The Indians are dead last in MLB attendance, averaging about 19,250 fans per game. Chris Perez has been griping about this all season, and while it was a lot easier to agree with him when the Tribe was in first  place and well above .500 rather than sitting three games behind the White Sox as we go into the second half of the season, Perez asks a valid question: Why aren’t Indians fans coming to games? It’s not as though the team stinks. By comparison, the Chicago Cubs are averaging 37,500  per game, and they have a .388 record. They suck this year, but the fans are there. Minnesota Twins? They’re in last place in the division with a .424 record, yet they average nearly 35,000 fans per game.

One of the complaints earlier this season was that the cool spring weather was keeping people away. Well, Minneapolis/St. Paul is generally colder than Cleveland and they’ve been pulling in the fans. Then people complained that it was too hot, but we’ve had plenty of night games where the weather was just fine. While the attendance has slowly been rising (a couple weeks ago it was 18,000 per game), it’s a far cry from what comparable teams are drawing.

The three biggest costs associated with going to a game (or at least the three main areas of complaint) are Tickets, Parking, and Food.

The average cost of an MLB ticket is $26.00. The average cost of a ticket to an Indians game is just over $20. Yes, some of the tickets carry a hefty price tags, but some don’t. Short of DVRing movies at home, ticket prices for a ball game are comparable to other forms of entertainment.  Bleacher seats are always 10 bucks (the cost of a movie ticket), Upper Box are $18, and Mezzanine tickets are $20.  (By contrast, the least expensive seat at Browns Stadium are $15 and put you much farther away than the bleachers at Progressive Field.) So, for instance, next weekend, you could buy Upper Box or Mezzanine tickets to see Travis Hafner and the Indians, or you could buy $20 lawn seats to hear the Cleveland Orchestra play Mozart’s Haffner Symphony (No. 35) during their all-Mozart program at Blossom Music Center. If classical isn’t your speed, on Monday, July 23rd, you could see the  Indians play the Orioles at Progressive Field or you could go see Dawes at The Beachland Ballroom for the same price.

The average premium ticket price at Progressive Field is a hair under $66, which is well below the MLB average of $88. That will get you a great seat behind home plate or it’ll buy you a Pavilion seat at Blossom or the Q for one of the big summer tours.  (And do you really want to see Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks thirty years past their prime?) Once in a while, you splurge for a special occasion. For instance, on our anniversary, the husband and I went to a Sunday afternoon game and sprang for lower boxes, $44 each. We could have just as easily spent $43 each to go see Vampire Weekend at the House of Blues.

You do not need to pay to park for an Indians game. Honestly, you don’t. If you must drive (instead of taking the RTA to Public Square and going through the walkway), you can generally find free parking on the street if you don’t mind walking a couple of blocks. I typically park near CSU, Playhouse Square, or on Carnegie. As an added bonus, after the game, you aren’t stuck waiting in line to get out of the parking garage.  The only time I’ve paid to park for an Indians game in the last couple years was when I took my daughter and two of my nieces to a night game. For that, I plunked down $15 for the parking garage at the corner of East 9th and Prospect because that seemed preferable to walking a couple of blocks with three tired children. Sometimes you have to choose your battles.

Food and Drinks (okay, beer)
Going to a baseball game is kind of like going to the grocery store: Don’t go hungry. You’re a captive audience, so yes, food and beverages are going to cost more than they will at a restaurant or bar.  I’m not cheap, but I’m thrifty. If I’m going to a movie, I would rather stop at the drugstore and buy some candy and carry it in with me than pay twice as much for the same candy at a movie theater. No one said you had to eat dinner at the ballpark. And no one said you had to sit there and drink six $10 beers during a three-hour game. (It’s like when my father used to complain because my Grandmother and I had baked cookies. He didn’t have to eat them all, certainly not all at once.) There are scads a places to grab an inexpensive bite within a block or two of Progressive Field. For instance, you can go into Huron Point Tavern (formerly Alesci’s) and get a big slice of really good pizza and a draft beer for $7. And you can bring food into Progressive Field. You can’t bring in a big cooler, but you can bring “Small single-serving juice boxes and food items.” You can’t bring food into the premium seating areas, but if you’ve springing for those seats, this probably isn’t a concern.

We all have a limited amount of disposable income and want to use our money wisely, but the cost of going to a ballgame really is the same  or less than the cost of comparable entertainment.

I suspect that the larger question of why people aren’t going to ballgames has less to do with the cost than with the feeling being once bitten, twice shy (with the Indians, it’s more like 47 times bitten, 48 times shy). But that’s the subject of another post.





  • Drew says:

    I agree with you, Susan, it isn’t expensive. The reason I don’t go to Indians games is that I live 500 miles from Cleveland. I do get to one game a year when they play in Baltimore but other than that, its MLB.TV for me.

    I really think the fanbase doesn’t support ownership because they feel that it is acting cheap because they will not sign its best players. Well that is a catch-22 since they do not have as much budget if their fans don’t buy tickets!

    The hardest part with all of this is that baseball is often about bigger, faster, stronger, and younger players. The Indians have a great strategy of trying to keep their stars signed during arbitration years and letting them leave in FA when they are $20M a year players. It sucks and can produce up and down seasons but you also don’t have the risk of signing a huge contract and having it blow up in your face. Furthermore, signing huge contracts doesn’t guarantee that a team will make the playoffs every season. Just ask the Philies, hell look at the Tiger’s first half of this season.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    Wow, I was prescient and didn’t even know it. Today the Indians announced several transportation and concessions initiatives designed to get more people into the ballpark:

    Drew: Good points, all.

  • Lance says:

    I think that this is really sad. I live in Shanghai, China and would love to see a game… I cannot believe that nobody is going, independent of the winning or losing. I have been a fan since I was a kid and the Tribe is the one team I do follow independent of how good they happen to be.

    The only positive I take out of this is that it should be easy for me to get tickets to a few games when I am back in September for a visit!

  • Joey says:

    10 bucks a beer is just highway robbery!even if u buy the cheapest tickets,ur still gonna drop at least 50 bucks a game per adult.anyway,in my opinion.downtown cleveland is the problem.hardly nobody lives there.dont get me a clevelander and its home,but if u look at other downtowns.there more populated.people actually live in downtown chicago,and minn.that makes for a easy walk,quick cab ride,or cheap public transportation.hell i live in north royalton.the only bus that goes downtown leaves at like the bus is not even an option.oh and it probly wouldnt hurt if they could keep there allstars past there arbitration years..that way people would be alot more interested in the team.but with no salary cap…that will never happen.go tribe!

    • Drew says:

      I am not ready to blame the lack of a downtown in Cleveland on poor attendance. After-all, and please educate me on this because I do not know the answer, how many major cities with more than one sports franchise also have a casino downtown and within walking distance of the park?
      Aside from casinos, compare downtown Cleveland to downtown Baltimore and they are relatively similar. Both cities have neighborhoods with great history, population base, and both cities have neighborhoods where most people would fear for their lives if they entered. Furthermore, both cities also have greater population during working hours than they do during the non-working hours. But then why do the Orioles draw more fans than the Indians, Camden Yards and Progressive Field are incredibly similar?

      I think it has to do with their schedule. The Orioles will play nearly 1/4 of their home games each season in Camden Yards against Red Sox and Yankees. During these series, the stadium is nearly filled to capacity. Cleveland does not have a division rival with an out-of-town following like that of the Yankees and Red Sox.

  • Glenn says:

    The low attendance has been discussed so much this year that it reminds me of my younger days in the 60s and 70s, when everybody always talked about the low attendance. And in those days, cost was not an issue: a hot dog for 50 cents, popcorn for 25 cents, beer for a dollar, etc. Plus, you could bring all the coolers filled with food and drink that you could carry in. Even the tickets were reasonable: a lower box seat behind home plate was something like $8.00, general admission $2.50. I think the bottom line is that Cleveland is just not a really good baseball town. Sure, there are lots of us loyal Indians fans who love the team – but Cleveland has always been and still is a football town. The only time the Indians draw well is following a year that they made the post-season. And the current financial structure of baseball has turned off a lot of fans who realize that teams like Cleveland have very little chance of remaining competitive. So we will have to live with low attendance. At least they aren’t threatening to move the team to another city like they did regularly in the 60s.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    Ni hao, Lance! Let us know when you’re in town.

    Joey, I agree you could drop 50 bucks on a night at the ballpark. The point I was trying to make is that you could also drop that much going out to a club or buying tickets to a show. I can’t help you with the N. Royalton bus though.

    Glenn, I vaguely remember those attendance discussions too. Municipal Stadium was so huge and frequently so empty that you could buy the cheap seats and give yourself an instant seat upgrade to a box. I don’t completely buy the “Cleveland is a football town” argument. I think we’re a sports town. We have all the major sports plus several minor league teams nearby and arena football and a slew of other entertainment options. The metro area population isn’t really growing; it’s spreading out geographically but not increasing significantly. We have more options but perhaps not the population density to support it all.

  • Mary Jo says:

    Glen, you have to remember that when I could go to a Tribe game in 1969 and buy a 50 cent hot dog I was also making just under $2 an hour. Had I stayed with my company rather than eventually leave to be a full-time Mom I’d be making at least ten times that $2 for the $5. hot dog. (And I bought gas for my first car at 17 cents a gallon – yikes!) It’s all relative.

    Joey, no offense but it’s hard to justify “I’m a Clevelander” and “North Royalton” in the same post. ;-) When we lived in Medina county I would use the “Clevelander” tag for people who weren’t familiar with the area but there were air quotes around it, explaining that I really didn’t qualify since I was over 20 miles from Public Square.

    Finally, I found a nice graph showing how much each ballpark charges per oz. and for a 12 oz. beer. Cleveland is 8th most expensive out of all 30 clubs at $5.50 a glass. FWIW the Red Sux are tops at $7.25 for the same size beer. If you want to check prices, here’s the link:

  • Dillon says:

    Id like to say its partially because you cant smoke anywhere. Im in the navy and on leave last month trying to take my dad to a game he would not go because he cant smoke anywhere. A good population of the fans have got to be smokers.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    Dillon, while i don’t smoke, I always thought it was cruelly ironic that the so-called “sin tax” on cigarettes helped to pay for the whole Gateway complex, including the ballpark, but you can’t smoke there.

    • Joe says:

      I drive up 8-9 times a year from Columbus 2 hours up 4 hours at the park 2 hours back. Really can’t deal with ” the North Royalton bus leaves at 6:00 am ” statement. You are either a fan or not a fan..I also get to see the future Indians at Columbus and can get a great seat for $12 and be there in a great park in 20 minuetes

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