Ballpark figure: costlier for fans Big spenders to feel right at home; budget-minded to feel added pinch


Baseball in Baltimore is not only getting more expensive, but it's also getting more class conscious.

The city's new stadium offers some breaks for fans on a budget, including bleacher seats that are among the cheapest in major league baseball ($4).

But it also boasts the most expensive tickets ($18 for club-level seats) as well as such pricey amenities as member-only clubs and peppered brie en croute appetizers that would make it tough for Babe Ruth to recognize his old neighborhood.

Even without the luxury suites, fans should plan on spending more than last year. A typical outing for two adults and two children, with mid-range tickets and four hot dogs, four soft drinks, two beers, two baseball caps, two programs and parking, will cost $78, or $2.17 per person per inning.

That's up 11 percent from $70 last year at Memorial Stadium.

"Everybody increases prices. Costs are rising," said team spokesman Keith Bock.

Budget-minded fans can cut that cost by avoiding frills, and their wealthy cousins can spend much, much more, if they like.

But average ticket prices at Oriole Park at Camden Yards have risen from $7.59 last year to $9.65, according to Alan Friedman, editor of Team Marketing Report, a sports business newsletter that each year analyzes ticket prices. The analysis is weighted to reflect the number of seats in each price level, so most of the increase at Baltimore is due to the premium seats not available at the old stadium.

But some of the increase is simple seat-flation: Lower box seats will go from $11 at Memorial Stadium to $13, upper reserved from $7.50 to $8.

The Orioles have gone from below-average ticket prices to above average. Average ticket prices across the majors were up 9 percent last year, to $8.73, and will rise another 8 percent this year, to $9.41.

But the $4 bleacher ticket is undercut only by the Cincinnati Reds' $3.50 and the San Francisco Giants' $2.75. The $18 tickets, also offered by the Boston Red Sox, are the most expensive, Friedman said.

On average, however, baseball still represents one of the cheapest sports for fans, he said. NBA tickets average $22.52 and NFL tickets average $25.21, Friedman said.

Just about everything associated with the game in Baltimore will be more expensive this year. Parking at many area garages will average $5, compared with $4 at Memorial. Hot dogs are up a quarter to $1.75, and soft drinks are up 50 cents to $1.50. An 18-ounce beer will remain $3 (a 12-ounce can sold in the stands also will be $3).

ARA Services, concessionaire at both the old and the new stadium, says it has been forced by inflation to increase its prices. "ARA increases have consistently been below the rate of inflation," the company said in a statement.

If that family of four is traveling on a budget, however, the cost can be pared. If the parents go for the general admission seats ($4.75), their two children under age 12 will get in for $1 fewer than last year. This family, which would have paid $12.50 on tickets last year, will get in for $11.50 this year. This is cheaper than four bleacher seats.

If they share a program, wear last year's caps, but eat and drink the same amount, the "budget class" trip to Camden Yards totals $38.50, or about $1 per person per inning.

Now let's say Mom hits the lottery and the family decides to go to the park first-class. Forget the bleachers and head straight to the club level. These seats are open only to season ticket holders who have paid for 81 games at $18 and an annual fee of $500, making the actual ticket price $24.17 per game.

Hot dogs? Surely you jest. Try the all-you-can eat Diamond Club Buffet. For $19.95 each, fans can munch on treats previously reserved for $7-million-a-year players: roasted loin of pork, grilled chicken breast with carmalized onions, broccoli florets, chocolate cheesecake, grilled swordfish and artichoke salad.

And forget the domestic swill. A 12-ounce imported beer will cost $3.75. And can a child really be expected to follow the game with his sister's program? Better plan on four of these.

What self-respecting instant millionaire could say no to a limited-edition ballpark pennant? Only 10,000 will be made, and they'll cost $3 each. Better get two.

Four inaugural-season T-shirts ($21) will go for $84. Dad will be a hit when he marches into the boss' office Monday morning to quit wearing a $15 commemorative hat with gold embroidery.

Mom will want to be there, too, wearing her $50 fleece-lined sweat shirt.

That's $96.68 for tickets, $91.30 for food and drinks, $12 for programs and, gulp, $155 for souvenirs. Grand total: $354.98, or $9.86 per person per inning.

Come to think of it, this family should look into a sky box. Prices start at $55,000 a year.

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