You're a family of four looking for an evening's entertainment -- and you don't want to spend the kids' inheritance on a few hours of fun.
For two bucks you could rent a movie and watch it together at home. You could take the family out to a movie theater for considerably more than that -- figure about $30 to $40 to cover ticket prices, popcorn and drinks. For $34.50 you could tour the National Aquarium (that's if the kids are under 12; add $2 for each teen-ager.)
Or you could indulge in that most classic of family entertainments, going to a baseball game. The cost -- hold on to your cap! -- would be $72.16.
It sounds steep, an off-key counterpoint to the old tune, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." But that's the figure a national sports and marketing newsletter has come up with as the cost for a family of four to attend an Orioles game.
"It's just the cost of living in America, I guess," said Alan Friedman, editor of Team Marketing Report, a Chicago-based monthly publication that covers the business side of sports. He added, "Baseball is probably the cheapest of major professional sports. The National Football League, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, even college football cost a lot more."
The $72.16 figure includes, obviously, quite a bit more than just the cost of admission. It is calculated by adding to four average ticket prices -- $8.04 apiece for the Orioles -- the cost of two beers ($3 each), four hot dogs ($1.50 each), four soft drinks ($1 each), two souvenir baseball caps ($8 each), two game programs ($2 each) and parking ($4).
"Basically I think Baltimore is below the mean of the cost of major league baseball," said Jay Boyle, general manager of ARA/Martin, which has run Memorial Stadium concessions for the past eight years and has just signed a 15-year contract for the new stadium. "But talking about the cost of major league baseball is different from talking about, say, going to McDonald's."
Indeed, Orioles prices chart in below the league average, which is $76.22 for a family of four. If you lived in Toronto it would cost $93.29 to see the Blue Jays play in the Skydome while munching on red hots and quaffing beer and soda. The same package in St. Louis, the cheapest of the major league cities, would run $64.52.
In this last season at Memorial Stadium, Mom and Dad may wax nostalgic about the good old days when their folks took them out to the ballgame. In 1954, the Orioles' first year at Memorial Stadium, tickets ranged from 75 cents for bleachers to $3 for the best box seats. A hot dog was 25 cents, a beer 30 cents, a small soda 15 cents. The whole $72.16 package would have cost $13.39 in 1954.
The price of tickets makes up close to half the total package and has risen steadily since 1954. But fans shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that the money they plunk out for tickets is covering the salaries of the million-dollar players they see on the field.
It's television revenues that bear most of the burden of high-paid players.
"People are under the erroneous opinion that ticket prices have gone up because of players' salaries," said Mr. Friedman. "But if ticket prices
had gone up at the same rate as salaries, it would cost $200 to get into a baseball game."
Going to ballpark is a family affair
Parents who'd rather not expose their children to the beer- fueled rough-and-tumble of the ballpark can find a sanctuary this year in Memorial Stadium.
In section 33 of the upper deck, 350 seats have been designated as the "family section," where no beer can be purchased or consumed. Abusive language also is prohibited.
"It's basically designed for families," said Matt Dryer, who coordinates group ticket sales for the Orioles, "but you don't have to have kids to sit there."
The existence of the family section, while noted on the team schedule and group brochures, has received little other publicity, Mr. Dryer said. "We're just starting to get the word out and more and more people are asking about it," he said.
Tickets are $7.50 for the family section, as for all upper reserved seats. On Monday and Thursday nights, bargain nights, upper reserved seats are $3.75.