AP

Inflation, gas prices looming over sports biz, concessions

Oct 27, 2022, 3:00 AM | Updated: Oct 28, 2022, 4:30 am

A beer vendor figures out the price for a baseball fan during a baseball game between the Cleveland...

A beer vendor figures out the price for a baseball fan during a baseball game between the Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Chicago. Persistently high inflation and gas prices are looming over sports and the monetary pipeline that resumed when fans returned to games amid the pandemic.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — Dan Coyne makes an annual trip from his Pennsylvania home to watch the Chicago Bears with his brother, Dave, who has season tickets.

The brothers got something to eat a couple hours before the game. Dave Coyne, 47, normally stays away from the concessions at Soldier Field, but “I only had to pay for myself tonight,” he said. “I didn’t have a kid or my wife with me.”

That’s the calculus in play as fans balance their favorite sporting events — the games they missed desperately at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — with persistently high inflation and gas prices that loom over everything these days.

U.S. inflation jumped 8.2% in September from a year ago, the government reported this month. That’s not far from a four-decade high of 9.1% in June. Higher prices for housing, food and medical care were among the largest contributors to the rise.

Given the industry’s reliance on disposable income, the inflation numbers are a troubling sign for sports business leaders.

“What’s historically accurate for teams is that they tend to try to take less on the ticketing side because once somebody comes in they typically will make up for it once they are inside,” said Ron Li, a senior vice president at Navigate, a data-driven consulting firm in sports and entertainment. “But with costs rising pretty much across the board after the turnstile, I think they have some decisions they need to make.”

According to Team Marketing Report, the average cost for a family of four to attend a 2022 Major League Baseball game was $256.41, an increase of $3.04 from the previous season. The main engine behind the rise was the cost of tickets, with the average general ticket price increasing 3.6% to $35.93.

Despite the jump in prices, Americans have largely kept up their spending, particularly on entertainment and other services like travel that they missed out on during the pandemic. Still, there are signs the solid spending won’t last: Credit card debt is rising and savings have declined as consumers, particularly low-income ones, have taken hits to their finances from the spike in inflation.

Sitting on a bench in front of Soldier Field, about to watch his beloved Bears play in person, money wasn’t exactly a big concern for Corey Metzger.

Or any concern, really.

“This trip has been a long time in the making, and I’m splurging whatever I got to spend to make it happen,” said the 45-year-old Metzger, who works in law enforcement in Fargo, North Dakota.

Casey Lynn, 43, a low-voltage technician from Minneapolis, and his wife, Lori, 44, a commercial lender, aren’t big football fans, but they decided to check out the Bears on a trip to Chicago. While Casey Lynn said he is bothered by the ticket surcharges, the couple didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to see the game.

“The gas is a necessity. Electric’s a necessity. The sports isn’t a necessity,” he said. “But when in Rome, why not?”

Of course, the cost of games often includes a trip to the concessions stands for a hot dog or a beer. Concessions typically have a higher profit margin for sports teams and providers, but increased costs for goods, transportation and labor have cut into those margins.

The changes come after concessions companies were already profoundly impacted by the pandemic.

“The whole model has been kind of disrupted in a pretty big way as we’re dealing with inflation of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30% when we have typically underwritten 2 or 3%,” said Jamie Obletz, president of Delaware North Sportservice. “And you can imagine the impact that that’s had on us and what it’s forced us to think about and do over the past six to 12 months, like a lot of companies.”

Paul Pettas, a vice president with Sodexo Live!, estimated overall costs are up 10% to 15% over the past 12 to 24 months.

“In reality, costs are up across the board, but we certainly try to do as much as we can to keep that down and not have that affect the average fan or guest who comes to our events,” he said.

Concessions companies also are experiencing lingering issues with their supply chains, which have improved recently but remain a factor. Obletz recalled his company running out of peanuts midway through the 2021 World Series in Atlanta, so two workers drove a truck to another venue, loaded up and then drove through the night to get back to Truist Park.

“Things are not great,” Obletz said. “They’re better than they were, it feels like, three to six months ago, and our hope is that it continues to improve.”

The issues have forced concession companies to get creative in an effort to address the rising costs with minimal effect on consumers in terms of culinary options and price.

Chefs are redesigning menus to replace items that face significant cost increases and consolidating other options. They are using analytics to examine portion sizes — do consumers need six chicken fingers or will five work instead? — and taking a closer look at their vendors.

“There’s dozens of things like this that we’ve tried to do and are doing as we speak, trying very desperately to offset those pricing increases that we’re seeing,” Obletz said.

Alison Birdwell, the president and CEO of Aramark Sports + Entertainment, said the company is leaning on analytics and its data science team “more than ever” when it comes to menu strategies and new concessions items.

“With that guidance, we are working to give fans the items they’re looking for while simultaneously being efficient with our product and mitigating significant increases in cost,” Birdwell said in a statement to AP.

___

AP Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber contributed to this report.

___

For more AP coverage of the impact of inflation: https://apnews.com/hub/inflation And for more AP sports coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

6 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

7 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

9 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

9 days ago

(Pexels photo)...

Associated Press

Baby in Kansas City, Missouri, dies after her mother mistakenly put her in an oven

An infant in Missouri died when her mother mistakenly put her down for a nap in an oven, a prosecutor said Saturday.

10 days ago

Former Arizona Department of Corrections boss Charles Ryan received probation on Feb. 9, 2024. (AP ...

Associated Press

Former Arizona corrections boss sentenced to probation over armed 2022 standoff with police

Former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan was sentenced Friday to probation for his no-contest plea to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a 2022 armed standoff at his Tempe home.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

...

FanDuel

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]

Inflation, gas prices looming over sports biz, concessions