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Have a Seat: Great Deals at Minute Maid Park?

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Hey Astros fan. Are you pissed off about Drayton jacking up ticket prices for the Red Sox and Yankees games this summer? Well, you can just go to hell, you bunch of frigging, ungrateful ingrates. Don’t you realize what a bargain Drayton’s giving you? Don’t you know how cheap it really is to attend an Astros game?

What, you don’t know this? Well, I guess it’s a good thing the Chron’s around to relay the propaganda.

As the Chron so happily reported yesterday, the Astros are quite a bargain when compared with the rest of major league baseball. You didn’t know that, did you? Hell, the Astros supposedly offer the best bargain in the entire city. And if you don’t believe that, it’s because you’re just an ungrateful fan who doesn’t believe in the benevolence of Drayton McLane. (Or you don’t buy the bull the Chron dishes out.)

The average Astro ticket costs $26.90, which is quite a bargain when compared to the average price of the Red Sox ($47.71) or the Chicago Cubs ($34.30) which are the most expensive. It’s just like the Chron says: “Numbers don't lie. If it's an affordable ticket you're looking for, you will be hard-pressed not to consider the Astros…”

And according to the Astros, you shouldn’t even look at the prices when considering value. “There are so many ingredients that make up the fan experience,” Astros vice president of guest services Marty Price told the Chron. “To me, value is having a great time and a great experience.”

The Chron even touts the Minute Maid Park outfield deck seats, which only cost $7.00 for adults and $1.00 for children.

There are, of course, a few problems with the Chron analysis. For instance, take the vaunted outfield deck seats. Not only are these seats in the worst section of the ballpark, high up in left field by the foul pole, but there are only 1,677 of these value price seats. That’s 1,677 seats out of 40,976 seats. The Astros also offer 9,131 view deck seats for between $12.00 and $15.00. And it needs to be noted that the $1.00 children seats will not be offered for the games with the Red Sox and Yankees, and the $7.00 seats for the Red Sox and Yankees will instead be $17.00, while the view deck prices will increase to $22.00 and $25.00 .

Let’s compare this with the Dome. The Dome sold pavilion seats for $4.00 (adults) and $1.00 (children), and these are the so-called equivalent of the MMP outfield deck seats. Now, according the Astros 1998 Media Guide, there were 3,400 pavilion seats out of a total of 54,370 seats. The Dome also offered nearly 16,000 seats in the old rainbow section from between $5.00 to $7.00. So, out of 54,700 seats, nearly 20,000 seats were under $7.00. (I'm making the assumption that, with inflation, these seats are approximately the same value as those at MMP. But a smaller percentage of such seats are offered -- and the Astrodome pavilion seats were far better for watching baseball than those in the MMP outfield deck. However, I'd really like some economists to either confirm my assumptions or call me out as the idiot that I am.)

So much for the frigging value of the MMP outfield deck. But then again, you all knew that was a bunch of B.S. anyway.

Here’s another problem with the Chron’s analysis. At no point does the writer attempt to do any factoring for cost of living. I’m no economics hotshot, and numbers aren’t my strong suit, but I’ve heard time and time again that the cost of living is different throughout the country and that one of the prime reasons for living in Houston is the reasonably cheap cost of living. So, it stands to reason that one can’t do a reasonable analysis of value between ballpark tickets without factoring in this cost of living.

Without this factoring, how am I really supposed to know the Astros ticket prices are that much more reasonable than what the Red Sox charge? For instance, I did a brief interweb search and discovered that the cost of living in Boston is 34.2 percent above the national average, while Houston is 13 percent below the national average. So, I’m sure if that if I could actually do the math, I’d find that that $26.90 average Astros ticket is going be closer in value to the $47.71 average Red Sox ticket than it is to actual value. But to write this would be to not buy into the Astros’ propaganda.

And don’t dare get me started on the costs of food, drinks, merchandising, and parking. If Drayton considers that stuff to be value priced, then I really want to see how his dictionary defines value.

I really would like to buy into the myth of the value of the Astros ticket price. Really, I want to believe it. And I want to believe it because I know the Astros will never give me a press pass if I keep trashing the product, but I can’t lie. And to write what the Astros wanted to have written regarding this would be lying.

In truth, you, the fans, have to share in the blame. The Astros drew over three million fans last year for a decidedly inferior product. And as long as you continue to buy tickets for a shoddy product at exuberant prices, then why should Drayton lower them? If you want reasonable prices, there’s just one solution. Don’t go to the damn games. That’s the only way Drayton McLane’s going to pay any attention to you. Don’t buy the damn tickets.

But as long as you continue buying the tickets, I don’t want to hear you bitching about the prices. You get what you deserve. After all, the Astros offer you the best sports value in town. And if you can’t believe the Chron, who can you believe? – John Royal

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