By KENNY WALTER
The days of attending a professional sporting event on a budget may be over for some fans as escalating costs for tickets, food, beverage and transportation are leading many to stay home and watch the games on TV.
Kevin Contreras, a Christian Brothers Academy graduate and a ticket broker, said many are unable to attend live games as costs for every component of a sporting event continue to rise. Attending a professional game in New York is costly.
“If you are talking about coming from Monmouth or Ocean County, you are going to either take the train or you are going to drive,” Contreras said. “If you drive, parking is insane, it’s $30 plus tolls.
“A lot of my friends, they don’t care if they sit in the bleachers because they know there [are] all these built-in costs that [are] costing you a lot more than just the ticket to go. They say that the average adult has two beers at a game and you’re not getting a beer for under $8.”
Contreras said one of the reasons the cost of food at games is rising is teams are shying away from the traditional ballpark fare of hot dogs, nachos and peanuts and offering larger and more gourmet dishes for attendees.
Contreras founded Conca Sports and Entertainment in 2012 where he serves as a ticket broker for live sporting events throughout the country.
According to Contreras, with the boom in the secondary market for tickets the actual ticket is just a small part of the overall cost of attending a professional sporting event, using the New York Yankees as an example.
“You can buy tickets the day of the game, and if you want to sit in the bleachers you can buy tickets for $10 if you want to or if you wanted better seats it goes anywhere from $20 to you can spend $500 on those Legends [seats],” he said. “You still aren’t going to pay face value as long as you buy the tickets on whatever secondary ticket site you want to.
“It depends on where you want to sit, but I think the cheapest part of going to the Yankee game is the ticket.”
However, according to Contreras, the teams are also implementing policies to dry out the secondary market and ultimately make tickets more expensive.
“Teams in the last few years are getting much smarter in how they price their tickets,” he said. “They are making the face value much higher in order to try to take away that margin for the secondary market and the same thing is going on in the concert world too.”
In response to that, last year Contreras founded VenueIQ, an online website aimed at allowing fans to review different aspects of seeing a live event including the venue, food and other amenities. He said he has focused less on tickets in the past year and more on VenueIQ.
While the ticket cost to go to a Yankees game can be cheaper, Contreras said people can expect to pay more for tickets and less for transportation to see a live event at Madison Square Garden.
“Madison Square Garden is a totally different deal, the tickets are a lot more expensive,” he said. “First of all, it is a lot easier to get to so a lot more people are willing to take the train.
“If you want to go to Yankee Stadium, that’s multiple trains. So most people if they are going to the Garden take the train, which is reasonable all things considered.”
Joy Simms, a Wall resident and die-hard Boston Red Sox fan and overall baseball enthusiast, said the price of the ticket is entirely based on the team’s opponent.
“Everything is more expensive if you see the Yankees play the Red Sox as opposed to if you see the Yankees play the Orioles,” she said.
Simms attends a few games a year with friends, but recently said that she took her 7-year-old daughter, Scarlett, to Fenway Park to watch a Red Sox game. She said she spent about $30 on her daughter while at the game on cotton candy, ice cream and a foam finger.
According to the Team Marketing Report, a publisher of sports marketing and sponsorship information, the average Yankees ticket is $51.55, parking is $30, a hot dog is $3 and a beer is $6. On the other hand, the average Mets ticket is $26.02, and it costs $23 to park, $6.25 for a hot dog and $5.75 for a beer.
For the two local football teams, an average Jets ticket costs $105.66 and the average Giants ticket costs $123.40, both of which are higher than the league average of $85.83 per ticket.
However, no local team charges as much to see a game as the Knicks, who charge $129.38, which is significantly higher than the next highest NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers, who charge $103.27 per ticket.
Red Bank resident Chris Sapienza said he would go to around 25 Yankees games a year up until about five years ago, receiving the tickets through his father’s company.
Sapienza said he shies away from going to games now because of the extravagant costs.
“I haven’t gone to a baseball game in at least two years because of the cost,” he said. “It’s just way out of control.
“I’m the kind of person, who if I go to a ball game, I want to be up close, I don’t want to be in the bleachers.”
While it does cost a lot to attend a professional sporting event or concert, Contreras said it is possible to see a live event on a budget.
“A Blue Claws game – there is no comparison in terms of affordability or even going to catch a show at the Stone Pony,” he said.
Jon McNamara, vice president of ticket sales and services for the Lakewood Blue Claws, said the Blue Claws hold events and attractions at First Energy Park in Lakewood to cater to families looking for an affordable baseball game.
“We definitely position ourselves like that, we are an affordable option when it comes to the major league teams,” he said. “We are much closer than they are.
“I think we are an affordable option because it is a lot when you go to a major league game. You go [to a major league game] with two people to get there and have a beer and a hot dog [and] it is probably going to cost you a couple hundred bucks.”
An adult ticket for a Blue Claws game is $13, while a senior or child ticket is $10. General admission tickets to sit in the grass behind the outfield wall are also available for $10.
Costs continue to rise for those looking to see a concert or Broadway play in person.
Wall resident Daria Shotyk, who usually attends at least five concerts annually, said the majority of the shows she sees are in New York and the costs are rising.
“I guess it depends on the concert and where you’re sitting, but decent seats at Madison Square Garden – I guess I paid anywhere from $100 to $200 just for seats,” she said. “Then a beer is like $10, so if you have three beers that runs you up.”
Shotyk also said she prefers to drive into New York City, despite the expense.
“I usually drive in when I go, maybe I use almost half a tank and then tolls and $18 to go through the tunnel,” she said. “So, it is probably a good $50 round-trip to go into the city on gas and tolls alone.
“Then parking in the city is usually $30. God, that’s expensive – is this an intervention?”
However, for some going to live events is a family tradition.
Long Branch resident Esther Cohen currently spends $73,000 per year on two courtside seats at Madison Square Garden to watch the Knicks. She sits just three rows behind Spike Lee, the world’s most famous Knicks fan.
Cohen said the tickets have been with her family for about 50 years as her uncle had a friendship with the former legendary Knicks coach, Red Holzman.
“Basketball, at least in New York, is an expensive hobby,” she said. “It is not for the lower-middle income.
“If you want to see a professional team it costs money, but it’s the same thing as how much does a ticket to the New Jersey Repertory Theater cost versus how much does ‘Hamilton’ cost?”
However, Cohen also owns season tickets to the Giants and said the football experience is usually a cheaper one.
“Football is a lot fairer in terms of everything,” she said. “I tailgate before so the most you’ll get me for is a $5 hot chocolate or a $5 Coke.”
While the costs continue to go up, Cohen said she offers a football ticket to her nieces and nephews as a birthday gift each year.
“To me it’s great because I spend six to seven hours with them and those are memories that will last forever,” Cohen said. “So that’s how I use a lot of my tickets.”