The cost of tickets to watch professional sports varies considerably. In some cities, they can be the same as dinner and a movie. For some teams, however, tickets can cost so much that most families struggle to attend a single game. The average ticket price to a Utah Jazz game is $72, while the average price for a New England Patriots game is more than three times that amount.
On top of tickets sold directly through the teams, there is a secondary market of tickets sold through other sources. There are more than 60 such secondary markets through which sports tickets are sold every year, including Stubhub, eBay and TicketNetwork.com. To identify the five teams in each major sport with the highest ticket prices, 24/7 Wall St. examined a two-year average of secondary-market ticket prices for all each team complied by SeatGeek, a search engine for event tickets.
It stands to reason that popular teams with strong fan bases can charge their fans more. But are secondary-market tickets even more reflective of demand? After examining the data and speaking with an expert on the subject, 24/7 Wall St. found that is indeed the case.
“What we’ve seen is that ticket prices on secondary market are a great proxy of fan interest and fan sentiment,” says SeatGeek’s director of communications, Will Flaherty. “When Jeremy Lin played for the Knicks, we saw over 200% ticket price increases on the secondary market.” Of course, regular season tickets could not have increased at this rate. The secondary-market tickets were more reflective of fan demand.
While teams do offer tickets through their own box offices, Flaherty says these can often be more expensive than going through a middleman, “If you want a very good seat … often times those tickets are not available at the box office, and if they are, they’re prohibitively expensive,” Flaherty says. “And so in many cases you can not only get access to those types of tickets [through secondary sources], but you can actually get them for lower prices.” Because some ticket holders are trying to resell premium seats, he explains, seats often cost less than what the team is selling them for. “For example, your average outfield bleacher ticket for a mid-week Yankees home game will cost around $20 from Yankees.com after taxes and fees, while secondary market sites have tickets in the identical section starting at $10.”
Several key factors influence high ticket prices in professional sports. These include the long-term popularity of the team, the historical size of its fan base, the availability of seating, the number of games played each year, and the short-term success a franchise is experiencing.
Most of the teams on our list have one of the following two factors going for them. In many cases, the franchise has been extremely successful in recent years, regularly making it to the playoffs, winning championships, drawing star talent and driving up the fan base. This is the case for teams like the Miami Heat. Some teams also rely on their history and large market to bring in fans. The Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, have performed woefully for years, but they remain a massively popular and profitable team thanks to their fan base. Many teams fulfill both of these criteria, including the L.A. Lakers, the New York Yankees and the New York Giants.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed average home game attendance for each of these teams; the attendance records show how popular these tickets are. Sixteen of the 20 teams on our list had average ticket sales exceeding 95% capacity or beyond in the most recently completed season. This popularity has resulted in highly profitable teams. Of the 16 teams that averaged 95% attendance or greater in the most recent season, 10 had among the top five operating incomes for their sport.
SeatGeek compiled a list of average secondary-market ticket prices over a two-year period, which is the longest period available for all four sports, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. In order to measure the success and popularity of these teams, 24/7 Wall St. examined attendance and win-loss records for each team for the past decade. In the case of the NFL, we considered attendance data from 2008 to the present. We also looked at the financial well-being of these franchises based on data published by Forbes, which includes team revenue, operating income and estimated value.
These are the most expensive tickets in sports.