Cardinals Fan Costs Grew Faster than Payroll

A look at how increases in prices paid by fans to attend Cardinals games compares to other teams and to player payrolls.

On Sunday, in my report How Fast Did the Payroll Grow, Anyway?, I showed the Cardinals' increase in player salaries over the period of the current ownership of the team (since 1996) is slightly lower than the major league average (Cards @ 238% versus MLB @ 241%).

While that is interesting, it doesn't say anything about the fan. How much of an increased burden have the three million-plus in-person yearly supporters of the Cardinals had to bear when making their treks to Busch Stadium?

How does that compare to what other teams' fans had to pay? And, how do these fan-based increases compare to the growth in player salaries?

Fortunately, there is data available to help answer these questions. As before, I selected the ten-year window between 1996 and 2005, as it coincides with the period of time that the Bill DeWitt, Jr.-led ownership group has been in place. For the data, I chose two measurements, the Fan Cost Index and a subset of it, average ticket prices.

For 13 years now, Team Marketing Report has published their Fan Cost Index (FCI) survey, which tracks the cost of attendance at major league sporting events for a family of four. The FCI includes two adult average price tickets, two child average price tickets, four small soft drinks, two small beers, four hot dogs, two programs, parking and two adult-size caps.

As noted above, one component of the FCI is the average ticket price. It represents a weighted average of season ticket prices for general seating categories, determined by factoring the tickets in each price range as a percentage of the total number of seats in each ballpark. More details about FCI and how these values are determined are available here.

There are two factors that need to be mentioned. First of all, there was one franchise relocated during this period that skews that team's data – the Montreal Expos' move to Washington, D.C. The second point to note is that neither the Tampa Bay nor Arizona franchises were in operation in 1996.

On to my findings, followed by the raw data.

Conclusions – Ticket Prices

 

MLB

Ticket prices across the game increased more rapidly over the last ten years than did the other elements of the Fan Cost Index - an average of 187% versus 160%.

 

Cardinals

Ticket prices in St. Louis went from being one of the best deals in MLB, ranked 22nd of 28 teams in 1996 (seventh from the lowest), to sixth-highest of the 30 teams in the game in 2005. The Cardinals leapfrogged 16 teams in the process.

 

St. Louis' average ticket price increase of 255% over the last ten years is second only to the Boston Red Sox, who have the smallest ballpark in the majors.

 

Commentary

I have not analyzed ticket prices for the new Busch, but I can only assume that with a shiny new ballpark and fewer seats, the Cardinals' average ticket prices in this study will rise even further in 2006.

 

Conclusions – Fan Cost Index

 

MLB

As noted above, the Fan Cost Index increased 160% on the average across Major League Baseball between 1996 and 2005. The actual average cost for a family of four to attend an MLB game last season was $164.

 

Cardinals

The Cardinals' FCI increase of 194% over the last ten years is third-highest in all of MLB, behind only the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres. The actual FCI of $177 in St. Louis is in the top third of all teams, ranked #9.

 

Commentary

It will be interesting to see how concession prices, as well as parking and other costs are adjusted with the opening of the new Busch. One might expect to see another significant rise in the Cardinals' FCI in 2006 due to these other areas, in addition to ticket prices.

 

Conclusions – Ticket prices and Fan Cost Index versus Player Salaries

 

MLB

In the case of most every MLB team, the increase in player payroll over the last ten years was greater than the increase felt by the fans, whether just in ticket prices or in the broader Fan Cost Index category (241% payroll versus 187% ticket price and 160% FCI growth).

 

Commentary

Teams have many other sources of revenue that have been used to fuel growth (and profits), so there seems to be less reliance on milking the fans, directly at least.

 

Cardinals

The Cardinals are one of only five teams who broke this profile of lower increase in ticket costs than player costs. Instead, St. Louis' player payroll increased by 238% between 1996 and 2005, while ticket prices rose 255%. The other 23 teams grew their player payroll faster than ticket prices, some substantially.

 

Commentary

The Cardinals went from being a good fan value in 1996 to being on the expensive end of the MLB scale over the last ten years. In all fairness, the quality of the product on the field has improved, as well.

 

On the flip side of the coin, one might consider the increases in fan costs as a reasonable correction made over time. The 2005 Cardinals ticket price and Fan Cost Index, at sixth and ninth-highest respectively in the game, seem to be in line with a player payroll that was sixth-highest in MLB last season.

I will revisit this once 2006 data becomes available to test my supposition that the FCI will increase while the player budget is apparently being held flat.

The data

Team

Avg.

Ticket

Fan Cost

FCI

Avg.

Ticket

Fan Cost

FCI

% Tkt.

% Tkt.

% FCI

% FCI

% Pay.

 

Ticket

Rank

Index

Rank

Ticket

Rank

Index

Rank

Incr.

Rank

Incr.

Rank

Incr.

 

2005

2005

2005

2005

1996

1996

1996

1996

96-05

96-05

96-05

96-05

96-05

Boston

$44.56

1

$276.24

1

$15.43

1

$117.72

4

289%

1

235%

1

311%

San Diego

$20.83

14

$176.32

10

$9.88

23

$86.52

26

211%

9

204%

2

233%

St. Louis

$25.29

6

$177.66

9

$9.91

22

$91.64

24

255%

2

194%

3

238%

Houston

$24.83

7

$182.64

8

$10.65

14

$94.60

21

233%

6

193%

4

285%

Washington

$21.43

12

$169.72

12

$9.07

26

$90.69

25

236%

5

187%

5

315%

Chicago Cubs

$32.00

2

$210.01

2

$13.12

7

$116.48

6

244%

3

180%

6

281%

Cincinnati

$17.90

19

$145.10

23

$7.95

28

$81.30

28

225%

7

178%

7

152%

New York Mets

$23.66

9

$185.13

7

$11.83

10

$104.82

12

200%

12

177%

8

432%

Toronto

$19.61

15

$164.53

13

$13.93

5

$95.20

20

141%

26

173%

9

160%

Philadelphia

$26.58

4

$189.31

5

$11.01

13

$111.54

9

241%

4

170%

10

336%

NY Yankees

$27.34

3

$193.86

3

$14.58

2

$117.32

5

188%

14

165%

11

399%

LA Dodgers

$18.94

17

$158.98

14

$9.94

21

$96.76

18

191%

13

164%

12

240%

MLB AVERAGE

$21.17

(13)

$164.43

(14)

$11.32

(13)

$103.07

(15)

187%

(15)

160%

(14)

241%

Seattle

$24.01

8

$172.03

11

$11.59

11

$106.36

11

207%

10

162%

13

224%

Florida

$15.55

27

$147.04

19

$10.37

18

$92.98

22

150%

22

158%

14

201%

Chi. White Sox

$25.89

5

$188.07

6

$14.11

4

$118.94

3

183%

15

158%

15

179%

San Francisco

$23.22

10

$191.37

4

$10.61

15

$121.44

2

219%

8

158%

16

261%

Milwaukee

$16.86

25

$130.96

28

$9.37

25

$85.98

27

180%

16

152%

17

195%

Pittsburgh

$17.08

23

$143.31

25

$10.09

20

$96.36

19

169%

19

149%

18

179%

Oakland

$17.66

20

$152.64

18

$11.34

12

$104.36

13

156%

21

146%

19

286%

Minnesota

$16.25

26

$146.49

20

$10.16

19

$100.64

16

160%

20

146%

20

256%

Detroit

$18.48

18

$157.93

16

$10.60

17

$109.40

10

174%

17

144%

21

315%

Baltimore

$22.53

11

$158.62

15

$13.14

6

$113.56

8

171%

18

140%

22

152%

Colorado

$14.92

28

$141.68

26

$10.61

16

$103.44

14

141%

27

137%

23

138%

LA Angels

$17.36

22

$125.78

29

$8.44

27

$92.26

23

206%

11

136%

24

363%

Cleveland

$21.17

13

$156.18

17

$14.52

3

$115.08

7

146%

23

136%

25

92%

Texas

$16.91

24

$136.14

27

$11.96

9

$101.84

15

141%

24

134%

26

156%

Kansas City

$13.71

29

$119.85

30

$9.74

24

$96.96

17

141%

25

124%

27

200%

Atlanta

$17.51

21

$145.55

22

$13.06

8

$121.74

1

134%

28

120%

28

180%

Arizona

$19.24

16

$145.97

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay

$13.70

30

$143.81

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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