Out of the park prices for Milwaukee sports-goers

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Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, says the fan. Don’t expect any change back, says the ballpark vendor.

The Milwaukee Brewers are among professional sports teams raising prices on ballgame favorites like beer, peanuts and hot dogs. It’s primarily in response to the massive contracts the team has signed with some of its players, which has caused the Brewers’ payroll to balloon to nearly $90 million, the highest in team history.9

Mark Attanasio, the Brewers’ principle owner, said the team has been looking for alternative methods of raising revenue without putting the whole burden on the fans.

“I couldn’t imagine when I bought the team that we’d ever be near $90 million payroll,” Attanasio said at an April 5 news conference.

James Pokrywczynski, chair of the Department of advertising and public relations and an expert on sports marketing, said fans have accepted the increases as necessary for the success of their teams.

“The fans see in the newspaper the huge costs teams endure to stay competitive and they have generally accepted huge price increases because of it,” he said.

The Brewers are not alone among other professional teams. Higher payrolls and prices have become common in professional sports.

Lori Nickel, a sports reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said player salaries and stadium prices have risen by huge amounts since she first started covering sports in the mid-1990s. She attributed the ticket price increases to the baseball strike of 1994, when she said the MLB started raising prices to see how much fans would be willing to pay.

“Other sports were watching baseball to see where they could put their ticket prices,” she said.

And other sports did follow.

Joseph Hylton, a law professor and a founder of the law school’s sports law program, said professional hockey and football teams also drastically overcharge their fans.

“NFL teams for many years priced their tickets below what the market would bear so as not to appear to be too expensive or too elitist for the common fan,” he said. “At some point the folks who run the NFL stopped worrying about that.”

Milwaukee, however, still has some of the lowest professional sports costs in the country. According to Team Marketing Research, a sports marketing company, the Brewers have an average ticket price of $22.10, compared to the league average of $26.74, and less than half of the Chicago Cubs’ average of $52.56 — the highest in baseball.

Evan Zeppos, a spokesman for the Bradley Center, said Milwaukee sports in general have some of the most competitive ticket, parking and food prices in the country.

“It’s not by accident you see a lot of Chicago people coming to Bucks and Brewers games,” Zeppos said.

While the Milwaukee Bucks are offering some seats to their first round playoff games for only $14, Nickel said the Bucks may have been overcharging based on value throughout the last decade.

“The biggest complaint I have heard in Wisconsin in terms of value is for Bucks games,” she said. “The team has not done well the last 10 years and the Bradley Center is a particularly underwhelming experience.”

However, Nickel put a substantial amount of the blame on baseball for high prices of professional sports tickets. She said baseball has gone from an every man sport to an event almost exclusively for America’s privileged.

“I would love to take my son and six of his friends to a Brewers game for his birthday party,” Nickel said. “With food and parking, that would cost me over $200 — and that would be in the cheap seats.”

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