April 22, 2004
Fixing the Fan Cost Index

You've probably heard of the Fan Cost Index, which is the Team Marketing Report's annual tally of how much it costs for a family of four to attend a sporting event, in this case a Major League Baseball game. I've always felt their index was skewed way too high, so I'm pleased to see that Doug Pappas has written an article which details some of the problems with the FCI and shows some more useful variations of it.

Next week, he's going to look at the "average ticket prices" and will show how fans in most cities can do far better. I'll anticipate some of his data for Houston by noting that the Astros have a couple of tailor-made promos for cost-conscious fans: "Coca-Cola Double Play Tuesdays", in which "fans can purchase an Outfield Deck seat at the Minute Maid Park Box Office for just $1.00 with the presentation of two empty 1-liter bottles of Coke", and "Coca-Cola Value Nights (Fridays)" in which fans will get "four Mezzanine tickets, four hotdogs, four Cokes, and two Astros caps for $50 with the presentation of four labels from 2-liter Coca-Cola products at the Minute Maid Park Box Office." Both of these, needless to say, compare very favorably to the Astros' overall FCI of $177.52, the "average ticket" portion of which is $22.88 per ticket, or $91.52 for four.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 22, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

The Fan Cost Index is skewed too high, however, I do not enjoy the idea of paying $40 to sit out in right field at Yankee Stadium (as I did last June for a Yankees-Mets game). Fortunately, there are more than enough places to eat in the area before the game.

When a person pays upwards of $75 for a seat to a baseball game (Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park), then I can see why the FCI is so high. When I go out to a game, I prefer to think of myself as a "Value-For-Money" Fan (VFMF) that tries to take advantage of what's available around the stadium as well as inside. That means sitting in reasonably priced seats (mid-level and out of the sun) and eating where I want (Boog's BBQ at Camden Yards in Baltimore vs eating at McDonalds outside of Yankee Stadium). I also watch for discounts on tickets, but won't bother for the nosebleed seats. Since I go alone, the final cost isn't as bad as it would be for the typical family, however, I consider $60 to be an high-price night.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 22, 2004 10:33 AM

We actually had pretty good seats for the game on Saturday at $17 each. Yes, they were on the upper deck, but they were in the first row, a little bit pat third base (section 310).

The problem with the "fan cost index" is that they assume not only an average ticket, but that you're going to buy overpriced souvenirs every time out.

Plus, given the outrageous prices of ballpark beer, I almost never drink it any more. Though upon arriving in Houston, I was amazed to see beer vendors again. In California -- at least in Oakland and San Francisco -- they pretty much stopped that, oh...right as I was turning 21. Anyway, to buy "a few" beers (or more) at the park, given the cost, I think you either (a) have more money than you'll ever need or (b) have at least some alcoholic tendencies.

To me the biggest relatively new racket -- which seems to be spreading like wildfire at sporting events -- is the prohibition on outside food and drink. Once they establish a monopoly on eating in the park, they can jack up those concession prices like crazy, reduce the increases on ticket prices and claim they are "holding the line" on ticket prices even if for the average fan, the cost is way up because they have to pay $9 for a hot dog and a soda (or $11-12 on a hot dog and a beer) instead of anywhere from $1-$5 elsewhere, depending on where they brought their outside food and drink.

Posted by: Tim on April 22, 2004 10:47 AM

"To me the biggest relatively new racket -- which seems to be spreading like wildfire at sporting events -- is the prohibition on outside food and drink."

Tim, this is not restricted to the major leagues.

Both New York City single-A teams have this policy. The Staten Island Yankees don't get ridiculous for concessions (especially since the offerings are limited in the area outside of the ballpark (St George / SI Ferry Terminal area). The Brooklyn Cyclones, on the other hand, have the audacity to charge $4 for a Nathan's hot dog when they are located in Coney Island, where the original Nathan's is located about two blocks from the ballpark. (For the benefit of those of you who have never been to the original Nathan's in Brooklyn, I can assure you that it is a far superior hot dog than anything you can get from the supermarket, food courts, or fast food restaurants even though it is the same chain.) Since this is also a beachfront area, there happens to be more options for food in the neighborhood and boardwalk.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 22, 2004 11:31 AM

Dear Sir's: I'm trying to find out the price of hotdogs and beer at Yankee Stadium. I live in Michigan, which isn't cheap. I've heard Yankee stadium is outrageous.

Posted by: otis hutchinson on May 28, 2004 5:01 PM

I appreciate all of the comments that have been presented on the subject so far. However, I must say that I feel the FCI is very accurate and does exactly what an economic data survey is supposed to do... represent the market on an "even" playing field.

Instead of taking the dollar values listed in the FCI as hard amounts, the survey is meant to direct the consumer in trends and comparisons. This means that if you wanted to see how the prices from one team compares to another using a comparable basket of goods, this project gives you the tool to do so. In addition, if you wanted to build an "inflation" project to determine if your local team's prices are advancing faster than the local inflation rate, this tool is perfect.

I actually developed a similar tool for use in my thesis and found the data in the FCI to be highly representative and accurate. I used my data to compare the inflation rates of prices to the win/loss record, player salaries, and level of competition in the area to determine levels of monopolistic power for individual teams. Give the FCI a chance to show you the "big picuture" rather than taking the costs and figures at face value and you may see something you can use for your own projects or personal information.

Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to respond and keep up the good work!

Posted by: Dave Gary on August 1, 2004 5:33 PM