There has been an understandable amount of consternation about the lack of a TV deal between Marquee Network and Comcast as fans worry they will not have access to their favorite baseball team before Opening Day. In fact, everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing from fans who are grumpy and anxious that they won’t be able to see their favorite team in 2020, and it isn’t just Cubs fans. YouTube TV recently scaled back their deal with Regional Sports Networks considerably and my podcast partner in Cubs banter, Andi Cruz Vanecek talked about the drama that would cause for her family in St. Louis on episode 62 of the BCB podcast.
A lot of these TV deals are complicated by two factors. The first is one of the well-known banes of my existence, MLB’s blackout map. The map is a truly arcane relic that renders whole swaths of the country unable to watch their favorite teams based on the fear of cable providers losing viewers:
Every time I look at this map I wonder how Iowans ever watch baseball, but I digress.
If you can’t watch the game on TV the other option has always been heading to the ballpark to enjoy the national pastime in person. And while I will defend baseball in person over TV every day of the week, as ticket prices have risen over the years many people, particularly families, have been priced out of the ballpark experience.
Lots of teams have some nights that are cheaper than others, and while Wrigley Field has those nights too, in recent years taking your family to the ballpark was a pretty pricey endeavor as this article from MoneyInc in 2018 documented:
Either way, with all the costs mentioned above, you could easily surmise that it’s not cheap to watch the Cubs play at home at Wrigley Field. With the cost of tickets, tailgating, food, drinks, paraphernalia, and parking all added up, you’re looking at about $135 per person to spend. That’s a realistic number for average seats and tons of food. Of course, you could always strip it all down to the basics. If you opt for the cheapest comparable seats, eliminate tailgating altogether, minimize concession food and drinks, and eliminate the paraphernalia cost, you’re only looking at roughly $50 for the day. That’s a better number if you ask us, but you never know what could happen at a ballgame. A homerun might just inspire you to buy a round of drinks for your row. Either way, you can spend $150 or $50; it doesn’t matter. What matters is your team and your company are all together in one place having a good time.
Al’s done a great job of tracking ticket prices and demand over the years to give fans an idea of when they can snag a deal, but even in this scenario in May 2019 the best a fan could hope to do on a cold/wet night was about $15 for a bleacher seat and no additional expenses:
Additionally, two years ago I suggested the Cubs should embrace some more family-friendly ticket pricing when covering the Orioles “Kids Cheer Free” program. Liz Roscher wrote about this effort Baltimore made to ensure families could enjoy a night at the ballpark:
Taking your family to a Major League Baseball game can be expensive. Between tickets, parking, food and beverages, a family of four could easily spend $250 to $300 without breaking a sweat, and that’s not even including merchandise. As MLB tries to hook younger fans on the game, the cost of seeing your favorite team play in person is a huge barrier to fandom.
The Baltimore Orioles have introduced a new initiative to try and combat that problem and get more families — and kids in general — out to the ballpark. It’s called “Kids Cheer Free.” When an adult buys a regularly priced upper deck ticket at Camden Yards, they can add up to two free upper deck tickets for kids age nine and under. Tickets will be available on a rolling basis throughout the season.
Looking at the numbers, that’s a stellar deal. For example, when the Orioles play the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, April 21, upper deck tickets are priced between $15 and $27. A family of two adults and two kids age 9 and under would save between $30 and $54. And if both adults bought “Kids Cheer Free” tickets, each kid could bring a friend with no extra ticket cost. That’s tangible savings for any baseball-loving family with young kids.
The Orioles have since expanded that effort to include “Kids Cheer Free Plus” which includes the following:
For just $30*, all kids 14 and under can join Kids Cheer Free Plus! A membership includes a limited-edition cap, lanyard, membership card, and ticket voucher redeemable for four (4) free lower level tickets to any value, classic or select home game - up to a $192 value.
Membership also extends the traditional Kids Cheer Free ticket offer from 9 and under to 14 and under for every Orioles home game^, priority access to Kids Run the Bases, and exclusive special offers throughout the season.
Okay, let’s be real, the Cubs have a lot less excess seating capacity than the Orioles so I don’t really expect them to match that deal anytime soon. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to see this new School Night Value Offer from my favorite team:
This is a pretty sweet deal. Basically before Memorial Day and after Labor Day there are 10 night games where you can get a ticket in the 200 level (lower outfield bowl, under the upper deck) for $14-22. That ticket will include a hotdog and a non-alcoholic drink. The only catch as far as I can tell is that the quantity is limited and you have to buy at least two tickets.
It’s not a deal with Comcast, and it certainly doesn’t banish the blackout map to one of the worst levels of hell (where it belongs), but this ticket offer combined with the earlier start time during the school year is a great first step to making Wrigley Field more affordable and accessible for fans.