One game, many flavors
America’s pastime has been around for at least 150 years, but even after all that time, it’s amazing how inconsistent the game is. Sure, the rules of baseball are well-established — if you don’t consider the fact that pitchers have to bat in the National League while their American League counterparts get to relax as a veiny designated hitter takes his place at the plate.
But a home run is a home run is a home run, right? Well not exactly. A home run does indeed refer to any ball hit over the outfield wall, but all walls are not created equal. A batter in Boston only needs 302 feet to hit a homer in right field, while Houston’s center field wall, the farthest in the majors at 436 feet from home plate, proves the maxim that everything is bigger in Texas. And the discrepancies don't end there. The price of admission to a major league game, as well as the cost of some of the requisite munchies, varies greatly depending on the franchise.
Photo Credit: DavidDennisPhotos.com
Take me out to the ballgame, just don’t forget your wallet
In comparing which major league teams charge the most for their games, we look at a traditional outing that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives: the classic father-son day at the ballpark. Or father-daughter. Or mother-son. Or uncle-niece. You get the idea.
Specific permutation aside, we looked at the cost of two tickets in the first section of seats behind the left field wall for a Saturday game at every park in the major leagues. Why Saturday? Well, you can’t rightfully keep a child out on a school night can you? Why left field? With more right-handed batters in the league pulling their hits toward left field, most ballparks see home runs to left field more often than to right. Note that when teams offer the same seats at different prices depending on the opposing team, we consider an average price for a Saturday game.
We also considered the price of parking a car, and how much you’ll pay for two regular hot dogs and sodas at these parks, information that is surprisingly hard to come by. I guess when you’re asking $5 for a soda you don’t necessarily want to broadcast that fact too far beyond the stadium walls.
We start with the 10 most expensive parks, and then take a look at the 10 most recession-friendly places to take your kid to a game.
Photo Credit: TheBusyBrain
10th Most Expensive Ballpark: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $66
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $15
Built in 2004, Citizens Bank Park prides itself on its views of the Philadelphia skyline. With the playing field dug out to 23 feet below street level, fans are truly rooted in the City of Brotherly Love. Sitting in left field gives a close-up look at one of the stadium’s peculiarities, the “Angle” — a section of stands jutting into left-center field that often causes game-changing bounces for fielders lacking a sharp eye for geometry. But all this flair comes at a price, as the home of the 2008 world champions ranks as the 10th most expensive place to see a game in all of baseball.
Photo Credit: wallyg
9th Most Expensive Ballpark: Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $70
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $18
One of two teams in the great state of Texas, the Houston Astros make their home at Minute Maid Park in the state’s largest city. Opening in 2000, it replaced the famous Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium that housed the Astros for 34 seasons.
With a retractable roof, Minute Maid Park offers several improvements over its predecessor, most importantly allowing for a grass field instead of the unpopular AstroTurf surface. A train full of oranges runs along the external left-field wall whenever the ‘Stros hit a home run in homage to the title sponsor, who bought naming rights in 2002 from Enron. As the ninth most expensive stadium in baseball, Minute Maid Park is the only one in baseball that does not allow any outside food or drink on game day.
Photo Credit: Bukowsky18
8th Most Expensive Ballpark: Sun Life Stadium, Florida Marlins
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $74
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $16
The Florida Marlins, established as an expansion team in 1993, have never really had a home to call their own. Playing in the multipurpose Sun Life Stadium, also home to the Miami Dolphins football team and University of Miami Hurricanes, the Marlins are limited to an attendance of just 36,500 when the stadium is in its baseball configuration. Perhaps offering the second-lowest capacity in the MLB explains the high ticket cost, though this should change when the soon-to-be-renamed Miami Marlins move into their new baseball-only stadium for the 2012 season.
Photo Credit: bilinkis
7th Most Expensive Ballpark: Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $72
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $19.50
Formerly known as the SkyDome, the world’s first stadium with a retractable roof, Rogers Centre hosts Canadian football as well as Blue Jays games, and even includes a 348-room hotel on one end. With a number of luxury services, a Hard Rock Café, and one of the biggest video screens in baseball, Rogers Centre is the fifth most expensive place to see a game in the major leagues.
Photo Credit: benny_lin
6th Most Expensive Ballpark: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $76
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $13
With both of their teams in the top 10, Chicago is an expensive place to see a game. The White Sox’s U.S. Cellular Field, formerly known as Comiskey Park, has undergone renovations since its inauguration in 1991. Particularly intense renovations every season since 2001 have moved the bullpens, changed the distance of the outfield wall, added new bars and restaurants, removed seats to decrease capacity by more than 7,000 and added statues and artwork throughout the stadium. Such work may explain the high costs involved on game day, and with additional renovations under consideration for 2010 and beyond, prices don’t look to be moving down any time soon.
Photo Credit: jjway2006
5th Most Expensive Ballpark: Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $90
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $16.50
Ticket prices at Wrigley Field, the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues, are mostly to blame for the high cost of enjoying a Cubs game in living color. And this ranking considers only the list price, which increases at the time of purchase with the addition of a 12% “amusement tax” levied by the city of Chicago (and a few others) on tickets to sporting events. Price however is no option for the team’s dedicated fans, who happily visit the 96-year-old stadium despite the team’s 102 years without a world championship.
Photo Credit: clockwerks
4th Most Expensive Ballpark: AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $64
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $21.50
San Francisco’s AT&T Park boasts the most expensive parking spaces in all of baseball, putting it at the number four spot in the overall ranking. The home of the Giants also prices its tickets on a market system based on demand, which can change depending on when the tickets are purchased. With left field seats ranging from $9 to $90 a pop, San Francisco is not the park for the thrifty baseball fan. But since its opening in 2000, AT&T park has boasted consistently high attendance numbers, and in 2008 won the Sports Facility of the Year award from the Sports Business Journal. With a comprehensive Wi-Fi system going online in 2004, AT&T Park also became one of the largest public hotspots in the world.
Photo Credit: salomaa
3rd Most Expensive Ballpark: Citi Field, New York Mets
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $100
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $17
Built in 2009, Citi Field replaced the Mets’ former home at Shea Stadium, with 15,000 fewer seats but twice as much restaurant space. Controversy over the new stadium began since the deal for the city to cover half the costs of the park while giving the team extensive tax breaks was inked under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and was compounded when CitiGroup, who bought naming rights to the stadium, were the beneficiaries of a considerable taxpayer bailout in the form of TARP funds in 2009. Given the nickname “Bailout Field,” the home of the Mets appears to pass many costs on to the fans, making Citi Field the third most expensive park in the majors.
Photo Credit: sjsharktank
2nd Most Expensive Ballpark: Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $180
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $21
Also built in 2009, Yankee Stadium suffered from the same controversy as the Mets’ Citi Field when Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed out of his predecessor’s arrangement to have the city cover half the costs of the project. Attendance, however, was strong from the beginning, with the Yankees going on to win the World Series in their inaugural season at the new park, which was built with the same field dimensions of the previous Yankee Stadium. It seems that no matter the price, people will come to see the Bronx Bombers win.
Photo Credit: self-explanatory
Most Expensive Ballpark: Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $260
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $18
Baseball’s oldest park, in use since 1912, is also the fourth-smallest, owing in part to its limited outfield seating and the 37-foot “Green Monster” in left field, where seating is in such high demand that season tickets are not offered there. The peculiarities of the Green Monster notwithstanding, Fenway has one of the highest average ticket prices overall, but price does not seem to matter to Red Sox fans, who have sold out every game in their home field since 2003, setting a major league record.
Photo Credit: elidag1
10th Least Expensive Ballpark: Coors Field, Colorado Rockies
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $48
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $15
Being the 10th cheapest park in baseball, Coors Field offers Colorado Rockies fans plenty to be happy about. The thin and dry air of Denver, which sits a mile above sea level, not only helped the stadium set records for the most home runs in a season in 1996 and again in 1999, it also prompted builders to give the park an extra-large outfield, leading the park to set records for doubles and triples as well since its opening in 1995. While this does make for an exciting game, the tradeoff is that fans watching from the outfield might need to spend the money saved by fan-friendly ticket and concession prices on a good pair of binoculars.
Photo Credit: passion_in_action
9th Least Expensive Ballpark: Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $40
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $16.50
Progressive Field, built with revenue from a temporary tax imposed on alcohol and cigarettes in Ohio, opened in 1994 to great fanfare, and remains popular today. The home of the Cleveland Indians, one of the oldest teams in baseball, it was ranked #1 by fans in Sports Illustrated in 2008 as baseball’s best ballpark. Animals like the stadium as well, with both insects and seagulls affecting games, including the famous “Bug Game” in the 2007 playoffs. Nonetheless, until Boston’s Fenway Park broke its record, Progressive Field set a major league record by selling out 455 straight games between 1995 and 2001. While recent years have seen less impressive results from the team, Indians fans will likely ensure that the stadium stays full for years to come.
Photo Credit: misschatter
8th Least Expensive Ballpark: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $34
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $17.50
Opened in 1962, Dodger stadium is a relic of a bygone era. The largest stadium by a margin of 5,000 over second-ranked Yankee Stadium, the Dodgers’ home has never changed its capacity in its history. It is also one of only four parks with a symmetrical outfield, it was built with entirely private financing (the last until San Francisco’s AT&T Park opened in 2000), and it is one of a dwindling number without a corporate-sponsored name. All of these factors allow the Dodgers to offer recession-friendly prices to their fans, who can expect a $500 million renovation plan to add modern features such as HD monitors, to be completed this year.
Photo Credit: malingering
7th Least Expensive Ballpark: Target Field, Minnesota Twins
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $36
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $19
The newest stadium in professional baseball, the Twins’ Target Field was the second to receive LEED certification, a designation for buildings with low energy usage, when it opened in 2010. While preceded in this certification by the Washington Nationals’ home, Target Field scored higher on the evaluation by the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognized the field’s rainwater recycling system, adjustable-flow toilets and energy-efficient stadium lighting. The estimated savings of $38,000 a year on the park’s energy costs help the park take its place as one of the least expensive places to see a game.
Photo Credit: drewgeraets
6th Least Expensive Ballpark: Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $40
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $15
Playing baseball in Milwaukee, one of the coldest places to host games at either ends of the regular season’s April to October span, led to innovative plans for a stadium that could meet the challenge. Miller Park, opened in 2001, features a fan-shaped retractable roof that is unique in the league, allowing it to effectively seal the space while allowing natural grass to grow on the playing field. In fact, before a new field surface was put down last year, the Brewers played on imported grass from its former stadium. While the roof has had its problems, needing major repair work in 2007, the park retains its diehard fans, who get the sixth best value for their money in the MLB.
Photo Credit: astrangerinthealps
5th Least Expensive Ballpark: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Athletics
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $26
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $18.50
It’s immediately clear when entering Oakland Coliseum that you are in a multi-purpose stadium designed for things other than baseball. The towering upper deck, which was expanded in 1996, allows attendance for the Oakland Raiders, who share the stadium, to reach more than 60,000, almost double the Coliseum’s baseball capacity of about 35,000, which is the lowest in all of baseball. The search for a new site for a stadium to be built exclusively for the A’s has reached dead ends several times since 2005, and speculation continues regarding the possibility of moving the team out of the Bay Area. While low game-day prices may be good for the fans, it may prove difficult for the A’s organization to stay the course for much longer.
Photo Credit: chrism70
4th Least Expensive Ballpark: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $38
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $4
Opened in 2003, the Great American Ball Park is a fitting name for the home of the oldest team in professional baseball, even if it comes from the insurance company that bought naming rights to the new stadium. Nonetheless, the park recalls the historical significance of its place on the Ohio River with two smokestacks in right field that call to mind the paddlewheel boats used on the river in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to the history lesson, fans are treated to the cheapest concessions in the league, with dollar dogs and dollar sodas available all year round.
Photo Credit: 35696215@N04
3rd Least Expensive Ballpark: Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $30
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $6
The searing heat of Arizona was no sweat for designers of Chase Field to cope with as they built the stadium for the expansion team’s inaugural 1998 season. A retractable-roof stadium, the first built in the U.S., proved able to cool the entire space down 30 degrees in the three hours before a Diamondbacks game, and a swimming pool in right field, while carrying a steep price tag at $6,500, gives fans another way to cool down. Despite these features, the Diamondbacks are able to offer their fans the third least expensive ballgame in baseball, a silver lining to the DBacks’ poor performance this season.
Photo Credit: 97964364@N00
2nd Least Expensive Ballpark: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Los Angeles Angels
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $21 (with child price ticket)
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $12
For the cost-conscious baseball fans, there’s almost no better place to see a game than Angel Stadium in Los Angeles. Even without a child in tow, the stadium’s affordable left field pavilion and parking prices put it firmly as one of baseball’s most economic options.
Opened in 1966, the stadium underwent extensive renovations from 1997 to 1999 that made it once again a baseball-only stadium after playing host to the Rams football team for during the 1980s and 90s. The renovations were undertaken by the Walt Disney company, which bought the team in 1996. With its affordable prices for baseball games, Angel Stadium might rival nearby Disneyland as the “happiest place on earth” – for the diehard local baseball fans at least.
Photo Credit: lyght55
Least Expensive Ballpark: PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates
2 Tix, Left Field, Saturday game: $22 (with child price ticket)
2 hot dogs, 2 regular sodas: $10.50
Opened in 2001, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park plays host to a team that boasts the longest streak of losing seasons in any North American sport, at 17. Having started out the 2010 season with the worst loss in franchise history (20-0 against the Milwaukee Brewers), the Pirates thankfully do not have to justify high prices at PNC Park, where parking is the cheapest in the league and child pricing keeps the cost of taking a family to a game down. In a stadium where almost all of the seats offer views of the city skyline, fans would surely be happy to pay a bit more if the team were to start winning.
Photo Credit: daveynin