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David Cassilo/MEDILL

Despite paying the highest ticket price in the National League, Cubs fans pack the park at 35,063 fans per game.

Cubs fans not balking at high ticket prices

by David Cassilo
May 31, 2011

At an average price of $46.90, Chicago Cubs tickets are the most expensive in the National League, according to April statistics compiled by Team Marketing Report, an industry newsletter in Wilmette.

While the team’s losing record and fifth place standing in the National League Central Division might not suggest that fans are getting equal value for their investment, the Wrigley faithful have few complaints about the team’s pricey tickets.

“They’re probably the most popular team in the National League,” said Justin Botts, who had just moved to Chicago from Omaha and was attending his first game Monday. “They have a good fan base here so they can charge high prices, and they’ll get them sold.”

Botts’ assessment is correct—at least so far. Despite poor weather for many home games during the first two months of the season, the Cubs are averaging 35,063 fans per game. The team is filling 85.2 percent of Wrigley Field’s capacity, third in the National League behind the two teams that played in the league championship series last season – Philadelphia and San Francisco.

A season ago under the new ownership of the Ricketts family, the Cubs overtook the Boston Red Sox as the most expensive average ticket in baseball at $52.56. Despite finishing with a record of just 75-87 that season, fans of the Lovable Losers continue to flock to the ballpark.

“I’m a big fan. Regardless of if they’re doing good or bad, I’m going to be here,” said Dan Catron, who attends two to three games a season.

But while the Cubs have the third most expensive ticket in baseball (trailing just the Red Sox and the New York Yankees), Chicago’s other team isn’t far behind. The White Sox have the fourth priciest ticket at $40.67.

Simply being in a sports-crazed city such as Chicago might be the biggest factor in high ticket prices.

“Supply and demand dictates it,” said Frank Kowalski, who paid just barely over the average at $47 for his ticket to Monday’s Cubs game. “Chicago is an expensive market. Forty-seven dollars ain’t that bad actually.”

White Sox attendance, though, ranks 20th in Major League Baseball at 22,423 fans per game. The main difference is perhaps location. Opening in 1914, Wrigley Field is located in Chicago’s densely populated North Side and is one of Chicago’s biggest tourist attractions. U.S. Cellular Field, in comparison, sits largely by itself on the South Side near the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Even when the Cubs aren’t playing well, going to the ballpark is an event in itself.

“Wrigley Field is probably one of the best fields out there. You have good atmosphere and all of the bars in the area,” said John Medema, who goes to about four games a year. “It’s more of a party than anything else.”

Wrigley Field seats 41,160, the fourth lowest in the National League. Its smaller size lends itself to higher prices, which helps the team’s owners rack up revenue comparable to larger parks.

“Because they have a smaller capacity too, they can get away with it,” said Micah Bennett, who was attending his first game of the season.

But while fans are not complaining about the high ticket prices, at the end of the day they want to make sure their investment is going back into the team and towards their ultimate goal: a World Series title.

“As long as they put that money back into the team and people buy the tickets, I can’t really say I have a problem with it,” Bennett said.