Spectator Costs

By: Staff March 28, 2017

John: Today we’re going to talk about a hot subject – one so hot that it’ll make your hair sizzle. We’re going to talk about the now and then of the sports pricing range – in particular the NBA. Bill, we’re going to start with you. What’s the difference of now and then as far as sports pricing goes.

Bill: Oh my goodness gracious. I can tell you I grew up in Gary and the Bulls really just started at that time. I think [center Tom] Boerwinkle and people like that were around. We could gather enough money just from doing bottle returns. I don’t know if anyone remembers, but you could get 5 or 10 cents for an empty pop bottle at the store. People would leave these on the beach and we’d gather them up so we could get the $2.50 or so to go to any game. I saw Gordy Howe, all of the hockey & basketball games, and of course baseball games. As a kid I didn’t have a huge amount of money. I had a paper route so I was able to afford more than most kids, but we’d just gather bottles and cans to sell on Saturday to have enough for games on Sunday. And we’d go on the South Shore train to watch baseball. This was before the Dan Ryan so we’d walk through Bronzeville. It was really interesting because there were so many recent immigrants from the south; with all the music in the streets and the people sitting out it was really something. So as a kid, it was a great time and seats were always available. You could go to the Cubs park and just walk up to buy a good seat for $2.50.

John: And my other question is why do you think it’s so much more expensive now?

Bill: Well, I think it’s two or three things. One is, of course, that the demand has quadrupled. We’ve had some winning teams. Like the Bulls stadium after the Bulls won six championships. We had some teams that weren’t all that great, but they still filled that place up for four or five years. Same things with the Cubs. You can barely get in now that they’ve won the World Series. Given that this is basically a money-making, professional situation, they’re going to raise ticket prices to whatever they can. So, you can tell how well a team is doing by what their ticket prices are. And today they don’t have a fixed price. You get a ticket that may say something on it, but that has nothing to do with what you paid. So if you get it on StubHub or other markets, a ticket could be any number of prices. Also, now you can’t predict the price until you see what the teams are. If Cleveland is coming to town, tickets are going to be one price, but if Houston is coming, it’s different. So you have what’s called dynamic pricing. Same thing for good seats with the White Sox or Cubs.

John: Let’s hear what Russell has to say about the difference between then and now?

Russell: I know it was real cheap back then and you could afford to go to a baseball or basketball game. I was able to hustle up my money for the Cubs or White Sox game. Even a Bulls game! Because I think back then I was a little boy and tickets were only $17.50 or something like that. Very, very cheap. Cubs tickets were only a dollar for the grandstands, do you remember that?

Bill: Yea, for kids.

Russell: I was a kid back then! It was real cheap. We’d get money together – shoveling snow, raking leaves, pop bottles too – and save it to go to a game because it was cheap. But now you can’t even afford a ticket. I’ve been to two Bears games and believe me, I didn’t buy the tickets. They were given to me. Bulls games, they are very expensive. I wanted to go to one for my birthday, versus Golden State. The prices were $500 just for standing room only. 

Bill: Unbelievable.