No new stadiums mean lower, steady ticket prices

That's the main excuse -- er, reason -- that franchises and universities employ to lift prices. Replacing a building results in increases of up to 20 percent, according to sports economics expert Dennis Coates, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Fortunately, he said, "Most teams aren't getting a new stadium all that often."

Otherwise, Coates said, ticket rates tend to rise roughly in concert with the cost of living, which has grown 28 percent since New Year's Day 2000.

Determining precise price hikes by individual teams is difficult because of insufficient data. "Numbers are really hard to get a handle on," Coates said.

The most widely cited study is from Team Marketing Report (TMR), a sports marketer based in Wilmette, Ill., known for its Fan Cost Index for each major league pro team. But its formula can change from year-to-year as clubs offer creative pricing, such as "premium" seats that may include other perks and varying costs for games on the schedule.

Coates foresees relatively customer-friendly pricing for awhile as the next decade launches amid a recession.

"I think clubs are going to be fairly restrained over the next few years," he said.

All bets are off for the Falcons, though, if they move into a new stadium.

Here is a glance at how costs of the city's four pro sports teams and the state's two major college football programs have tracked during the decade. Information was made available by TMR's Fan Cost Index and each institution. (The Falcons declined to send figures, other than this season's.)

BRAVES

They entered the decade having won nine consecutive division titles and with the ninth highest average MLB seat at $19.78, according to TMR. The automatic playoff appearances ceased in 2006, precipitating a downward pricing trend.

Last season's TMR Braves average was $17.05, 28th in the 30-team league and well below the high of $22.05 in 2001.

However, admittance to the dugout sections (the highest price other than luxury suites and premium seating) doubled from $35 to $70. The team increased tickets for that section in seven of the 10 years.

The most expensive season ticket jumped from $2,905 in 2000 to $4,980.

In 2004, the Braves tacked on a fee of $3 (now $4) for designated weekend and special-opponent games, such as the Red Sox and Yankees.

For the budget-conscious, a $1 seat in a small, distant section of Turner Field has been offered. A larger far-off section charged $5 from 2000-07, then was bumped to $6. In ‘07, season tickets in that area became available for $249, an amount that still stands.

FALCONS

Following a brief dip, their increase in average price has been substantial, according to TMR, from $40.42 (28th in the 32-team league) at the turn of the century to $72.45 (14th) this season.

The kindest season on fans' wallets was 2002, when Arthur Blank bought the club and applied a marketing theory from his Home Depot days: Get ‘em in the door by any means possible, then hook ‘em with a good product.

The cheapest seats went for $10 per game, $100 for the season. That lowered TMR's average to $29.78.

This season, the price hike was 13.3 percent, greater than any team other than the Dallas Cowboys, which opened a palatial stadium.

For the NFL, TMR breaks out a premium ticket category. When it introduced those numbers in 2002, the Falcons averaged $154.21. This year, it's $228.55.

HAWKS

Their recent rise in the standings has paralleled a modest northward drift in prices. They entered the decade, according to TMR, with a $45.87 norm (18th in the 30-team league) and exits at $51.78 (14th).

Coming off a 33-win season in 2001-02, the Hawks' TMR average fell to $37.50 and mostly stayed in that range until this year.

The Hawks' highest non-premium average seat started at $80, then eclipsed $100 for awhile before declining to $92 last season and settling at $97 this year. But its season ticket tag in that category is $4,268, well above $3,440 from 2006-07.

As for nose-bleeds, the Hawks pitched a $10 seat 10 years ago, hiked it to $25 in ‘06 and have brought it back down to 10 bucks.

THRASHERS

They opened the decade with an average ticket at $51.29 (eighth of 30 NHL squads), according to TMR. The figure plunged into the mid-$30s in ‘03 and ‘04, then drifted higher to its current $48.51 (13th).

In the premium seat segment, the Thrashers are ranked 16th by TMR at $107.25. In 2005, the first year that TMR recorded premiums, the average was a whopping $159.97 before retreating into the $80 range.

The team's best non-premium seat in 2000 was $70, dipped to $54 the following year, then bounced back to $75. It has ascended steadily since to its current $98.

For nearly every season, a view from the rafters has gone for $10.

GEORGIA TECH

Football season tickets have gone from $160 in 2000 to $260 this season. The amounts varied from year-to-year based partly on the number of home games and whether the Jackets played host to rival Georgia.

For season tickets, additional contributions to the Tech Fund are required. Its range of $75 to $750, hinging on seat location, has been fairly static in recent years.

Single-game seats were $25 and $30 in 2000. This year, games against foes in the Football Bowl Subdivision sold for $50, while the Bulldogs' visit was $75. The previous year's amounts were $40 and $50.

GEORGIA

Football season tickets climbed from $162 to $240 during the decade, with some fluctuation depending whether the Bulldogs staged six or seven home games.

In 2000, contributions to the athletics department for the rights to purchase those seats were optional at $150 or $200 per. This season, the mandatory contribution began at $250 and topped off at $2,000.

Single-game seats were $27 for two years, $32 for the next six and $40 the past two.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.