Rising Costs of Attending a Sporting Event


The love of sports is something that is ingrained in our culture. Our communities often aren’t complete until there is a little league field, or basketball court in the park. While playing on public fields is usually free, the economics of professional sports is constantly changing, and in recent years, skyrocketing in price of attendance. As a kid growing up in Dallas, it was the highlight of my year when my dad would take me to games. It used to be my “job” to point out the $5 parking lots outside of the Ballpark in Arlington (now Globe Life Park). Today, some of those same parking lots are shared by the new AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys), but the prices are drastically different. Cowboys parking prices averaged $75 for the 2014-15 season. Just parking at a Cowboys game is more expensive than any of the tickets that my family or I purchased to games just a decade ago. With such a financial commitment required to enter the stadium, is it worth it to see games live anymore?

To answer that question we first should look at what it actually costs to attend a game. Prices go up and down depending on your sport of choice, and even vary drastically between teams in the same league.


The NFL was by far the most expensive league last season, with average ticket prices upward of $84. But tickets alone don’t tell the whole story. It costs to park, buy drinks, and get snacks. When all of these factors are included, the NFL once again was the most expensive league on average, with the average family of 4 price at almost $419.


*Date price = (2x Ticket + 2x Beer + 2x Hot Dog + Parking + Program)
**Family of 4 Price = (4x Ticket + 2x Beer + 2x Soft Drink + 4x Hot Dog + Parking + Program)

Three of the top four most expensive teams were in the NFL, with the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and New England Patriots all averaging more than $110 a ticket, and $40 to park. The most expensive family of 4 price went to the New York Knicks, who averaged lower prices for parking and programs, but have one of the highest average ticket prices.


Fans of each of these teams would expect to pay between $570-612 to take a family of 4 to a game. A quick cruise through Amazon could find you a decently sized and speced television for around $500 and a large pizza with a 2 liter coke could be delivered to your door for around $20. The fact that it has never been more expensive to attend a game, coupled with the expanding comforts of seeing a game at home, have led to a general decline in attendance to sports events since hitting highs in the late 2000’s. This trend indicates that to many, the costs of attending sports live is no longer worth the experience.

In June of last year, my dad and I exchanged texts during the Texas Longhorns run to the College World Series. I watched the games mostly in dimly lit bars in Austin, he watched from his home in Dallas. Following the Longhorns elimination by Vanderbilt, just one game away from the CWS Final, there was radio silence.

Last week I got a call from my dad,

“How do you feel about Omaha?”
“I think Texas has a good shot to make it.”
“No I mean going, let’s actually do it this year.”

There is something about being there that brings us together, leaving me to wonder, what is the cost of not going?

***Pricing data taken from the Fan Cost Index Report based on the 2014-2015 seasons.