Is Joe Fan being replaced with the corporate fan? With new stadiums being built at an unprecedented rate, the answer seems to be yes. What exactly are the goals of new stadiums? To attract local fans to the arena or to simply make money?
In an age where sports arenas are costing about $200 million to build and taxpayers taking on the bulk of the load, it seems that Joe Fan is slowly being replaced in order to accommodate the corporations who will buy luxury suites for entire seasons, thus making it impossible for average income fans to enjoy the game in person. Ticket prices have increased to help fund the new arenas, thus kicking out the very fans that have supported the team in the past. In fact, ticket revenue is steadily slowing, partly because fans are choking on the prices, an average $51 for basketball and $48 for hockey (Badenhausen, 2000). Corporate sponsorships are taking over the market. Lower priced seats are being sacrificed for high rollers who want to be seen rubbing elbows with famous people like Spike Lee and Jack Nicholson. For example, the Staples Center in Los Angeles has the Bank of America Chairman's Room that opens at halftime only to those fans who pay $1,200 each for floor seats. It may be the hottest place to be, but it could also be taking the average fan out of the game. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers make $5,000 per year on each of the 105 luxury boxes at Three Rivers Stadium and will make about $75,000 on each of the 125 boxes in the new stadium (King, 1997), leaving out the many fanatics who arrive dressed from head to toe in Steelers gear to cheer on their team.
Thus, the corporate ticket buyer is taking over at the expense of the ordinary fan. A study conducted by the Minnesota Timberwolves organization concluded that corporations owned 62% of the season tickets sold in the lower bowl of the Target Center, whose renewal rate was 97% (Swift, 2000). The corporate customers tend to be more sedate, preferring sipping martinis to waving their arms in hopes to distract the opponents, which eventually lessens coveted home court advantage.
Attending sports events went from being an affordable source of family entertainment to being a corporate perk. Corporations buy entire season ticket packages and the higher-ups pick four or five competitive matchups and then pawn the rest off to secretaries and friends of the family. Joe Fan buys a season ticket package at an unbelievably high rate and then feels like money has been wasted if they don't attend every single game. Since 1991, ticket prices for the four major pro sports have increased 80% and the cost for a family of four to attend a game has increased almost 32% to $255 in the past five years, roughly two weeks' worth of groceries. According to economist Anderw Zimablist of Smith College in Northampton, Mass., the reason ticket prices have soared is "a combination of new facilities and a higher income among the top 20% of people who are buying the highest-priced seats"(Swift, 2000).
Last Updated: April 19, 2001
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