The Changing Cost Of Being A Sports Fan
Heading to watch your favorite sports team used to be a relatively cheap day out for the family, but these days, there’s no denying that it can be an expensive hobby to follow your team, especially if you add in the cost of food and drink at the game.
While the exact costs vary quite a bit between different sports and leagues, prices have gone up across the board, but which sports and teams have seen the biggest increases in the last 10 years?
And if prices were to continue to rise at such a rate, how might they look by 2030?
We’ve looked at the costs of matchday tickets, as well as the cost of a beer, soft drink, and parking space across the four biggest sports leagues in the US to find out.
Note that we chose to use the 2019-20 season as the benchmark for current-day pricing, with fans largely absent from big parts of the 2020-21 season, and pricing data not available for all leagues for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
How Have Game Day Costs Changed Across The Leagues?
Looking at the big four leagues in North America, the NFL is clearly the most expensive to attend, with the total game-day cost coming to just over $150 per game.
However, the league that has seen its prices increase by the most in the last decade was the NBA, with prices increasing by about half.
A day at a pro basketball game costs around $116 today, which is a 51.3 percent increase from 10 years previous, and if that was to increase by the same price over the next decade, NBA fans would be looking at a cost of $175.
On the other hand, the MLB is the league that had the smallest increase in-game day prices (up by 22.1 percent to $63, it’s also the cheapest league overall), although there are more games in an MLB season than in other leagues.
In the most expensive league, the NFL, if prices were to continue to rise at their current 10-year rate (32.6 percent) it would mean that a single person could be looking at shelling out just over $200 to go to the game.
And when we look at specific teams, those prices get even crazier in some cases…
The Changing Cost Of Being An NFL Fan
The NFL is the biggest and most expensive sports league to attend in the US, if not the world, with an average game-day cost of $152.
And it’s Los Angeles Chargers fans who have it the hardest, as not only are the Chargers the most expensive team to watch, with an average cost of $233 per game, but they’re also the team that has seen its prices increase the most, growing by 88.6 percent since 2010 when they were still based in San Diego.
If prices were to continue to increase at that same rate, that means that the average Chargers fan would be paying an incredible $439 by 2030!
Another LA team has the second-biggest increase, the Rams, who saw their prices increase by 78 percent to $184, and like the Chargers, they’re another team that has relocated in the past decade.
However, for fans of two teams, the average cost of getting to the game has actually gone down since 2010.
While going to see the Dallas Cowboys is now 5.5 percent cheaper than it was 10 years ago, a trip to AT&T Stadium still won’t be cheap, at an average cost of $205 per game.
On the other hand, costs to see the Cincinnati Bengals have dropped by 5.6 percent, making them one of the best value teams in the league at $102 per game.
The Changing Cost Of Being An NBA Fan
The NBA is the league that saw prices increase by the most, at 51.3 percent, with one team in particular seeing a huge increase.
As well as being one of the most successful teams in the league, the Golden State Warriors are also the team that has seen its game-day prices increase the most, and by a considerable margin too.
The average cost of attending a Warriors game has increased from just $71 in 2009-10 to $198 in 2019-20, an increase of 180 percent that would potentially take prices as high as $556 by 2030.
This huge increase has been driven by the team’s success on the court, winning three NBA championships and attracting elite players such as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant.
No teams saw their average price go down in this time, but the Atlanta Hawks only had to endure a price increase of 3.6 percent ($2.80) in the last decade.
The Hawks have one of the longest championship droughts in league history and failed to make the playoffs between 2008 and 2017, which perhaps explains why the teams haven’t been able to enforce large price hikes as many others have.
The Changing Cost Of Being An MLB Fan
The price of going to the ballpark is generally lower than in other leagues, at an average of $63 due to more games taking place throughout the season, yet some have still seen hefty increases.
Most notably, going to see the Washington Nationals has risen from $51 to $86, an increase of 70.1 percent, off the back of drafting first-round picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper at the start of the decade, before going on to win four division titles and capping things off with a first World Series win in 2019, so fans certainly got bang for their buck.
Three teams saw their average prices drop in the league, and quite considerably so in the case of the Chicago White Sox, where the total cost of attending a game is 10 percent cheaper than in 2010, dropping from $73 to $65, with performances and attendance both on the decline.
The Changing Cost Of Being An NHL Fan
The ice hockey team with the greatest increase in single-game ticket prices is the New York Rangers, whose total game-day cost rose by 82 percent since 2012, from $95 to $172.
The Rangers only missed the playoffs once between 2006 and 2017, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, and remain one of the most popular teams in the league regardless of performances.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs are by far the most expensive team to watch in the league at an average price of $151 per game, although their increase of 3.1 percent is actually quite moderate compared to most of the other “Original Six” teams.
The Teams That Have Seen The Biggest Price Changes Overall
Below we’ve outlined the teams across all four leagues that have seen the biggest changes in the cost of attending a game over the last decade, including the 20 with the biggest increases, as well as those with the smallest increases and even some that have seen prices drop since 2009-2010.
All figures sourced from the Team Marketing Report’s FanCostIndex which shows a range of costs paid by fans when attending a game.
For each team, we looked at the total cost of the following five items:
- General ticket: Weighted to factor in the number of seats sold for each category with the cost for each seating category to “weight” pricing by percentage of the total number and takes into account multiple price tiers, with luxury suites excluded.
- Regular beer: The least expensive regular-priced beer
- Soft drink: The least expensive regular-priced soft drink (adult-sized)
- Hot dog: The least expensive hot dog (adult-sized)
- Car parking spot: An average of the lowest priced car parking spots
For each league, we chose to use the 2019-20 season as the benchmark for current-day pricing, with fans largely absent from big parts of the 2020-21 season, and pricing data not available for all leagues for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
We then found the corresponding prices for the 2009-10 season to calculate the ten-year difference, before applying this difference to the 2019-20 prices to estimate how they could look in another ten years, in 2029-30.