- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

The average Major League Baseball ticket in 2002 will cost $18.31, 3.8 percent higher than last year and nearly twice the cost of 10 years ago.

In a continuation of the rampant inflation common to all professional sports, 16 MLB clubs raised prices this year, three by double-digit percentages, according to Team Marketing Report, a Chicago sports industry newsletter. The 2002 average cost is 95 percent higher than the 1992 typical cost of $9.41, far above any measure of inflation.

The true cost of attending games this season, however, is even higher as TMR editors have changed the methodology of their widely read annual surveys to eliminate premium seating costs. In 1998, the publication began including costs of club seats and other premium-level seats that were not luxury suites to reflect a nationwide boom in corporate seating at stadiums and arenas.

Predictably, that angered team executives in each of the major sports leagues, including those with the Washington Redskins, owners of the NFL's most expensive ticket. Many teams with large premium seat sections such as the Redskins argued they were being unfairly singled out and lobbied successfully for the changes.

The altered approach has resulted in a decrease in baseball's average ticket costs from last year's $18.99 to the $18.31, despite the increases by more than half of MLB clubs.

"Every year we try to make this more representative of the marketplace, and this is really for the teams, much like the Nielsens are foremost for advertisers," said TMR editor Kurt Hunzeker. "As time has gone on, we've seen a widening difference in what actually comprises and is included in a premium seat, and a declining avaiilability of those seats to the general public. We think we now have a better apples-to-apples comparison between teams."

Under the new methodology, the Boston Red Sox gained the title as having the most expensive ticket in baseball for the sixth time in seven years with an average cost of $39.68, 13.8 percent higher than last year. The Baltimore Orioles ranked 14th at $18.23 per ticket, flat from 2001. But the club raised prices on about 37,500 seats at Camden Yards over the winter its first price increase since 1997 and considers its average ticket price to be $21.40.

The Montreal Expos, taken over by MLB owners last month, ranked last in the TMR survey with an average ticket price of $9. Season-ticket prices, which are typically lower than gate prices, were used in the study.

This year's increase, while easily outdistancing current rates of inflation, is actually the sport's lowest in seven years. Since 1989, baseball has opened 15 major league stadiums, which always leads to sudden and dramatic jumps in ticket prices. During the same time frame, average annual player salaries have also more than quadrupled to about $2.2 million.

But this year, no new major league stadiums are opening, and despite record MLB attendance, many teams have had greater difficulty of late selling more remote seats. Five teams lowered overall prices, and many with aggregate increases still reduced prices in less desirable sections.

The Red Sox also topped TMR's Fan Cost Index, which tallies the total cost of two average-cost adult tickets, two average-cost child tickets, two small beers, four small sodas, four hot dogs, parking, two programs and two caps. Boston's total for all that came to $228.73, 9.2 percent higher than a year ago.

The Expos, thanks in part to the weak Canadian dollar, ranked last in FCI with a total of $84.89. The league average was $145.26.


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