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Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks... but bring your wallet

Concession prices have surged at Wrigley Field this year.

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A fan with a hot dog at Wrigley Field
Photo by Jeff Haynes /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Over the weekend I went to Yankee Stadium for the first time and I expected quite a bit of sticker shock. After all, it’s New York City, and everything costs more in New York City. There were no $8 StubHub tickets to be found, so I took solace in finding a deal for seats in the 200s (similar to the 200 level at Wrigley Field) for $39 after fees. I’m pretty sure that ticket only existed because there was rain in the forecast. The lines for just about everything, the subway, security, and the team store (my dad and brother are huge Yankees fans) were as long as I imagined they would be. However, one thing I did not expect to find was concession prices that were slightly cheaper than those I pay at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs made a big deal out of cutting season ticket holder prices this year, and after trading or releasing every member of the World Series Core not named Kyle Hendricks while playing sub-.500 ball for two seasons, that was clearly the correct move. But for anyone worried about how those price decreases might impact the Cubs bottom line, well I promise you they are doing just fine after raising other concession prices around 10-25 percent by my unofficial glance based on things I buy on a regular basis at Wrigley Field.

To be clear, the price of attending a Cubs game and tacking on a hot dog and a beer was already pretty high at the Friendly Confines in 2022 as this Webstaurant piece demonstrates definitively:

Sample prices for various teams

Now, that was 2022 and we could quibble a bit here. I don’t know where people are finding these $6.75 beers at Dodger Stadium in 2022, because I know a beer cost well north of double that when I visited in 2018. Ditto the $6.00 beer at Yankee Stadium, because that was nowhere to be found when I was there. And let’s be very clear, we all know we can do a White Sox game with a hot dog and a beer for a small fraction of what it costs to go to Wrigley Field, so let’s just stipulate that’s a mystery.

However, the baseline cost of the concessions at Wrigley Field for a hot dog and a beer looks approximately correct to my eye from 2022. I don’t do a lot of hot dogs at the ballpark, I tend to opt for a slightly more expensive polish sausage and a can of Babe rosé, but I’ve bought my fair share of hot dogs and beers for other people, and those numbers look correct.

They are also a lot higher now and it isn’t merely because the Cubs have decided to add $33 beer bats to their repretoire, as Jon Greenberg of The Athletic details in this write-up:

So how outrageous are these prices?

Well, the Cubs’ large draft beers come in 24-oz cups, which is only slightly smaller than the 27-oz bats. A 24-oz draft beer is about $15 with tax, so fans are essentially paying $18 for a souvenir cup. The bat retails for $25 online, but the Cubs and Levy Restaurants are getting a wholesale price.

A 24-oz draft beer wasn’t $15 with tax in 2022, based on the above from Webstaurant (and my recollection). And it isn’t just the alcohol. I had a bit of sticker shock when the sausage and wine at my first trip to Wrigley Field rang up more than 25 percent higher than what I paid for the same items in 2022. At first I figured it might just be inflation, but after my concessions tab came to 2022 prices at Yankee Stadium, I had to wonder what was going on on the North Side of Chicago. Maybe I’ve just found the one place where food and drink is more expensive in Chicago than New York City at the corner of Clark and Addison.

I can think of a couple of reasons for the concessions hikes. First, as noted above, gate revenue from season ticket holders will certainly be down this year. I mean, even if the Cubs sold the same number of tickets they would definitionally make less money this season. However, most accounts indicate that the season ticket holder line is clearing out pretty fast. Evan Altman of Cubs Insider had a really good write-up as to the multiple factors that have lead to a hollowing out of Wrigley Field ticket sales and attendance last year. You should read the whole thing, but I’ll highlight this:

Then came that magical run of 2015-18 that featured a World Series victory in the midst of four straight postseason appearances. Some had theorized prior to the elusive title that winning would remove the mystique surrounding the Cubs, and they probably think they’re correct given what’s happened. While it’s true that the view of the franchise has changed, it’s less about the death of nostalgia and more about the birth of expectation.

It’s a loss of innocence, for lack of a better term, made all the more galling by the fact that ownership doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that fans’ naivete has disappeared. Most of it, anyway. There will always be fans for whom Cubbie-blue glasses will filter out all but the most positive visions of the team, and that’s perfectly fine.

What I’m driving at here is that the last few seasons have seen increasing numbers of fans opting not to renew their season tickets while those on the vaunted waiting list turn down opportunities that are coming with increasing frequency. But don’t just take my word for it, listen to what many other former season ticket holders have to say.

He goes on to quote more than half a dozen fans who decided not to renew their season tickets. Now, Evan also points out that according to the Cubs they only need to sell out half the park to break even, but let’s be very clear. Breaking even isn’t the goal, and I suspect it’s not just ticket sales. With games being shorter, concessions sales times are also shorter. I’ve noticed this in the seven games I’ve attended this season (five at Wrigley, one in Arlington and one in NYC) — I just don’t go back to the concessions stand in the middle of the game like I used to. I get my food and drink before the game and stay in my seat unless I absolutely need to go to the bathroom. Since I don’t really consume the food that vendors sell in the stands, whatever I buy in that first stop is it for me — and frankly, once I got the first receipt from purchases at Wrigley I was thinking about adjusting my consumption habits for future games, or maybe just bringing in better food from outside the park.

The Cubs are pretty good right now, and competitive baseball will surely fill the seats at Wrigley Field again. If the Cubs are above .500 for most of May into June, they will surely pack those seats at the Friendly Confines, but fans who haven’t really been back since the trade deadline fire sale in 2021 would be wise to make sure they have a little extra money in their bank account when they go, because the concessions tab is going to run them about 25 percent more than what they remember, and frankly a $17 can of Babe rosé (after tax and tip) is one of the more outrageous price gouging experiences I’ve ever had at a ballpark.