Going to the ballpark isn’t what it used to be: ticket, concession, and parking costs all combine to put a major strain on your wallet, hindering the enjoyment of the game itself. Going with a family of four? You’re looking at a $200 night, at least, just to watch two teams hit a ball around. Savvy travelers can still find ways to do it on a budget, though. Here are a few tips to help you beat the system:
Bring your own food: Although they don’t openly advertise it, stadiums allow you to bring in small, soft-sided coolers, unopened bottles of water, and outside food of almost any kind, including sandwiches, peanuts, and other store-bought snacks that would cost triple if purchased them inside the park. Parks typically prohibit all cans, and all alcohol, so there’s no getting around the high price of ballpark beer. But you can still save by supplying your own picnic.
Find a cheap bar to hit up before (and after) the game: Beers are anywhere from $7-$10 inside the stadium, so those on a budget can pretty much forget about having too good a time. Avoid overspending inside by looking for a bar in the area surrounding the stadium. The Dugout across the street from Yankee Stadium, for example, serves a $3 PBR. If you’re completely unfamiliar with the city and Google, Yelp, or Foursquare leaves you in a lurch, baseball message boards are a good place to ask questions. Most fans are more than willing to point you in the right direction.
Buy the cheapest seats: Sitting behind the first base dugout is definitely an experience, but not necessarily practical for the average person just trying to catch a game. If you’re simply looking to get in the ballpark, we suggest buying seats in the upper deck (usually the cheapest available), and getting creative once you’re in the stadium. Since most stadiums have huge concourses that overlook the field, finding a place with a good view is pretty easy. This also gives you a chance to walk around and take in the different perspectives around the stadium.
For example, Colorado’s Coors Field sells “Rock Pile” tickets (deep center field) for as low as $4, and just opened up a right field concourse that is essentially one big bar. You’d pay more than a $4 cover to see a band at a bar, so consider it a bargain. And finally, there’s always that classic trick of moving down to the lower levels after the bulk of the game has been played (typically after the 7th inning).
Use public transportation: Stadium traffic aside, parking costs can be as high as $20-$35 (cough, New York), so use public transportation whenever you can. It’s a no-brainer in big cities like Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., and don’t rule out other creative modes of transportation (bike share programs!) that exist in many smaller cities. If you must drive, the most inexpensive lots are obviously going to be farther away from the stadium, so wear your walking shoes.
Scalp tickets after the first few innings: Scalping a ticket in the parking lot can go either way in terms of getting a deal, but you greatly increase your chances by waiting until after the first inning or two. At this point, you have the negotiating power, which means you should be able to pretty much name your price. If you want a guaranteed ticket, be sure to check sites like Stubhub for other fans who might be selling tickets below face value.