Bière froide! – A look at beer prices in Major League parks


This past summer I attended a game a Fenway Park.  Visiting this pantheon of baseball is always a special trip.  After a full day of Boston sightseeing in the blazing sunshine, I was looking forward to watching a ballgame and sipping a cold beer.  After a five minute wait in the beer line, it was my turn: $7.75 for a smallish cup of cold draft beer. Ouch!

This got to me think of why does it cost so much to buy a beer at a sporting event?  I am presenting a brief unscientific look at this question.  I have failed to see any rationale or correlation as to why we get hosed when we buy a simple glass of beer at a ballpark.

Here are the 2014 beer prices across all cities (source).

2014 MLB Beer Prices
Team Price Serving Size (oz.) Price / oz. Attendance Capacity   Team Price Serving Size (oz.) Price / oz. Attendance Capacity
Marlins $8.00 16 $0.50 57.1% Mariners $6.00 12 $0.50 53.2%
Phillies $7.75 21 $0.37 68.6% Yankees $6.00 12 $0.50 85.7%
Red Sox $7.75 12 $0.65 98.5% Brewers $6.00 16 $0.38 82.4%
Twins $7.50 20 $0.38 70.3% Rockies $6.00 16 $0.38 65.5%
Cubs $7.50 16 $0.47 78.6% Mets $5.75 12 $0.48 64.3%
Braves $7.25 16 $0.45 58.4% Pirates $5.50 16 $0.34 78.6%
Giants $7.00 14 $0.50 99.4% Reds $5.50 12 $0.46 72.3%
Blue Jays $6.82 14 $0.49 59.5% Rangers $5.00 16 $0.31 68.3%
Cardinals $6.75 12 $0.56 99.2% Rays $5.00 12 $0.42 52.4%
Dodgers $6.75 20 $0.34 83.4% Padres $5.00 14 $0.36 63.5%
Orioles $6.75 16 $0.42 67.8% Athletics $5.00 12 $0.42 71.4%
Nationals $6.50 16 $0.41 76.7% Astros $5.00 14 $0.36 52.8%
Royals $6.50 16 $0.41 63.7% Tigers $5.00 12 $0.42 87.3%
White Sox $6.50 16 $0.41 51.5% Angels $4.50 16 $0.28 84.2%
AVG $6.09 14.8 $0.41 Indians $4.00 12 $0.33 42.4%
D’Backs $4.00 14 $0.29 54.0%

At 65 cents per ounce, Fenway’s beer was indeed the most expensive in the Majors, and more than 50% higher than the League average.  When I took the Boston example and mapped it against total attendance, the price kind of made sense from a purely capitalistic standpoint.  All Red Sox games are virtual sell-outs and they have you captive.  The same logic would hold true for the Giants and Cardinals, whose beer prices are above average and that their games are almost always sell-outs.

Conversely, the Diamondbacks and Indians have the lowest beer prices and are among the bottom in attendance as a percentage of their total seating capacity.  This also made sense from the perspective of attempting to attract more fans to their games.  I have been to an Indians home game and it’s a great place to watch baseball.  It is astonishing that their games are so sparsely attended, taking into account the quality of their team, the venue, and the affordable prices for concessions.

My simplistic theory falls apart when I looked at the Los Angeles Angels.  Over 3,000,000 people crossed the turnstiles to watch the Angels play in Anaheim in 2014.  Drawing on the captive audience theory, one would expect high beer prices.  Au contraire. At 28 cents per ounce, the Angels had the lowest beet prices in the Major Leagues.  The Angels also had a payroll of $154M, which makes the low price of beer even more puzzling.  Let’s just say that their owner, Mr. Moreno, is a class act.

Finally, let’s look at the Miami Marlins.  First, their citizens get bamboozled into financing a ballpark.  Secondly, they are being gouged at the concessions – $8.00 for a beer!  Their $45M payroll in 2014 and their below average attendance does not merit such a high price.  You can buy 30 12oz cans of Bud Light for $21.09 in Miami.  That works out to 5.8 cents per ounce.  This is simply arrogance, greed and the usual “I don’t give a damn” attitude that is pervasive with this organization.

When we get a team back in Montreal, I anticipate that the beer prices would be above the league average.  The theory is based on my belief that Montrealers are price inelastic when it comes to beer consumption.

I will also likely see another game at Fenway and will have a few beers in the sunshine – I would be captive, after all.

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