Baseball is fondly referred to as America’s Pastime, which begs the question of how affordable an outing to a major league game actually is for a small family. The answer, according to a ValuePenguin analysis of prices and incomes in every Major League Baseball city, varies enormously depending on where you live.
That affordability gap begins with wide differences in ticket prices from team to team and field to field. According to a Team Marketing Report survey, fans of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs pay more than twice as much for home tickets — around $50 each, on average — than do supporters of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves, who score their tickets for an average of about $20 apiece.
Of course, tickets aren’t the only expenditure when most families head to the ballpark. In our calculations, we factored in the tab for three tickets (rounding up the 2.58 people who live in the average U.S. household) along with the cost of two beers, one soda, three hot dogs and the cost of parking at the venue. For the most part, costs for the extras were in step with those for tickets, with tabs that ran from $30 or so (in Tampa Bay, Fla., and Phoenix) to about $60 and up (in Chicago, Yankee Stadium and Boston).
The grand totals, for tickets and all the extras, varied nearly threefold — from only a little under $100 (in Phoenix and Tampa Bay, Fla.,) to nearly $300 (in Boston). That’s a dramatic range, but cost alone doesn't determine affordability, since income, too, varies from city to city across the country.
We divided those total costs, then, by the average hourly income in the respective metropolitan areas from which the teams draw their fans. On average, we found that a family would have to toil for about 4.5 hours to pay for their trip to the park. Below we provide more detail on areas that were notably affordable and unaffordable, due to a combination of local costs and local income.
Most affordable teams
In cities where a game is the least financial stretch, the average family would work only a little over three hours to cover the tab for their MLB experience.
Several of the cities — including Baltimore and Oakland, Calif., — benefited from above-average incomes and below-average costs. In Washington, D.C., the price tag was above the norm, but median income was out of the park, at a whopping $92,324, the highest of all the metro areas. In San Diego and Phoenix, incomes were slightly above and below the average, respectively, but costs were at least a third below the norm.
Least affordable teams
In these cities, you'll need to toil an average of about six hours to pay for a family baseball outing — almost twice as long as at the most affordable parks.
With the Cubs, Yankees and Phillies, median household incomes were only at or a little above the $63,000 average for all the cities with MLB clubs, but total costs soared about 50% above the norm. Metro Bostonians are notably more affluent, on average, but not enough so to overcome a total cost for tickets, food and drink, and parking of $235.62, the highest in the country. A Red Sox fan has to work around 6.5 hours to afford a night out at Fenway Park.
The tab in St. Louis of $155.47 is only about 10% above the average for all parks, but incomes there are about 20% lower than the norm for all MLB cities, which largely accounts for the club’s relative unaffordability.
All Major League Baseball teams ranked
How local rivals stack up
In some metro areas or regions, fans can have two or even three teams within driving distance. As the comparisons below show, fan costs between regional rivals can vary widely.
After their World Series victory last season, the Cubs sit atop ESPN’s Power Rankings. Unfortunately, that position helps contribute to the typical Cubs fan needing to work the hardest of all MLB attendees to see their beloved team play — a full working day of toil, in fact. However, Chicagoans or visitors to the city who aren’t stuck on Wrigley Field and the Cubs can save $75 by crossing town to Guaranteed Rate Field to see the relatively affordable (if anemically performing) White Sox.
A 30-minute drive separates Yankee Stadium from CitiField, but the two teams are a world away in affordability. The tab for a trip to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx tops $200 for our family, thanks to hefty prices for both tickets and extras, including a $35 parking fee that ties with Fenway Park for the highest in the country.
New Yorkers could save at least a third by instead opting to see the Mets in Queens, and they'll work at least two hours less to cover the total tab. Plus, they'll probably enjoy better baseball, at least based on the higher 2017 Preseason ESPN ranking for the Mets compared with the Yankees.
Neither team, by the way, still plays in their long-time legendary homes, having both built gleaming new fields in 2009.
The Giants' stadium is right across the water from the Athletics' stadium. But San Franciscans will likely pony up much more money — at least $50 more for our family — to see their team than will their Bay Area neighbors, and for better baseball to boot, according to rankings by ESPN.
In total, a trip to AT&T Park, the Giants' home, located on the San Francisco waterfront, rings in at about $209 by our calculations — which requires about 4.3 hours work for an average Bay Area family. By contrast, a family heading to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of the As, will work almost an hour less to pay for the outing.
Where most twin-team cities offer distinct choices, in both cost and performance, the Los Angeles area teams offer a tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum choice. The Dodgers and the Angels have similar pricing, both teams sit in the middle of the rankings and both are middling in affordability — at a little less than five hours to cover the family’s trip to the park.
For a more affordable MLB experience, you can head a hundred miles or so down Interstate 5 to see the San Diego Padres. Not only are costs lower down the coast, but San Diego’s median income is slightly higher, meaning Padres fans can knock off work after about three hours and still make enough to cover the tab for their game.
The U.S. Census Bureau has calculated that the average family is made up of 2.58 people. In order to get an idea of what it might cost a family of three to attend an MLB game, we multiplied the average ticket prices in 2016 (gathered by Team Marketing Report) by three.
When going out to a ballgame, most people buy more than just a ticket. To calculate the average, we further used TMR data to tally the cost of food (three hot dogs), beverages (two beers and a soda), and parking at the field. We then gathered U.S. Census data on each metro area’s median household income, based on U.S. Census Data for 2015, the latest available year. (The specific metro areas are listed below.)
We then calculated an hourly income by dividing the annual income by 2080, which is 52 full (40-hour) work weeks. That sum was then divided into the total cost of the tickets and other extras. That yielded the number of hours that the average household in the area the team is located would have to work in order to pay for a night out at the ballpark.
Since the Toronto Blue Jays are the only MLB team located outside of the U.S., the prices were converted into U.S. dollars. In order to achieve this, we converted the average-income data into U.S. dollars since it was originally provided by Statistics Canada in Canadian dollars. This means that the costs and income both reflected the same currency.
Listing of metropolitan areas from which median household income was gathered from the U.S. Census (with team):
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell (Braves)
- Baltimore-Columbia-Towson (Orioles)
- Boston-Cambridge-Newton (Red Sox)
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin (Cubs and White Sox)
- Cincinnati (Reds)
- Cleveland-Elyria (Indians)
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (Rangers)
- Denver-Aurora-Lakewood (Rockies)
- Detroit-Warren-Dearborn (Tigers)
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land (Astros)
- Kansas City (Royals)
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (Dodgers and Angels)
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (Marlins)
- Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis (Brewers)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington (Twins)
- New York-Newark-Jersey City (Yankees and Mets)
- Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington (Phillies)
- Phoenix Mesa-Scottsdale (Diamondbacks)
- Pittsburgh (Pirates)
- San Diego-Carlsbad (Padres)
- San Francisco-Hayward-Oakland (Giants and Athletics)
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue (Mariners)
- St. Louis (Cardinals)
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (Rays)
- Toronto-Oshawa-Hamilton (Blue Jays)
- Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria (Nationals)