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Ticket prices keep fans from sporting events? No kidding

Submitted by on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 No Comment

It took a whooper of a recession to finally whomp pro sports executives up the sides of their heads with what fans have been trying to tell them for decades: You are too expensive to be considered family entertainment, unless the family is the Rockefellers.

In 2008, two baseball teams topped 4 million in attendance. This year, none did. Same story in the National Basketball Association , which went from two teams at 900,000-plus to none.

The dip wasn’t as steep for the National Football League’s elite, but most of those 2008 tickets probably were purchased before most of the country figured out at this time Chicken Little was right: The housing market sky was indeed falling.

NASCAR’s troubles were highlighted this weekend when, despite a mighty push, track officials at Fontana still found 20,000 fans attending Sunday’s race dressed as empty seats. Granted, attendance always has been a problem at Fontana, but you can’t explain away drops around the rest of the circuit.

Minor league baseball, meanwhile, has seen three straight seasons of record attendance. Hmm … cheaper tickets and concessions combined with less travel time for a bulk of the country’s population. That one’s not hard to figure out.

It’s not that we don’t like sports. It’s that we don’t like paying a king’s ransom to go to a game.

The leagues are actually lucky the drops haven’t been steeper. According to a Rasmussen poll released today, 64 percent of the country’s adults who closely follow sports say ticket prices have kept them away from sporting events this year.

That part’s not so surprising give the general economic malaise that hit hard about the time the NBA tipped off its regular season last fall. A second result, though, should have sports execs hyperventilating: 54 percent of sports fans say they’d rather watch a game at home anyway.

The problem actually has been fermenting for years, as fans grumbled about escalating tickets and concession prices, yet teams continued spending and passing the costs along. You can’t blame it all on salaries, by the way. A good portion of the inflation in San Francisco, for example, is due to the debt service on the Giants’ new stadium.

And you can’t blame all of the salary inflation on player greed, because it takes two to tender a contract and it seems that, short of illegal collusion, owners are unable to restrain themselves.

The result, though, is that it easily can cost a family of four close to $200 to go to a baseball game and $300 for a race.

Yes, we still go. But that’s pretty much our sporting event budget for the year. It simply doesn’t pencil out for us to go more often.

So we join the 54 percent of the sports fans who would rather watch sports on television, except we’d rather not. We’d prefer to hear the crack of the bat, the roar of the engines, the squeak of the sneakers.

Maybe the sports leagues are fine with that. Maybe they can draw their financing from television contracts, merchandising and fans who can afford to attend more often. Given that more than half of the nation’s sports fans already don’t give a flip if they’re there or not, though, that doesn’t seem like good long-range strategy.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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