The Dollars and Cents of Sports in Chicago

John ArmstrongBaseball

As I read the Chicago Tribune today I asked myself: "What on earth are the owners of professional sports teams thinking in this very bad economy?" Today's Tribune notes that every Chicago professional sports franchise is raising their ticket prices this season except for the Chicago Bears, the football team. But while the Bears hold the line on prices the baseball White Sox are raising prices modestly, by $2.00 per game. The lone exception is the upper deck box seats, which are going up only $1.00 per game. This is tolerable, but not a very good strategy in this economy. The Blackhawks, feeling good about having a much better hockey team this year, are raising their prices an average of 16%. The Bulls, struggling right now to be consistent as an NBA basketball team, are raising season-ticket prices 33% and court side seats by anywhere from $100 to $950 each. Utterly amazing!

Worst of all, as is typical in this city, the Chicago Cubs are raising prices on their loyal fans again. They do this almost every season and keep spending huge dollars to win it all, which I doubt they will do in 2009. They froze 33% of their seating at 2008 prices but then introduced a (new) "platinum level" (this has to be a joke if you know this park and the services rendered there compared to other major league teams and parks) that increases game prices 6% for 83 % of the season's schedule and infield club boxes (obviously the very best seats, especially at the old and unfriendly confines) are going up 25% for these "platinum level" seats!

For years I have wondered what would happen in America if we really hit very harsh economic times. I often thought, "Sports will suffer as fans stay away due to having less income or real job loss." Well, we shall see. As unemployment rises and the Congress debates a huge stimulus for the economy our professional teams intend to ask for more money in 2009! Maybe they should ask Congress for stimulus money too then they can afford to pay even more of these ridiculous salaries to these already overpaid players.

I am a big baseball fan and an even bigger college football fan but I refuse to pay these prices. I will go to no major league games in Chicago this year if I have to buy the tickets. (A few generous friends will likely give me a few tickets!) I will go to minor league games, where the prices have not been raised at all and thus I will enjoy the sunshine and the baseball. But I am done with Wrigley Field and all but done with the White Sox as well. This is ridiculous given the fact that only the wealthy can begin to afford these games if truth be known. Or is it that we still have far more discretionary money than we let on while at the same time we want Congress to bail out the problems we will not honestly face? I find this picture ludicrous in light of the front page news about bailing out the nation's economy. Am I alone in this incredulity?