NEW YORK – A day at the ballpark doesn’t have to empty your wallet.
In a weakening economy, Major League Baseball clubs are offering a variety of deals to offset prices and keep fans heading to games. Add in your own money-saving tricks, and a day at the ballpark can be one of the cheapest deals in town.
“Like every industry, we’re gauging the impact the difficult economy is having on your fan base,” said Pat Courtney, spokesman for Major League Baseball.
To ease the pain of record high fuel prices, for example, the San Francisco Giants are giving $25 gas cards to anyone who buys four tickets for $75. In Minnesota, the Twins are discounting the weekly national average price for a gallon of gas off certain tickets.
Baseball is already affordable to most people at some level. But being frugal doesn’t have to mean sitting in bleacher seats. Season ticket holders often sell their seats for some games on eBay or through the team’s secondary broker. Many teams also offer steep discounts on same-day tickets, including for some of the nicer seats.
If you don’t mind the cheap seats, great deals abound.
In Chicago, kids can get in to White Sox games for $1 on select Sundays. The Oakland Athletics make 5,000 seats available at $2 every Wednesday. And if you’re determined not to spend a dime, head across the bay to AT&T Park in San Francisco. The right field wall has archways where fans can watch the game for free (you may get shifted around by security if it gets too crowded).
Another option altogether is the minor leagues, where games are considerably cheaper at around $5 to $10 a ticket. A minor league game may also be more relaxing and provide better views of the field.
Apart from tickets, the biggest money pit at a ball game is food and drink. Alcohol is in its own league; you can’t bring in your own, so if you want a beer, then expect to spend money.
Otherwise, bypass the all-you-can-eat “value” deals that are gaining popularity. Sure, you might be able to stuff yourself with $45 worth of cheese fries and root beer, but do you really want to?
The most frugal route is bringing your own food, an option more clubs are allowing. Just be sure to check the restrictions on container sizes. Stadiums generally allow bottled water and juice boxes, and instant powdered lemonade or ice tea packets are great if you don’t want to lug along heavy liquids.
For Patrick Cain, a baseball game is a cheap indulgence.
“I bring my own piece of fruit and maybe a sandwich,” said Cain, who attends about 10 games a season at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Such frugal measures may not delight your ball club, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help you save. To help fans get through the downturn, MLB recently compiled the best bargains at clubs across the country on its Web site. Highlights include free postgame concerts, 2-for-1 ticket days, student nights and other tips on saving money.
According to the Team Marketing Report, baseball is the cheapest among the four major professional sports. That’s likely to help attendance at MLB games, on track to set another record this year, topping last year’s high of 79 million.