the largest percentage increase, hoisting prices a mammoth 82 percent to an average of $21.48 as the team moves into its new waterfront stadium, PNC Park. Seven other teams also boosted prices by at least 20 percent.

"Yes, the prices are going up, but we feel this is the best ballpark in the country, and because of that, are now offering a much higher level of service and intimacy," said Steve Greenberg, the Pirates' director of ballpark development. "There's simply no comparison between this place and Three Rivers [Stadium, the Pirates' former home]."

The Texas Rangers, who made the biggest free-agent splash ever with the 10-year, $252 million contract for shortstop Alex Rodriguez, increased prices by an average of just 0.7 percent to $19.81.

Only one team, the Detroit Tigers, actually lowered ticket prices for this season. After the Tigers opened Comerica Park last year with ticket prices 103 percent higher than the final year in Tiger Stadium, the team responded with a 79-83 season. The Tigers, likely facing another lackluster season, reduced ticket costs an average of 3.7 percent to $23.90 in hopes of boosting attendance.

The Red Sox also topped Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index (FCI), 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 Fenway Park came to $214.32.

The Montreal Expos offer the cheapest day at the ballpark for the third straight year, at least for American fans. Thanks to near-record exchange rates between the American and Canadian dollars, the FCI for an Expos game totaled just $80.08, or about $8 more than two Red Sox tickets alone.

The league FCI average is $144.98, 9.5 percent higher than a year ago.

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