With opening day in the rearview mirror, Major League Baseball is in full swing. After two seasons significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we could be looking at a full-force return of fans to the stands in the 2022 season. There’s nothing quite like a beautiful sunny afternoon taking in America’s pastime, enjoying a hot dog and a cold beer. But the cost of those concessions just may be enough to put an asterisk on your day.
While prices are up this season, baseball fans still enjoy some of the cheapest tickets in professional sports. According to Team Marketing’s MLB Fan Cost Index (MLB FCI), during the 2021 season the average cost for a family of four to attend a game increased to $253.64, with ticket prices averaging $34.91. That’s nearly $100 left just in parking and concessions. And with inflation affecting the price of just about everything, you can bet those ballpark burgers will bite back this season. In fact, we could be looking at price hikes of at least $0.25 per food item across the board, if it stops there.
In general, popular wisdom holds that ballpark prices have been increasing drastically for years. And of course, in some markets (particularly those that are winning) that may be true. It also may be true only when looking across the board at the average price of all concessions. In recent years, we’ve seen a push for higher-quality foods, craft beer offerings (I’ll stick with an ‘arn thank you – IYKYK), and more outlandish, over-the-top creations that generate buzz (and hopefully, ticket sales). These types of concoctions come at a premium though, and when looking at average costs across the board, may have an oversized impact on our figures (the numbers kind and waistline kind, if you’re eating donut burgers).
But what happens when we look at just the Big Three: beer, soda, and hot dogs?
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Looking at a decade’s worth of data from the MLB FCI, we see that, despite some fluctuation, growth in the average cost of these items has been consistent, but slow over the last decade, with beer even seeing a slight decrease in average cost in a few years. Of course, with so many premium options out there, the Big Three might not hold the same appeal for your family’s palate in today’s MLB experience. Why settle for soggy-bunned dogs when you can have a waffle cone stuffed with fries and shawarma?
All this is to say, we might not have known how good we had it until inflation came rounding first. For hardcore fans and people with nothing better to do on a Thursday afternoon (and the strange cross-section of these groups I happen to fall into), creeping concession costs won’t be enough to keep us away. I can only hope that the Adobo Beef Nachos at PNC Park will be enough to soften the blow of another disappointing season for my Buccos.