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While waiting for the Nationals’ home opener to start, I found myself browsing through Twitter, reading of everyone’s experiences in the cold downtown near the Navy Yard. Over about a 10-minute timespan, the pics you see at the top were posted, and you couldn’t help but notice the contrast.
On the left are pics posted by The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, whose assignment today was to go around and sample all the new foods, with no worry of their cost. Today, it was good to be Scott Allen. But Scott, while giving his reviews of the culinary offerings, also posted signs that showed the prices. Scott posted another pic of his meal of a Nashville hot chicken sandwich and some mac and cheese, and while I’m sure it was wonderful, it looked no different than what I could get at Chick-Fil-A.
According to my math, Scott paid $22 for those two items. Usually when I spend that much for an entrée’ at lunch, they bring a steak knife and serve it with dishes like potatoes lyonnaise. Dire Straights must have been thinking about this meal when they sang, "Money for nothing and the (Nashville Hot) Chicken ain't free"...or something like that.
While these pics were coming over Twitter, the pic at right from Augusta National was posted. There is no more exclusive ticket on the planet than going to see The Masters. They could literally charge whatever they wanted and people would pay it. But they don’t. The make a fair profit and leave it at that. Just like when you would go anywhere in the South, a sandwich is 3 bucks. A drink is 2 bucks, etc., etc.
I get the whole paying more for convenience factor at sporting events. But there should be a limit of just how much of a premium you charge before it’s crossing the line. A soft drink should be $2. A hot dog should be $4. Charge all you want for the gourmet, free-range, organic, gently massaged chicken used in a specialty sandwich, but be realistic with the concession stand staples that are part of the ball park experience.
The Atlanta Falcons have done just that with their new stadium, and it’s a smart move. Folks are more inclined to spend more when they believe the prices are reasonable, and I’d rather make a $2 profit off an item and sell 10, then make a $5 profit off the same item and only sell 2. It also extends some good will for when the team is not doing so well, something Dan Snyder appears to have never learned.
I was a Redskins season ticket holder for many years, but finally one Monday night, I had enough. The product on the field wasn’t good. This was the Monday night Michael Vick and the Eagles came to town, blew the Redskins off the field, and it rained from mid-1st quarter to the end. The tickets were expensive, the parking was expensive, watching the game was miserable, and the ushers working the game that night – and there weren’t many – sort of disappeared in the rain.
I walked to the concession stand, there was trash all over the concourse (which seemed to me due to the team intentionally understaffing that evening to save money) and I ended up paying through the nose for a single soft drink and a hot dog. It wasn’t a matter of being able to afford it. It’s like they had a sign up that said “we’re screwing you on the prices and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
I’m a sucker, I thought. This team is squeezing every dime they can out of us fans, they're investing minimally in our comfort, and they’re laughing at us. I did not renew the next season and have not re-upped since.
So c’mon, Nats. You’re flying high now, the team is good, there’s a buzz in the air, and I get you wanting to go for the gold while you can. But don’t squeeze every drop of blood out of the turnip. Be somewhat like Augusta and provide a few reasonable alternatives. Remember, our kids when little, judge how much they like the team by how many times they get to go to the concession stand. The actual game doesn’t make sense to them until a few years later.
They will grow up and remember their ballpark experience sometime in the future. A time, perhaps, when you’re not riding quite so high….