Friday, October 9, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

Wright Thompson at ESPN writes about the "Legends Seats" at the new Yankee Stadium which can go for as much as $2,500 a ticket. The gist of the story: big time sports is choking off its fan base in exchange for maximizing short-term profits.

The key paragraphs:

A recent poll discovered an unsettling trend emerging for the first time. American families whose household income is $75,000 or less now have zero dollars of discretionary income. According to Luker, that means about 75 percent of the country can never responsibly afford to go to a live professional sporting event. Franchises want them to be fans, to buy the gear and pull for their teams and watch the telecasts the leagues are paid billions for. But they don't need them to come to their stadiums. There are, right now, plenty of rich people who love games. The prices reflect that. The reason sporting events cost so much now, Luker's research shows, is because they are designed to be affordable only to those making $150,000 or more a year.

This wasn't always true. Ten years ago, it was cheaper to go to a baseball game than to a movie in half of the big league markets (take away parking at the game, and it was cheaper in every market). Today, there isn't a single city in America where it costs less to go to a major league game than to a movie. Everywhere we turn, we see examples of the collapsing middle class. This is where that issue lives in the world of sports, and it has predictable consequences.

"The lower the income," Luker says, "the less they're enjoying sports."

His August poll discovered a third of Americans are less interested in sports because of the declining economy. That's bad news, made worse by a problem he first noticed in 2004 and which has continued since: For the first time, the largest number of sports fans aren't 12- to 17-year-old boys. The baby boomers are the group that shows the greatest increase in a love of sports, and they'll be dying soon.

You can damn the WNBA all you want, but there's one truth: you don't have to take out a second mortgage to see a WNBA game. It might not cost as little as a movie, but it's pretty damn close to one.

1 comment:

Ethan said...

I think another culprit is the famous "corporate outing" where the costs can be written off, either tax-wise, or hey, it's not your money anyway. I think that might be more pervasive than fans making upwards of 150K/year. I don't have hard evidence of this, but have a sneaking suspicion.

I do recall a "team outing" to Wrigley Field some years back where I didn't pay a dime for anything out of pocket. I wasn't so freewheeling more recently when I saw the Silver Stars in San Antonio. I got in, got out, spent nothing outside of pre-paid ticket and parking. I don't think I'm what sports teams are hoping for.