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Major sports ticket prices range widely, from $260 a seat for The New England Patriots to $15 for the Cincinnati Reds. An analysis of seat prices of the four major sports league teams shows that most teams that charge the highest prices have some things in common:

  • They are usually based in big cities
  • They have a long tradition of producing championship teams/star athletes

The prices reproduced here are based on a seven-day average or prices obtained from SeatGeek.com and researched by 24/7 Wall St. Since publication, the prices will likely have changed, but probably not significantly. In most cases, average ticket prices do not change much over the course of a season when compared to this moving average.

24/7 Wall St. analyzed factors that could influence ticket prices, such as teams’ base cities population size from the U.S. Census and Statistics Canada. Another factor is the win-loss record for the most recent season from the four leagues or the teams themselves.

ESPN.com provided regular season attendance and the change in that attendance compared with a decade ago. This last set of numbers is a good proxy for seat demand, particularly when stadium size is taken into account.

Another large influence on ticket prices is market size. Obviously, for most of these team, being based in a metropolitan area certainly helps.

However, the answer to the puzzle of how major league teams decide ticket prices is similar to the answer for most economic puzzles. Supply and demand drive the market. In the case of major league sports, with a few notable exceptions, demand is as variable as market size, franchise history, and team location.

HOCKEY:

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesPittsburgh Penguins
Average ticket price: $147.41
Win/loss record last season: 49-25-8
Attendance change last 10 years: +6.7
Area population: 2,356,285

What Pittsburgh lacks in size, it makes up for with fan fervor. The early 1990s team is regarded as one of the best NHL teams of all time. Currently led by center Sidney Crosby, who is considered one of the best active hockey players, the team won another Stanley cup in 2009. That year, the team moved out of the Civic Arena, or The Igloo, and into the Consol Energy Center, and started playing there in July, 2010.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesCalgary Flames
Average ticket price: $152.59
Win/loss record last season: 41-29-12
Attendance change last 10 years: +13.21
Area population: 1,079,310

The Flames were founded in 1972 in Atlanta, and moved to Calgary in 1980. The city had hosted two previous teams, the Tigers and the Cowboys. Less than a decade after starting as an NHL team, the Flames won their first and only Cup in 1989. The team has made several additional unsuccessful Stanley Cup runs, including a finals loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2003-2004.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesVancouver Canucks
Average ticket price: $175.29
Win/loss record last season: 54-19-9
Attendance change 10 years: +10.77
Area population: 2,116,581

Like most Canadian cities, Vancouver has a long tradition of hockey, although unlike Toronto and Montreal, it only fielded an NHL team in 1970. The Canucks, which have had colorful jerseys over the years, have never won a Stanley Cup despite playing for it three times. The most recent attempt was last year, when a loss to the Boston Bruins caused massive street riots in the city. The team has qualified for the playoffs five out of the past six years, and with elite goalie Roberto Luongo and star forward twins, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the team remains a competitive force.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesMontreal Canadiens
Average ticket price: $191.32
Win/loss record last season: 44-30-8
Attendance change last 10 years: +5.81
Area population: 3,635,571

The Canadiens, also known as the Habs (short for Les Habitants), are arguably the most storied franchise in the league’s history. Founded in 1909, the team is the league’s only professional club to predate the NHL’s foundation in 1942. The team is also one of the Original Six NHL teams. The Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, including 11 in the 22-year period from 1968-1986. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the team with the second largest amount of victories, only won 13. In recent years, the Habs have been competitive, but fallen short of a cup. In 2009-2010, the team was the 8th seed going into the playoffs, but pulled off amazing semifinal and quarterfinal victories over favorites Pittsburgh and Washington, losing in the finals to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesToronto Maple Leafs
Average ticket price: $200.51
Win/loss record last season: 37-34-11
Attendance change last 10 years: +0.5
Area population: 5,113,149

Founded in 1917, the Maple Leafs are one of the Original Six NHL team. The other teams are the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Black Hawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Rangers. The Maple leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups, although they have not won one since 1967. The Toronto region is by far the largest in Canada, and the fan base is considered one of the most rabid in professional sports, despite the fact that the team has not made the playoffs since the NHL lockout in 2004-2005.

BASKETBALL:

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesToronto Raptors
Average ticket price: $156.86
Win/loss record last season: 22-60
Attendance change last 10 years: -14.38
Area population: 5,113,149

The Toronto Raptors, the only Canadian NBA team, are not exactly the most successful team in basketball. Founded in 1995, the team has only made it to the playoffs five times, and only made it past the first round once (then lost in the second round.) Although the team had some success in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons, it has been otherwise terrible in recent years. Last season, the Raptors had a record of 22-60, the second worst in the Eastern Conference.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesNew York Knicks
Average ticket price: $170.51
Win/loss record last season: 42-40
Attendance last 10 years: -0.17
Area population: 18,897,109

The Knicks (from “The Knickerbockers”) are one of only two teams of the original National Basketball Association still located in its original city. Because New York happens to the largest metropolitan population in the country, fans have never been hard to come by. Over its history, the team has been home to some of the most famous players in basketball, including all-time greats Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing, and Phil Jackson, the last of which went on to become one of the best NBA coaches. U.S. Senator Bill Bradley also played for the Knicks.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesMiami Heat
Average ticket price: $171.22
Win/loss record last season: 58-24
Attendance last 10 years: +19.75
Area population: 5,564,635

The greater Miami area, which includes Ft. Lauderdale, is the eighth largest statistical area in the U.S. Despite this fact, the city did not have an NBA team until 1988. The Heat were formed in that year as part of an expansion, along with the Charlotte Hornets. The team has been a playoff contender (fairly) consistently since the mid 1990s, including a 2006 championship over the Dallas Mavericks. In 2010, in one of the most publicized deals in NBA history, the Heat signed Lebron James, widely considered one of the best basketball players today. Combined with star Dwayne Wade, the two players form an exciting duo that helped the team to the NBA finals last year, where they lost to Mavericks.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesChicago Bulls
Average ticket price: $172.42
Win/loss record last season: 62-20
Attendance last 10 years: +0.54
Area population: 9,461,105

The Chicago Bulls were founded in 1966. The team’s history is marked by the inclusion of Michael Jordan, often considered the greatest basketball player of all time, who joined the team in 1984. Jordan led the Bulls to their first NBA Championship win in 1991 over the Los Angeles Lakers. The team went on to win the championship in ‘92, ‘93, ‘96, ‘97, and ‘98. Aside from Jordan, the Bulls have featured a number of Hall of Famers, including Nate Thurmond, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Robert Parish, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesLos Angeles Lakers
Average ticket price: $246.24
Win/loss record last season: 57-25
Attendance last 10 years: +0.33
Area population: 12,828,837

Originally the Minneapolis Lakers, the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960, and has only missed the playoffs a handful of times since joining. The Lakers have hosted some of the most famous players in the history of the sport, including Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Kobe Bryant. The team has won the second most NBA championships (behind the Celtics), 11 times as the Los Angeles Lakers (and 4 times as Minneapolis).
BASEBALL:

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesPhiladelphia Phillies
Average ticket price: $54.77
Win/loss record last season: 97-65
Attendance change last 10 years: +104.67
Area population: 5,965,343

According to the team’s website, The Philadelphia Phillies are “the oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional sports.” Philadelphia is one of the largest sports markets in the country, with a team in each of the four major sports. Unlike some of the older teams in the league, the Phillies have had only moderate success, winning just two World Series since the start of the event in 1903. Recently, however, the team has been very successful, winning the World Series in 2008 and maintaining what is widely considered one of the best starting pitching rotations in recent history with Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay. In 2004, the team moved to Citizens Bank Park from Veterans Stadium. Despite the fact that stadium capacity decreased by more than 10,000 people, regular season attendance has more than doubled over a 10-year period.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesDetroit Tigers
Average ticket price: $65.60
Win/loss record last season: 81-81
Attendance last 10 years: +28.10
Area population: 4,296,250

The Detroit Tigers were founded on April 24, 1901, and were one of the first teams in Major League Baseball. With 4,191 career hits, Hall of Famer Ty Cobb ranks first in Tigers’ history and second in Major League history. Cobb also holds the league’s record for lifetime batting average, and topped the Tigers’ roster for batting average 12 years straight. Detroit has won four World Series, but the most recent was in 1984. Nevertheless, the team remains a strong candidate this year, clinching the American League Central, with the third best record in the American League.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesBoston Red Sox
Average ticket price: $67.89
Win/loss record last season: 89-73
Attendance last 10 years: +16.04
Area population: 4,552,402

The Boston Americans were founded in 1901 as one of the American League’s original eight charter franchises. The team would win the very first World Series, anchored by hall-of-fame pitcher Cy Young. By 1907, the team was known as the Red Sox. Between 1912 and 1918, they would win four additional World Series. However, after that final victory and the selling of pitcher and slugger Babe Ruth in 1919, things began to go poorly for the Sox. While Boston fielded many greats, including Ted Williams, it would be more than eight decades before the team would win another World Series. Boston Red Sox finally won in 2004 in legendary fashion, beating rival New York Yankees after falling behind in the ALCS 0-3. The team is now one of the best clubs teams in baseball, and won the series again in 2007.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesToronto Blue Jays
Average ticket price: $71.57
Win/loss record last season: 85-77
Attendance last 10 years: -15.13
Area population: 5,113,149

The Montreal Expos left Canada to become the Washington Nationals in 2005. Toronto then became the only non-American team in major league baseball. Since their start in 1977, the team’s only period of consistent success was in the early 1990s, when — with Roberto Alomar, John Olerud, Paul Molitor and others — the team won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993. They recently performed moderately well but struggled to make the playoffs behind the powerhouses in their division — the Yankees and Red Sox.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesNew York Yankees
Average ticket price: $85.94
Win/loss record last season: 95-67
Attendance last 10 years: +15.35
Area population: 18,897,109

The Bronx Bombers are arguably the most storied franchise in major league sports, and certainly the one with the most wins. Since their start as a the Highlanders in 1903, to their first game as the Yankees in 1913, through today, the team has rarely had a period in its history where it didn’t have a legitimate chance of winning the major league title. Since the inception of the World Series in 1903, the team has won 27 times, or one in every four series (it played and lost in an additional 13). The Yankees moved to a brand new stadium in 2010, and christened the new field with yet another World Series win.

FOOTBALL:

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesPhiladelphia Eagles
Average ticket price: $203.20
Win/loss record last season: 10-6
Attendance change last 10 years: +4.92
Area population: 5,965,343

Founded in 1933, the Eagles picked their name from what was at the time the symbol of Roosevelt’s New Deal. In 1943, when the war led to a severe shortage of players, the team merged with Pittsburgh and temporarily became the Steagles. The merger only lasted for one season. The team has never won a Super Bowl but has competed twice, most recently in a 2005 loss to the New England Patriots during the Donovan McNabb era. The team has undergone a recent explosion in talent, and is now led by electrifying and controversial quarterback Michael Vick.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesDallas Cowboys
Average ticket price: $210.22
Win/loss record last season: 6-10
Attendance last 10 years: +37.76
Area population: 6,371,773

Since the late 1970s, the Dallas Cowboys have been known as America’s Team. Dallas won two Super Bowls in the 70s and then three in a four-year period between 1992 and 1995. The latter victories were led by legendary quarterback Troy Aikman. The Cowboys’ streak of 160 sold-out regular and post-season games began in 1990, and included 79 straight sellouts at their former home, Texas Stadium, and 81 straight sell-outs on the road.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesGreen Bay Packers
Average ticket price: $229.56
Win/loss record last season: 10-6
Attendance last 10 years: +18.38
Area population: 306,241

Green Bay is arguably the most storied team in Pro Football. Green Bay is a very modest sized city, with just over 100,000 people, but the famous Lambeau Field had the 9th greatest attendance in football last year. The Green Bay Packers have won 13 league championships — more than any other team in the NFL. The victories consist of nine NFL championships prior to the Super Bowl era and four Super Bowl victories, including the very first two to be played. Led for years by future hall-of-famer Brett Favre, the team has turned over the reins to Aaron Rodgers. Under Rodgers, the team last year won the Super Bowl again, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesChicago Bears
Average ticket price: $233.66
Win/loss record last season: 11-5
Attendance last 10 years: -7.09
Area population: 9,461,105

The Chicago Bears were founded in 1920 as one of the charter members of the AFPA, which would eventually become the Modern NFL. The Bears have been moderately successful throughout their history, winning one Super Bowl in 1985 and losing another in 2006. The team had its most successful period under head coach Mike Ditka, winning a Super Bowl in 1985 and avoiding a losing record for six straight seasons. The team has been doing well lately as well, winning the AFC North last year and losing in the Conference championship to the Packers.

Major League Ticket Prices |Most Expensive CitiesNew England Patriots
Average ticket price: $260.94
Win/loss record last season: 14-2
Attendance last 10 years: +14.04
Area population: 4,552,402

The New England Patriots joined the league during the AFL/NLF merger of 1970. Since then, they have become a consistently dominant force in the NFL. Since they moved to Gilette Stadium in 2002, the team has qualified for the playoffs all but twice. In the second of those, the team had 11 regular season wins, the highest ever by a team to miss the playoffs. Under star quarterback Tom Brady, the team won three Super Bowls in four years between 2003 and 2006, and lost one in 2007 to the New York Giants after a perfect season and playoffs, going 18-1. The team had the best record in football last year, and is off to a 2-0 start this year.

(Douglas A. McIntyre and Michael B. Sauter/ Becket Adams – 24/7 Wall St./The Blaze)

Update: Since the original posting of this article, two corrections have been made.

  1. The Packers won the Superbowl against the Steelers in 2011.
  2. The Patriots joined the NFL in 1970 during the AFL/NLF merger.

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