An annual survey of the cost of tickets, parking, food and other concessions at NFL games shows Baltimore's newest franchise is no bargain. A family of four buying two beers, four small sodas, four hot dogs, two programs and two caps will pay $243.11, according to the survey by Team Marketing Report of Chicago.
The main culprit is the Ravens' ticket prices, which average $40.53, nearly 25 percent more than the team charged last year, when it was the Cleveland Browns. It's the largest ticket price increase in the 30-team NFL this season and leaves only three teams charging more: the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
"It's not as dramatic as some increases we've seen as some teams move back into old markets. But clearly it's a big increase," said Sean Brenner, editor of Team Marketing Report.
Baltimore has become one of the most expensive cities in the country to follow sports. Orioles tickets average $13.14 and are the fifth-highest in the major leagues.
Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said the prices are fixed for two years so the team's rank in the survey is bound to fall next year. And he said the team tried to keep tickets affordable by setting aside 6,000 seats at every game for single-game buyers and by pricing two-thirds of the tickets in the stadium at $35 or less.
"In the big picture, I don't think we're unaffordable," Byrne said. "We are in a new market and we tried to make our tickets affordable across the board."
The $40.53 represents a weighted average of all Memorial Stadium tickets, which range from $17 to $75, but does not include the $100 seat-license deposit required of season-ticket buyers this year.
Even before their new downtown stadium opens in 1998, Ravens prices will keep the franchise's ticket receipts ahead of the totals in Cleveland, where the team drew some of the league's biggest crowds but had average-priced tickets.
A crowd of 70,000 at Cleveland Stadium earned the team $1.4 million a game; each sellout at Baltimore's 65,248-seat Memorial Stadium will bring in $1.6 million for the home team. (Home teams split ticket revenue 60-40 with visiting teams.) Over the course of a season of 10 home games, the difference would result in $2 million more in revenue, despite the smaller stadium.
The Raiders, who will play the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore's franchise opener, have some of the costliest tickets in sports. Tickets in Oakland average $51.41, $6.41 more than the second most expensive team, the San Francisco 49ers.
The cheapest seats? The New York Jets, averaging $25.33.
Team Marketing Report found that there is little correlation between ticket costs and a team's playing record in the NFL. Of the 14 teams charging above-average prices, five made it to the playoffs last season, compared with seven of the teams with below-average ticket costs.
Overall, the NFL's average ticket price grew by 6.6 percent this year, almost three times the inflation rate.
The NFL is priciest of the four major leagues for spectators, although the National Hockey League probably will edge it out again this year, as it did last year, when its prices are announced later this fall.
Last year, when the NFL's average ticket went for $33.52, the NHL had an average ticket price of $34.79, and the NBA $31.80. Major League Baseball tickets average $11.20 this season.
Just the ticket
Average ticket prices of the most and least expensive NFL teams to watch:
San Francisco $45.00
Green Bay $30.61
New York Jets $25.33