Take me out to the ballgame … because I can’t afford it.
The high price of going to a game is now the No. 1 problem in Major League Baseball, a new Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll of fans shows.
Soaring salaries and steroids dominated fans’ worries in past AP surveys. But with opening day less than a week away, the nation’s recession is delivering the biggest blow.
“Like every election, it’s the economy,” said New York Yankees star Mark Teixeira, who signed a $180 million, eight-year contract in the offseason. “In tough times, disposable income may not be there.”
The cost of tickets, concessions, parking and everything else added up to fans’ main concern. The toll of attending a game was tops at 45 percent, followed by player salaries (29 percent), steroids/drugs (19 percent) and the length of games (6 percent).
“It’s gone up like everything else. The last game we went to, we paid $50 for a seat. That’s pretty steep,” Robert Neel, a retired director of admissions at the University of Cincinnati, said at spring training in Florida.
That would make for a cheap seat at either of the two new ballparks opening in New York. At the $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium, a ticket in the lower deck between the bases goes for a minimum of $350 and tops out at $2,625.
At the Mets’ Citi Field, it’s $18 just to park.
The average ticket price in the majors was $25.43 last year — up 11.7 percent over the previous season, according to The Team Marketing Report.
MLB said two-thirds of the 30 teams lowered either their average ticket price or some level of seats. The Toronto Blue Jays went even further, offering a season ticket in the upper deck for $76 — less than $1 per game for all 81 home dates.
“The prices at the concession stands are insane,” Cleveland fan Larry Jameson complained at spring training in Goodyear, Ariz. “Eight bucks for a beer. My wife bought a T-shirt. It cost her 22 bucks. She was going to get me a golf shirt. It was 55 bucks. I said forget about it, we need a plane ticket home.”
Margaret Costello, a retired teacher from Sandusky, Ohio, assessed blame across the board.
“I’m not happy about the prices,” she said this week at the Indians’ new camp. “Every sports team in America, every professional athlete, is out of line.
“We have people losing their jobs, and CC Sabathia — I love him, he was my favorite — he gets more millions than a third-world country’s national budget?” she said.
“I’m here for spring training, but I think this is the last time. Every year, I get more disillusioned with the millionaire players. Now, with Americans really in a financial bind, these guys keep getting richer? It has to stop.”
Sabathia, who signed a $161 million, seven-year deal with the Yankees, accepted that sentiment.
“I’m not surprised with the economy being so bad and the way things are, the price of a ticket is probably going to be high. Hopefully they’ll still come out and support us,” he said.
Overall, almost 60 percent of poll respondents said going to a game was more expensive than other entertainment they might consider. Yet there was no indication they would stay away because of the prices — only 11 percent who went to a game in 2008 said they aren’t likely to go back this year.
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