Professional sports teams are increasingly having to deal with the prospect of declining attendance. After years of growth, expanding leagues, and full ballparks and stadiums, the number of people attending professional sporting events at the highest levels is beginning to fall off. Is that indicative of a cultural trend, or are there other reasons for the decline?
The sport that has seen perhaps the worst decline is Major League baseball, with some teams having seen declines of over 30 percent this season. The Major Leagues have attempted to staunch the decline in attendance by making rule changes to speed up the game, to no avail.
Baseball can be an enjoyable sport to watch, but there’s no denying that it, like most other professional sports, has become incredibly expensive. With tickets often approaching $50 or more just to get a decent seat, hot dogs at nearly $10 and beers over $10, it’s not uncommon to spend $100 per person just to spend a few hours at the ballpark. And with American families increasingly indebted, the number of people who can afford that luxury continues to decline.
With individual players making $30+ million per year and stadiums costing hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to construct, those costs are being passed on to fans. While those in cities with good teams may be willing to deal with the increased ticket prices that result, fans in cities with weaker teams are more often voting with their feet.
Watching a ball game in the comfort of your own home, with cheaper food and beer and a big screen TV, can be far more enjoyable than dealing with the hordes of people, long lines for food and bathrooms, and huge cost of traveling to a ballpark. Or if you still want the experience of a baseball game, and there’s no denying how quintessentially American that is, you can always travel to a minor league stadium, where tickets and concessions are but a fraction of what they are at a Major League game.
While owners and MLB officials may fret about declining attendance, ultimately they only have themselves to blame. At the end of the day it’s the fans and their willingness to keep coming to stadiums that will determine how much owners can spend on players and charge for tickets and concessions. If the owners continue to pay exorbitant salaries to players and continue to increase the price of tickets and food, there will come a time when most fans will just stop showing up.