In researching different ballparks, I’ve found that many of them these days, particularly the ones that host mediocre teams, offer “all you can eat” seats. Some of them, like Baltimore’s Camden Yards or Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, make this option available every night, while others, like Toronto’s Rogers Centre, make them available on certain nights of the week.
Sports Illustrated, in their new role as social critic, has taken issue with this, questioning whether it’s a good idea to be encouraging people to gorge on ballpark food in a nation with an obesity problem. (Included in their article is a link to the top ten minor league ballpark foods. Click on the link and the first thing you see is a huge photo of a four-pound burger smothered in chili, cheese and chips. I am not making this up.)
Baseball owners can’t win. They’re constantly criticized for the prices of everything, by the same people who criticize them for not spending money on top players. Now they’re giving fans too much food!
Still, with that said, I don’t recommend the all-you-can-eat sections, for different reasons. I sympathize with the health aspect of it, although I believe people are responsible for their own selves and if they keep this sort of thing in moderation they should be fine.
First off, count on all-you-can-eat seats being the worst in the park. In Baltimore, they’re the left field club seats; in Toronto and Atlanta they’re deep in the outfield; in Pittsburgh they’re in right field. In Baltimore and Pittsburgh particularly, these seats preclude a great view that makes the place special. Part of the reason this deal is offered is precisely because teams can’t sell these seats, especially to watch a bad team.
Second, it isn’t all that much of a bargain. Say you pay $17 extra for an all-you-can-eat seat (in Toronto, a 200-level outfield seat costs $22, on all-you-can-eat nights it’s $39). You’re essentially paying $17 for a low-level buffet of hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, and popcorn. Would you pay that much at a Golden Corral for such a limited menu? I wouldn’t pay that much at a Golden Corral period, but that’s not the point. Buffets in restaurants rarely feature anything gourmet-level; this is doubly true at the ballgame.
Third, none of the ballpark all-you-can-eat sections include local favorites that are featured in ballparks these days. Almost all ballparks feature a popular local delicacy, and if you don’t mind spending the money you’d be remiss to miss out on some of the civic pride of a town. It’s ultimately cheaper (see my second point), and it’s part of the ballgame experience. You should have a Primanti Bros. sandwich at PNC Park, or Boog’s Barbecue in Camden Yards, or a Georgia hot dog from the “Frankly My Dear” stand at Turner Field. Don’t waste $17 on the low-end unexciting grub because you get more of it.
This isn’t to say I don’t think people shouldn’t ever take advantage of the deal. If you don’t have time for dinner before the game, and you don’t care where you sit, you can have a couple of dogs, peanuts, some popcorn and a soda without worrying about how much extra it costs. It’s fine if you’ve been to the ballpark before and are just going to the game.
But SI’s social concern notwithstanding, it’s Dr. Ballgame’s opinion that you’re shorting yourself of the best possible ballpark experience with the all you can eat seats. And even health reasons aside, it really isn’t worth it.
Stick with me; there’s other ways to save money on food at the game.