You’ve heard it a million times. You’ve probably thought it a million times. You think it every time you pay about six times what it would cost to make the same meal at home at any sporting event.
And you’re right. Athletes’ salaries being what they are, jacking up the cost of food at the ballgame is how owners pay for .300 hitters. The prices for ballpark food spiral out of sight; pushing customers to the brink every time, just to the point where they grumble but still pay. Yankees fans may love having Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez on their team, but they earn it at the concession stands.
I don’t blame fans for being outraged at this development, even if it is still supply and demand. I’ve often wondered why teams don’t reduce the prices of concessions and presumably sell more of them, but apparently they’ve figured out the maximum profit point and know better than I do about conscience-free food sales.
Still, of late there have been some positive developments in ballpark eats. Many teams offer ways to save on food, like all-you-can-eat sections and discounts for early-arriving fans. Most ballparks will allow you to bring in your own food if you’re strapped for cash.
And many of the new ballparks today offer a popular hometown delicacy; this certainly is an attractive new option for out-of-town fans that can save a trip to an established hole-in-the-wall while they’re in town. Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia offers several variations on the popular cheesesteak with Tony Luke’s, Campo’s, and the Schmitter, and you can also get the ever-popular Chickie’s and Pete’s fries. Citi Field in New York gathers long lines of fans for Shackburgers at the Madison Square Park based Shake Shack and leftover fans can go to Mama’s of Corona for a big sub. PNC Park in Pittsburgh now sells the Primanti Bros. sandwich, famous for fries and coleslaw actually piled onto the mess. And at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the holiest of holy hot dog cities, fans can go to the Chicago Dog kiosks and get a wiener on a poppy seed bun dressed up Chicago-style, or “dragged through the garden” as locals call the dog dressed with numerous toppings.
The one drawback is that the local delicacies tend to cost a little more than the standard fare, making it decision-time again. I got to thinking about this last Saturday night, when I was lucky enough to attend a Flyers game at Wells Fargo Center in Philly. There were Campo’s cheesesteaks and Chickie’s and Pete’s fries available…instead I went with a generic hot dog and fries, because I didn’t want to wait in line or pay more.
The dog was bland–and suffered from the indignity of unavailable spicy brown mustard. The fries were also surprisingly subpar, somehow not salty enough. I ended up regretting the decision, probably more than I would have regretted the extra few bucks and minutes I would have spent getting something worthwhile. Not a professional cost-benefit analysis, I know, but this isn’t supposed to be work!
So there you go. If you have ever had a favorite restaurant that always has a long wait, you know it’s worth the wait rather than to go to a lesser joint. As far as the cost–well, that’s up to you. You’re going to overpay anyway. A mushy generic hot dog is still going to be overpriced. You might as well pay a couple bucks extra for something half-decent with local flavor.
Ballpark E-Guides provides the skinny on most of the ballpark food, so you can have a plan going in or get the scoop before going to wait in line for unique local chow. How many times have you gone into a park and just looked for the shortest lines or the cheapest items? With a Ballpark E-Guide, you’ll know just what and where everything is…and you’ll be less likely to feel like you got burnt, like I did at the Flyers game. Whenever possible, Ballpark E-Guides will show you how to save money on such items, too.
Yes, ballgame food is too expensive. So my advice is to get something at least in the ballpark of your money’s worth.