Barring a successful court challenge, we know that Triple-A baseball is coming to El Paso in 2014, but we don't know what going to games will cost.
The owners of the team that is now the Tucson Padres have not yet determined what tickets, concessions and parking will cost at the new stadium, but judging from prices around the Pacific Coast League and the minor leagues in general, they'll be cheaper than the majors.
That's important to a sport that must emphasize entertainment over winning, said an expert in the business of sports.
MountainStar Sports, the group that owns the Tucson Padres, still is debating the configuration of the new Downtown stadium and how it will market tickets for suites and seats.
also is yet to determine what concessions will be offered and at what cost. The team is gathering economic data and conducting focus groups to make those decisions.
"It's early in the process, so with specific numbers we're not there yet," said Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar. "But we know our product is an affordable family experience."
As with other parks in the Pacific Coast League, there will be a range of ticket prices in El Paso. At the high end, for example, seats in the club area for Fresno Grizzlies games cost $40.
Ledford said he's gotten a number of inquiries from El Pasoans interested in putting up cash deposits to be first in line to buy season tickets for the best seats. MountainStar soon will
announce how to do that, he said.
But key to the team's success is pricing seats at the other end of the spectrum, said Jordan Kobritz, the former owner of the Maine Guides who now is chairman of the Sports Management Department at the State University of New York at Cortland.
"Things should be reasonable in all respects," he said.
That's especially true in affiliated, minor-league baseball. Their major-league affiliates own the players' contracts, so local owners have no control over who's on the field.
"Anybody who goes into minor-league baseball thinking they have to have a winner is licked before they start," Kobritz said "This is not about winning and losing, this is about entertainment."
That means seeing a good game, but also it includes the wacky antics that minor-league baseball is known for. And it means prices that don't keep families away, Kobritz said.
While he didn't give specific prices, Ledford said, "There will be opportunities to go to the ballpark that are less expensive than the movies."
That fits with the four other Pacific Coast League teams surveyed by the Times. For the Tacoma Raniers, for example, general-admission tickets are $7, while box seats are $25.
For the Nashville Sounds, advance-purchase tickets run from $8 to $12, while for the Fresno Grizzlies, most seats run from $8 to $16. At the Las Vegas 51s, most tickets cost between $10 and $14.
Minor-league teams run frequent specials and they're likely in El Paso as well. But Kobritz said it's unwise to give tickets away.
"If it's free, people don't attach a value to it," he said.
In terms of concessions, hot dogs at PCL stadiums checked by the Times cost from $3.50 to $4.50 and medium sodas cost from $3 in Las Vegas and Nashville to $4.75 in Fresno.
As with their major-league counterparts, beer at Pacific Coast League parks is pricey.
The cheapest standard-sized domestic beer of the teams checked by the Times is in Las Vegas -- $6. The most expensive is in Fresno -- $8.25.
Kobritz said some teams have tried slashing ticket prices to draw people into the park and then make money gouging them on concessions. He said it's a bad idea.
"A McDonald's restaurant is open more hours in a week than a baseball stadium is all season," he said. "You aren't going to compete with the restaurant trade."
Minor League Baseball, the organization to which affiliated teams at all levels belong, promotes itself as a more reasonable alternative to the majors.
This year, it compared what it would cost to take a family of four to games in the majors and the minors. The minors came out cheaper -- by a lot.
"Whether it's to see and experience the game itself, receive a giveaway item or allow the kids to play with the team mascot, fans know they can do all of these things and more at a Minor League Baseball game without breaking the bank," Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Conner said in a statement.
The survey looked at the cost of two adult tickets, two child tickets, four hot dogs, two sodas, two beers, a program and parking at the 159 clubs in the domestic leagues.
For major-league teams, the cost was $208. For minor-league teams, it was $61, although that amount is skewed downward by Single-A and Double-A parks that charge less than those at the Triple-A level.
The advantage with Triple-A, however, is that fans can see talent that's just about as good as that in the majors in a more-intimate setting, said Ledford, the president of MountainStar. Seats in El Paso's new stadium will be as good as "the best 8,000 or 9,000 seats in any major-league park."
Average prices by classification Triple-A | Double-A | Single-A | Short-A
-- Adult ticket: $8.09 | $7.05 | $7.34 | $6.04
-- Child ticket: $7.03 | $6.22 | $6.16 | $5.25
-- Hot dog: $3.41 | $3.05 | $3.03 | $2.71
-- Soda: $3.11 | $3.02 | $2.91 | $2.67
-- Beer: $5.70 | $4.85 | $5.06 | $4.62
-- Program: $2.35 | $2.59 | $2.15 | $2.08
-- --Parking: $5.22 | $4.50 | $4.41 | $4.20
-- --price where fee is charged
-- Source: Minor League Baseball
Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com
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