Poll: Ticket prices too steepTake 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.
By: BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer , The Jamestown Sun
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.”
In other poll results released Tuesday:
— Nearly 60 percent of fans said no player who used steroids or performance-enhancing drugs should get into the Hall of Fame.
— 85 percent said all 104 names on the list of players who tested positive for drugs in 2003 should be made public. So far, only Alex Rodriguez has been identified.
— 60 percent said they were not interested in the World Baseball Classic — the preseason tournament involving major leaguers that was won by Japan for the second time.
But 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. The 2009 cost hasn’t been determined, but the increases typically outpace the inflation rate.
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.
Seattle designated hitter Mike Sweeney saw plenty of small crowds in Kansas City and Oakland in a 14-year career. This season, it could be worse.
“In light of the economic status of our country, there are many blue-collar Americans that probably won’t be able to afford taking their son out to a ballgame, and that’s understandable,” Sweeney said.
In AP-AOL polls in April 2005, October 2005 and October 2006, fans said player salaries were the main problem.
Steroids were a concern, too, in those past polls. Five of the top 12 home run hitters in history — Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Rodriguez — have been tainted by allegations of steroid use. In the current poll, 57 percent said no player who used steroids or performance-enhancing drugs should make the Hall of Fame.
The poll was conducted March 24-29 and involved online interviews with 719 adults who said they were interested in Major League Baseball. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.