The question posed in the title is an interesting one – how does one determine whether or not a major league team provides its fans with enough “bang for their buck?” Does it relate solely to the team’s performance versus the cost of a ticket to the ballpark? Does the quality of the ballpark come into play, and factors like concession and parking prices? Is there truly a way to quantify whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth out of your hometown team?
An article in the Wall Street Journal’s “Marketwatch” attempts to rank the 30 MLB teams in order to determine who provides the most value to fans. It bases its results on a study performed by TicketCity, a Texas-based ticket reseller. The article explains that they looked at three criteria when compiling the list – median price of tickets on the resale market, the team’s winning percentage, and the skill level of a team’s opponents (with the idea that a more difficult opponent is a bonus when determining how much value a fan receives). While TicketCity admits this is a fairly fluid system, particularly because it’s based on tickets within the resale market, they feel it offers a good snapshot of which teams provide the most value to fans.
The Pittsburgh Pirates ranked number one in the study, primarily due to the fact that their median ticket resale price is just $15, while the team boasts a .589 win percentage at the time of the study. (Their win percentage is currently .605, the second highest in the majors behind St. Louis). I’ve seen PNC Park rank at the top of stadium ratings numerous times, and with good reason since it’s such a beautiful park. This study apparently doesn’t consider the stadium, concessions, or anything else of that nature – just resale ticket prices, winning percentage, and the difficulty level of opponents. Which team is number 30 on the list, or providing the least value to fans? The Houston Astros – resale prices are $36 on average and the team had a .378 winning percentage at the time of the study. For a team of rookies and retreads in a rebuilding stage, the number 30 ranking doesn’t seem that shocking. It is kind of shocking that their ticket prices remain so high on the resale market.
So where do the Indians fall on this scale? The study considers them the fifth most valuable team in baseball, behind Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington, and Arizona (in that order). The median resale price for Indians tickets is $27, and their winning percentage was .507 at the time of the study. A representative from TicketWatch thinks the resale value of Pirates tickets may have remained low because fans are not fully sold on the team yet. Which is fair, since they had their 20th consecutive losing season in 2012, and had a collapse similar to the Indians’ last year as well. That may be why the resale value on Indians tickets has remained low – poor attendance, coupled with fans that fear the bottom could fall out at any minute like last year, keeps the cost down.
The article still manages to mention the reduced concession prices at Progressive Field, and a sample of some of the ticket discounts and packages used in Oakland even though those technically did not factor into the study. One thing that’s worth mentioning – even though the Indians were considered the fifth best value overall, they do not have the fifth lowest ticket prices on the resale market. In fact, when compared to the other teams in the AL Central, the Indians’ resale value ($27) is the highest in the division, tied with the White Sox. In fact most of the clubs that have the same, or lower, resale value as the Indians – the White Sox ($27), Reds ($27), Tigers ($26), Royals ($26), Twins ($26), Cubs ($26), Braves ($26), Brewers ($25), Nationals ($21), Dodgers ($20), Marlins ($20), Angels ($19), and Pirates ($15) – all seem to have something in common. These are either Midwestern teams, or teams that have had extremely disappointing seasons when compared to preseason expectations, outside of the Braves. The Indians are basically near the middle of the pack when it comes to resale prices, even though they earned a fifth place ranking in the study.
Do I think this study happens to be the final word in whether or not a fan is getting enough bang for their buck? Not necessarily. You probably need a fuller picture including things like regular, non-resale ticket prices, and some of the other associated costs (like parking and concessions). I do think it’s rather interesting to see the average resale ticket price for all of the teams. With some of the complaints and criticisms of dynamic pricing, (which I talked about in this piece), it can at least give you a look at an alternative method for purchasing your tickets. No matter the manner in which you purchase your tickets, it will still be up to you whether or not the experience provided you with enough “bang for your buck.”