Major sports ticket prices range widely, from $260 a seat for The New England Patriots to $15 for the Cincinnati Reds. A 24/7 Wall St. analysis of seat prices at the four major sports league teams shows that teams that can charge high prices are based in big cities, have a long tradition of producing championship teams, or, in the case of hockey, are in Canada.
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24/7 Wall St. consulted SeatGeek.com, an online provider of ticket prices, to get the average price per ticket for each team in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. These prices were based on a seven day average. Since publication, the prices will likely have changed, but not significantly. In most case, average ticket prices do not change much over the course of a season when compared to this moving average.
24/7 Wall St. then looked at factors that could influence ticket prices, such as teams base cities population size from the U.S. Census and Statistics Canada. Another factor is the win-loss record for the most recent season from the four leagues or the teams themselves. ESPN.com provided regular season attendance and the change in that attendance compared with a decade ago. This last set of numbers is a good proxy for seat demand, particularly when stadium size is taken into account.
It quickly became clear from our research that Canadian-based hockey teams charge the most for seat tickets in the NHL. This includes the Winnipeg Jets, which until last year was the Atlanta Thrashers, but can still commands the second highest prices in the league. We took the Jets off the list because the team moved so recently. Because hockey is the de facto sport of Canada, the demand for tickets is so great there that Canadian-based teams can usually get more than U.S.-based ones.
The second largest influence on ticket prices is market size. The four highest ticket prices for NBA teams are for clubs in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. The fifth team on the most expensive NBA ticket list is in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, and fifth largest metropolitan area in North America. The most expensive tickets in baseball are for The New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Boston Red Sox. Football is something of an exception to the large market rule. Chicago and Dallas are on the list, but several of the other teams are primarily old franchises with storied pasts. These include The Green Bay Packers and The New England Patriots.
The answer to the puzzle of how major league teams price tickets is similar to the answer to most economic puzzles. Supply and demand drive the market. In the case of major league sports, with a few notable exceptions, demand is as variable as market size, franchise history, and team location.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins> Average ticket price: $147.41 > Attendance last season: 729,689 (14th highest) > Win/loss record last season: 49-25-8 (4th in Eastern Conference) > Attendance change last 10 years: +6.7% > Area population: 2,356,285 (22nd largest in U.S.)
What Pittsburgh lacks in size, it makes up for with fan fervor. Founded in 1967 as part of NHL expansion, the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in 1990-1991 and 1991-1992, during the so-called Lemieux-Jagr era. Jaromir Jagr holds the record for the most goals by a European-born player at 646. Mario Lemieux, who is now also the teams principal owner, holds many records, including the most goals in a single playoff game, at 5. The early 1990s team is regarded as one of the best NHL teams of all time. Currently led by center Sidney Crosby, who is considered one of the best active hockey players, the team won another Stanley cup in 2009. That year, the team moved out of the Civic Arena, or The Igloo, and into the Consol Energy Center, and started playing there in July, 2010.
4. Calgary Flames> Average ticket price: $152.59 > Attendance last season: 771,560 (8th most) > Win/loss record last season: 41-29-12 (10th in Western Conference) > Attendance change last 10 years: +13.21% > Area population: 1,079,310 (5th largest in Canada)
The Flames were founded in 1972 in Atlanta, and moved to Calgary in 1980. The city had hosted two previous teams, the Tigers and the Cowboys. Less than a decade after starting as an NHL team, the Flames won their first and only Cup in 1989. The team has made several additional unsuccessful Stanley Cup runs, including a finals loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2003-2004. The team currently plays in the Scotiabank Saddledome and features long-time captain and all-time club scoring leader Jarome Iginla.
3. Vancouver Canucks> Average ticket price: $175.29 > Attendance last season: 773,260 (7th most) > Win/loss record last season: 54-19-9 (1st in Western Conference) > Attendance change last 10 years: +10.77% > Area population: 2,116,581 (3rd largest in Canada)
Like most Canadian cities, Vancouver has a long tradition of hockey, although unlike Toronto and Montreal, it only fielded an NHL team in 1970. The Canucks, which have had colorful jerseys over the years, have never won a Stanley Cup despite playing for it three times. The most recent attempt was last year, when a devastating loss to the Boston Bruins caused massive street riots in the city. The team has qualified for the playoffs five out of the past six years, and with elite goalie Roberto Luongo and star forward twins, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the team remains a competitive force.
2. Montreal Canadiens> Average ticket price: $191.32 > Attendance last season: 872,193 (2nd most) > Win/loss record last season: 44-30-8 (6th in Eastern Conference) > Attendance change last 10 years: +5.81% > Area population: 3,635,571 (2nd largest in Canada)
The Canadiens, also known as the Habs (short for Les Habitants), are arguably the most storied franchise in the leagues history. Founded in 1909, the team is the leagues only professional club to predate the NHLs foundation in 1942. The team is also one of the Original Six NHL teams. The Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, including 11 in the 22-year period from 1968-1986. Toronto Maple Leafs, the team with the second largest amount of victories, only won 13. In recent years, the Habs have been competitive, but fallen short of a cup. In 2009-2010, the team was the 8th seed going into the playoffs, but pulled off amazing semifinal and quarterfinal victories over favorites Pittsburgh and Washington, losing in the finals to the Philadelphia Flyers.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs> Average ticket price: $200.51 > Attendance last season: 793,522 (5th most) > Win/loss record last season: 37-34-11 (10th in Eastern Conference) > Attendance change last 10 years: +0.5% > Area population: 5,113,149 (largest in Canada)
Founded in 1917, the Maple Leafs are also an Original Six NHL team. The other teams are the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Black Hawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Rangers. The Maple leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups, although they havent won one since 1967. The Toronto region is by far the largest in Canada, and the fan base is considered one of the most rabid in professional sports, despite the fact that the team hasnt made the playoffs since the NHL lockout in 2004-2005. The Leafs have a great deal of young talent, however, and are potentially set to make a playoff run in the next year or two.
To see the highest ticket prices in the other major sports leagues, click here.