MLB Fan Cost Index
Besides Major League Baseball (MLB) teams’ market population, popularity and win-loss record, their attendances at home games depend on such factors as prices of tickets and other Items while at the ballpark. This information initially appeared in 1994 when a company named Team Marketing Report (TMR) published a Fan Cost Index (FCI) for the 1993 season of clubs in MLB, National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL), and then one year later for teams in the National Hockey League (NHL).
In Chapter 1 of Baseball in Crisis, I analyzed the FCIs of four U.S. professional sports leagues and more specifically, of MLB teams from the mid-1990s to 2006. To expand that analysis across five recent baseball seasons, this essay discusses the FCIs of MLB and reveals how teams ranked among each other in the American League (AL) and National League (NL). To accomplish these tasks, I prepared two tables and furthermore reviewed other data like the characteristics of MLB ballparks and teams’ attendances at their home games. The following are results of my research of this topic.
As reflected in Table 1, there were eight elements in MLB’s FCIs from the 2007 to 2010 seasons. Then in 2011, TMR deleted two child tickets from its index and replaced them with two additional adult tickets. Give that change in types of tickets, the average cost for a four-person family of fans to attend a big league game increased from $176 in 2007 to $197 in 2011, or by 12 percent.
An adult ticket to a game, whose average cost equaled $22.77 in 2007, was approximately $26.91 four years later. In addition to purchasing tickets, the costs of four items in MLB’s FCIs
MLB Fan Cost Indexes, 2007-2011
|Adult Tickets (2)||45||51||53||54||107 (4)|
|Child Tickets (2)||45||50||52||52||NA|
|Soft Drinks (4)||13||14||14||14||14|
|Hot Dogs (4)||14||15||15||15||16|
Note: Costs of items in the index are league averages rounded in U.S. dollars. For the Toronto Blue Jays’ costs, TMR used exchange rates in respective seasons to convert Canadian dollars into U.S. dollars. In parentheses is the average number of items purchased by a family of four at a typical MLB game. Rather than include two (2) child tickets in the 2011 Fan Cost Index, TMR put the prices of four (4) adult tickets. NA means Not Applicable.
Source: For MLB seasons, see “Team Marketing Research” reports at www.teammarketing.com.
increased while the price of two caps remained the same at $28 and two programs were $1 less in 2011 than in 2007. In percentage changes, the most significant increase in costs was the price of hot dogs followed by beers, parking, and soft drinks. In short, a household with two children paid an average of $21 more to attend a MLB game in 2011 than they did in 2007.
Each baseball team’s FCIs for five seasons are available in Table 2. What does the table indicate about the amounts and trends in their indexes? First, because the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox usually had two of the highest FCIs across the seasons, it cost more money for fans to attend an AL than NL game in 2008-2011. Within these leagues, the AL Los Angeles Angels and NL Pittsburgh Pirates ranked among the lowest in costs each season while playing at their home ballparks.
Second, from 2007 to 2011, the Yankees at $115, Chicago Cubs at $86, and Minnesota
MLB Teams Fan Cost Indexes, 2007-2011
|Boston Red Sox
|Chicago White Sox||206||215||224||250||259|
|Kansas City Royals
|Los Angeles Angels||136||140||141||132||130|
|New York Yankees||223||275||411||316||338|
|Tampa Bay Rays
|Toronto Blue Jays
|Los Angeles Dodgers
|New York Mets
|San Diego Padres||168||202||172||121||126|
|San Francisco Giants
|St. Louis Cardinals||209||217||215||216||223|
Note: Fan cost indexes are in U.S. dollars. AL is American League. NL is National League. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays changed its name to Tampa Bay Rays. The three AL and NL teams with the highest fan cost indexes in these seasons appear in bold print.
Source: For each team’s costs, see these amounts in reports on www.teammarketing.com.
Twins Sox at $55 had the largest increases in amounts of their FCIs. This happened, in part, because new ballparks opened in New York City and downtown Minneapolis plus prices of most items in the Cubs’ index substantially increased for fans at Chicago’s Wrigley Field especially in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Alternatively, three AL and four NL clubs had smaller FCIs in 2011 than 2007 and that group included decreases of $42 for the San Diego Padres at Petco Park and $34 for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. These changes occurred primarily after the 2008 season when the U.S. economy was in a recession and housing prices and other real estate values plummeted in the San Diego and Phoenix metropolitan areas.
Third, when they opened regular seasons in new or renovated ballparks, MLB teams raised their ticket prices at home games and that increased the cost indexes for fans who attended them. Besides the Yankees in 2009 and Twins in 2010, new ballparks opened for the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in 2008 and one year later for the New York Mets at Citi Field while the Kansas City Royals performed at home in the renovated Kauffman Stadium. Since these facilities exist because of taxpayer money, the public owns them as investments and their construction costs or renovations ranged from $250 million in Kansas City to $1.1 billion in New York City.
Fourth, some teams’ FCIs were relatively stable with small changes during seasons listed in Table 2. These included, for example, the AL Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners and NL Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins. That is, their average ticket prices changed marginally or not at all from one MLB season to another for fans at home games while the prices of beers and other items in their FCIs gradually increased but by minor amounts due to inflation.
Fifth, based on information from my sources, MLB’s FCI increased in the 2008, 2009, and 2011 seasons. Nonetheless, other than a decline from 2.8 million in the 2007 season to 2.6 million in 2008, the league’s average attendance was approximately 2.4 million in seasons 2009, 2010, and 2011. These results suggest that, ceteris paribus, the change in MLB’s FCI from one season to another did not reduce sports fans’ demand to purchase tickets and attend professional baseball games of their home team.
Sixth, while MLB’s FCI increased by $21 or 12 percent from 2007 to 2011, the NFL’s changed by $60 or 16 percent and the NHL’s by $44 or 15 percent (the NBA’s FCI for the 2011-12 season is not available in the literature). In addition, the differences in FCI amounts between MLB and the NFL increased from $191 in 2007 to $230 in 2011, and from $100 to $129 in the NHL. Consequently, families spent considerably less on average to attend regular-season games in professional baseball than those in football and ice hockey.
In sum, this essay denotes that since 2007, MLB games have become more expensive but also a “bargain” for spectators as compared to games of teams in two other elite U.S. sports leagues. Economically, rather than spend more than $300 at a home game of the Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs, baseball fans in Boston, New York, and Chicago might decide to drink water and not beers or soft drinks, eat popcorn or pretzels and not hot dogs, buy one and not two caps, and borrow a program from someone at the ballpark.
 For these FCIs, see Frank P. Jozsa, Jr., Baseball in Crisis: Spiraling Costs, Bad Behavior, Uncertain Future (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008).
 To read about recent characteristics of MLB teams’ ballparks, see Kurt Badenhusen, Michael K. Ozanian, and Christina Settimi, “The Business of Baseball,” at www.forbes.com, 22 March 2011.
 The home, away, and total attendances of MLB teams for their regular seasons are available in “MLB Attendance Report” at www.espn.go.com, and in sections of www.baseballreference.com and www.rodfort.com.