NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Another NFL season, another year of beer-drinking football fans being sacked for a loss.
NFL fans who actually leave their flatscreens, sofas and DirecTV's (DTV) NFL Sunday Ticket behind to attend games this year will find themselves blitzed from all sides. The league's average ticket price jumped 2.5%, to more than $78, according to Team Marketing Report. The average cost to take a family of four to a game, park, have a beer, hot dog and soda and go home with a program and a cap jumped 4%, to $443.93. That includes beer prices that jumped from an average of 42 cents an ounce last year to 43 cents an ounce this year.
If you live outside of Ohio and Tampa, Fla. -- where beer prices at home games of the Cleveland Browns ($5 for 16 ounces), Cincinnati Bengals ($5 for 12 ounces) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($5.75 for 16 ounces) rank among the lowest in the league -- be prepared to pay a minimum of $6 per beer at the stadium this year. With help from NFL concessionaires Aramark, Delaware North and Centerplate and Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index, we found the Top 10 beer prices in the league and the teams hosing their fans for suds:
10. Tie: St. Louis Rams/Baltimore Ravens
Price of a small draft beer: $8 for 20 ounces
Price per ounce: 40 cents
When beer's as much a part of the city's heritage as it is in St. Louis, it can serve as a direct route to citizens' hearts and minds. Since the Rams haven't made the playoffs since 2004, haven't had a winning record since 2003 and have had three wins or less in four of the past five seasons, its demand that the city pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a promised stadium can seem a bit insensitive. Dropping average ticket prices by 2% and dropping the price of beer by a buck without shrinking the size of the cup are savvy PR moves by a team that clearly knows its key demographic.
The Ravens, meanwhile, were a dropped touchdown pass away from the Super Bowl last year and have hiked the price of a beer at M&T Bank (MTB) Stadium by 25 cents since. You can do that when you make the playoffs in six of the past 10 years, make the AFC Championship game twice in that span and have a fiercely loyal following as a result.
9. Detroit Lions
Price of a small draft beer: $8.50 for 20 ounces
Price per ounce: 42 cents
You have to hand it to the Lions: If you're going to raise beer prices by a buck, it's probably best to do it after your first winning season since 1997 and your first playoff appearance since the Clinton administration. Stacked with talent such as quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, the Lions are trying their best to erase memories of winless seasons and blacked-out games. Jacking up beer prices and asking 8% more for tickets at Ford (F) Field may be a tough test of equity in a cash-strapped market, but more winning will minimize the blow a bit.
8. Buffalo Bills
Price of a small draft beer: $9 for 20 ounces
Price per ounce: 45 cents
It takes a pair of something buffalo-sized to raise the price of beer by 50 cents when your team hasn't had a winning record or a playoff appearance since the turn of the century, plays one home game a year in Toronto and blacks out local television broadcasts when its fan base fails to fill a stadium considerably smaller than the Bears' home in Chicago. Did we mention that Bills ownership is also looking to local taxpayers to foot the bill for stadium improvements with no guarantee that the team will stick around? With the small-market team charging big-market prices for beer, how do fans say no?
7. San Francisco 49ers
Price of a small draft beer: $7.75 for 16 ounces
Price per ounce:48 cents
They play in one of the most expensive cities in the country and had a team that was a flub away from going to the Super Bowl last year. Of course they have high beer prices. The question is: After the team's first playoff appearance since 2002, how aren't those beer prices higher? Let's just say it's a touchy subject. The 49ers are playing out their last seasons in San Francisco before moving to a new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014. Ground has been broken, steel has been driven and bitterly impassioned speeches have been made by San Francisco politicos. It's likely the reason neither ticket prices nor beer prices have budged within the last year. The team still needs to draw some of those unconvinced faithful at Candlestick Park to Silicon Valley. It's a whole lot easier to do that as the line-holding game-day nice guys than as money grabbers moving the team in the dead of night.
6. Tie: Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders
Price of a small draft beer: $8 for 16 ounces in Seattle, $7 for 14 ounces in Oakland
Price per ounce: 50 cents
The last time this team made the playoffs, it did so with a losing record. This season, it handed the ball to a rookie quarterback and watched as an Arizona Cardinals QB considered one of the shakiest in the league handed the team its first loss. How do you justify charging one of the highest beer prices in the league armed with that information? Simple: Seahawks fans are unflaggingly loyal. The "12th Man" has its own flag at CenturyLink (CTL) Field. It registered on the Richter scale when running back Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown in the playoffs two years ago. It cheers at nearly 140 decibels, or roughly as loud as one of Boeing's jet engines. Does it make that beer price fair? No. Will that price preclude Seahawks fans from coming out and luring opponents into false starts and offsides penalties? Absolutely not.
It's a bit of a different story in Oakland. Never mind the fact that the Raiders have spent much of their time in Oakland losing and having home games blacked out on local television. Never mind that the teams last two 8-8 seasons are considered a dramatic improvement. Never mind that their home stadium -- O.Co (OSTK) Coliseum -- is the last in the country to host both a football and baseball team and is roundly despised by the latter. It's still close enough to Silicon Valley and its money to charge what it does for beer and even entertain offers to move to the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara, where beer prices will undoubtedly be much higher.
5. Dallas Cowboys
Price of a small draft beer: $8.50 for 16 ounces
Price per ounce: 53 cents
In the average fan's world, $8.50 for a beer is steep. In Jerry World, it's perhaps one of the most reasonable items on the menu. Owner Jerry Jones is charging fans as much for the giant screens at midfield and the dancing girls in the cages around the stadium as he is for anything happening on the field. There is no public transportation to games whatsoever, which means you're either taking a cab or paying $75 for parking, well over the $27.35 league average. Want a program? That's $10, or more than double the league average of $4. Want a return on your investment? Well, the Cowboys haven't won a Super Bowl since 1995, have won one playoff game since 1997 and haven't made the playoffs since 2009. Enjoy the show.
4. Chicago Bears
Price of a small draft beer: $8.50 for 16 ounces
Price per ounce: 53 cents
Bears fans have endured enough bad news this season to warrant early hibernation. Sure, average ticket prices jumped 8.5% to more than $100 and quarterback Jay Cutler looked like a rabbit at a dog track while running from the Green Bay Packers' defense in an embarrassing loss. Coupled with a 50-cent uptick in beer prices from last year, it's enough early season indignity to make Chicago's sports faithful count the days until Derrick Rose and the Bulls return.
3. New York Jets/Giants
Price of a small draft beer: $8.75 for 16 ounces
Price per ounce: 55 cents
The Jets and Giants rank Nos. 1 and 4, respectively, among NFL ticket prices. The have the newest stadium in the league that's stacked with luxury boxes and amenities, if not season ticketholders willing to pay for personal seat licenses. They're also (technically) in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the world, never mind the country. At least Giants fans have fresh memories of a Super Bowl parade that make those overpriced suds easier to swallow. By contrast, even Fireman Ed's yelling can't drown out the fact that man hadn't landed on the moon the last time the Jets won a title. Have another, Gang Green.
2. San Diego Chargers
Price of a small draft beer: $9 for 16 ounces
Price per ounce: 56 cents
You know who's perhaps the least surprised by this price? Chargers fans. The Spanos family that owns the Chargers has made it clear they don't think the team's home at Qualcomm (QCOM) Stadium is up to snuff and that they want a new one from the city, Chula Vista, Los Angeles or whoever's willing to foot the bill. The NFL has told the owners San Diego won't host another Super Bowl until its gets a new facility. Meanwhile, stars players continue to leave, attendance continues to fall and games continue to be blacked out as ownership rebuffs the NFL's new reduced-capacity measures that would keep home games on the air. Fans are left paying a dollar more for a small beer than they did last year and are getting four ounces less for their trouble. It's not surprising, but it doesn't seem sustainable, either.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Price of a small draft beer: $7 for 12 ounces
Price per ounce: 58 cents
Economic reality is about to hit the Colts hard this season. That beer price may have been sustainable or even shrugged off when Peyton Manning was leading the team to Super Bowls, winning most-valuable-player awards and making the playoffs an annual tradition in Indiana. But Peyton's in Denver now, the Colts went 2-14 in his absence last year and are looking to a rookie quarterback to right the ship. Forget whether any of that instills confidence in the Colts faithful or even gets them to fill lovely Lucas Oil (LEI) Stadium: Is any of it worth the highest per-ounce beer price in the league?
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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