Keeping Costs Down

Rachel Gibson

It makes me so mad when people complain about how expensive the new ballpark is. OF COURSE a family of four could easily spend over $200 at the ballpark. But if a family of four is spending that much money at the ballpark, they're looking at baseball all wrong.

Baseball is not Disney. Don't think of it as a big, momentous occasion you have to make the most of by buying three meals per person in a 2 ½ hour period; buying all the souvenirs; or getting wasted on premium, $8 beers.

Baseball gives us 81 home games a year. There's plenty of time to pace yourselves. You don't need to spend that much money. In fact, I prefer that you didn't. I'd rather you spend less and come to more games.

First off, quit paying the ridiculous fees to Tickets.com. Jesus (my co-worker, not the Messiah) just paid $25 in fees for 6 tickets. I gave him a stern talking to as well.

You don't need to pay these fees. Go to the gate on gameday and get a $5 or $10 ticket at the window. The seats are great. And while you're there look ahead. If you know there's another premium, big-draw, probable-sell-out game you want to go to, get those tickets while you're there and avoid those fees.

It is very, very easy for a trip to the ballgame to cost the same as, or even less than, going to a movie. Bring water to drink. Eat before you go. Or bring a sandwich with you. Go to promotion days and get free souvenirs. Take the free mini-programs they're giving away now, with scorecards included. There are plenty of options to choose from for keeping your costs down.

Most of us have finite dollars coming in. And we all have our priorities at the ballpark, whether it's building bears, drinking premium beer, or buying batting practice jerseys.

You can still get a treat that's important to your ballgame experience, but you don't have to do it all in one game. There's time, people. Pick one treat per game, keep your costs manageable, and Go. More. Often.

By Rachel Gibson  |  April 11, 2008; 12:13 PM ET  | Category:  Rachel Gibson
Previous: The Thrill Is Gone -- What's Left? | Next: Practical Information No. 2

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Great great point Rachel. I think the ticket pricing was done incorrectly by the organization, but at least at this point there are plenty of low cost options and a great experience to be had. Just don't lose your ticket once you are in unless you want to be mistreated by stadium staff.

Posted by: GoNats | April 11, 2008 12:41 PM

Exactly. I made the same point recently on Nationals Journal when people were complaining about the "average ticket price" being relatively high. That's meaningless. The fact is that I can bring my family of four to a game for $20, or $40, or $200, it's all up to me. And I'll be doing a little bit of each.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | April 11, 2008 12:50 PM

You know what would rock and help families TREMENDOUSLY?

All-You-Can-Eat tickets.

They do this at a bunch of stadiums now. Granted, it's usually older ones (McAfee in Oakland, Dodger in LA), but it's a great way to get ballpark basics. The A's offer 5-packs for $150.

...or just give us a $1 dogs night, like at Kaufmann in KC. $1 dogs, water and peanuts make games a bit easier on the wallet.

Granted, none of the cheap eats are the premium food. ...but how often are you buying that for kids?

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | April 11, 2008 12:55 PM

Pompous, at first I thought you were being a wise-a** with all-you-can-eat tickets, as in "why don't you just eat your tickets, it's cheaper". But now I get it. Buy the ticket and get all-you-can FOOD. That would be cool. But I like the $1 hot dog night too. That would be AWESOME.

Posted by: Stantun | April 11, 2008 1:01 PM

The Orioles already offer an "All-You-Can-Eat" ticket for $40.

The bottom line with the Nats is that they thought this stadium would rake in the big bucks without having to sell it, so they've done very little to attract more people to the games. EVERY club does promotions and has ample tickets at all price levels. The biggest problem with the new ballpark is that there are too many premium, superpremium, and luxury seats that it feels that the little guys aren't welcome. There are far more seats in the $30 range than in the $15 range, which is pretty ridiculous.

I was already planning on following the advice of this column to take advantage of the same-day $5 seats, because that's about as much as a seat to watch this team is worth right now.

Posted by: Peter Angelos | April 11, 2008 1:49 PM

You know, Stantun, that was one of those wordings I realized right as I hit "Submit."

...but I do think a couple sections of affordable seats price with all-you-can-eat basic food or a $1 menu would be an instant hit. If you want to put more than 20,000 bum-bums in 41,000 seats, I've seen this work in other towns.

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | April 11, 2008 2:13 PM

Great comment, Rachel. Play ball!!

Posted by: Liner | April 11, 2008 2:55 PM

Thanks, Rachel. I feel the same way. I went to opening night, and while I had to get there early, my ticket was only $5!! Then I felt like I definitely got my money's worth in freebies that night. Plus I brought 2 bottles of water in with me. Then I didn't feel bad when I splurged a little bit on food and hot chocolate. Last year, I went to almost 10 games or so and never paid any ticket fees. My friends and I always buy our tickets at the stadium.

Posted by: Sherry | April 11, 2008 3:25 PM

This was a really smart post Rachel. Thanks for injecting a note of sanity to the discussion of the prices at Nats Park. Here's a few other thoughts. Not all apply for a family with kids, but there are many options other than using tickets.com to order $63 seats and paying through the nose for more food than a person should consume in a 3 hour period.
1. Buying a ticket at the gate is great advice, and remember also that pretty soon season ticket holders will be roaming around the lines at the ticket booth willing to unload their extra seats at face value, or less. I'm pretty sure this is entirely legal (as opposed to scalping tickets for more than face value -- that can you arrested unless you do it over the MLB approved scalping site, Stub Hub.) These tickets are better than those you can get at booth. Print out the diagram of the park and bring it with you so you can see the location of the seats.
2. Buy your $5 or $10 ticket, and spend some time down on the first level standing behind the fancy seats. The views are great. Hopefully they'll add some trays to hold food to the railings and the standing room folks will be all set.
3. When you bring water, make sure it is unopened. The frisker at the gate took a long look at my bottle, I think for that purpose. They technically will only let you bring in one bottle. Not sure how strictly that will be enforced, but make it a big one to be safe.
4. There's a Subway and a Five Guys on 2nd St, SE, between L and M, just a few blocks from the park. Both appeared to be open at 7 pm Friday, they looked crowded but free of long lines weren't long. Probably cheaper than inside, though I don't know for sure. It's ok to bring food into Nats Park (but not beverages other than water).

Have fun and come back soon.

Posted by: Section 222 | April 12, 2008 12:36 AM

Beyond the cost of tickets, there are other ways to save big bucks and still have a great time. I did these things today:

1. If you live close enough, bike to the game, especially if it's a day game. The bike valet is fantastic -- and free -- and even the regular bike racks, of which there are plenty around the stadium (outside the gates) are being used and apparently without problem. Entrance to the bike valet is in the entrance to the garage on 1st street just south of M St. SE.

2. Bring your own food. Go to the supermarket, buy some deli meat (or whatever), make a few sandwiches, and bring them along. Healthier food, no wait in line at concessions stands, and you save a bundle.

3. Bring your own water. You can get a bottle of water at the Safeway for under $1. That or a $7 beet at the game. Your choice, and nothing wrong with the beer, but if you're looking to save money, the choice is obvious.

I bought a $10 ticket on Thursday evening, in section 238 of the Right-field terrace (which was between 1st base and the RF foul pole). Perfectly acceptable view and, because they encourage it, you can watch from different (and closer) vantage points downstairs if you don't mind standing for an inning or two. Family of 4: $40. Basically, the price of a movie.

The Nats have done a bunch of things wrong, and I do think their pricing is too aggressive (those empty $300 and $150 seats are mocking them), but they've also done some things right, like the bike valet and allowing outside food.

So there are still strategies to keep it affordable.

Posted by: Meridian | April 13, 2008 9:37 PM

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