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Soldier Field parking price hike highlights issue with NFL’s stadium experience push

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The cost of parking at Soldier Field will be higher this season than it was in 2011.

That fact, in and of itself, is not really worthy of much comment. Prices rise over time in almost every walk of life and parking in lots or garages has long been one of the most egregious adopters of the trend. In Chicago, the prices will go from $46 to $49, excluding service fees according to the Chicago Sun-Times, in most lots and that means it will cost more for tailgaters to gather before games at Soldier Field.

If this isn’t worthy of much comment, you might ask why we’re commenting? It’s because it is hard to miss the correlation between this price increase and the recent focus on attendance at NFL games declining every season since 2007. Expensive parking is just one of many reasons why people choose to stay home instead of buying tickets to games. In response, teams are pushing all kinds of enhanced in-game experiences that have shared one common theme.

All of them — better wireless internet, more replays on the big screens — are designed to make going to games more like watching them at home. That’s all well and good, but there have been better sounding business models than charging people a lot of money to give them what they can already get at home.

Basically, the in-game experience that’s been talked about so much this offseason has to include things that make people feel like they are missing out on something significant by not going to the games. It’s not easy to figure out what these things might be and it isn’t easy to implement them once you do. The Jets and Giants used the chance to attend post-game press conferences part of their sales pitch at MetLife Stadium, but they quickly cancelled it when they realized that letting liquored-up fans into those gatherings was a bad idea.

Cheaper prices are an easy suggestion, but those making it gloss over the fact that it still doesn’t solve the issue that going to games costs a lot more money than staying home. It also ignores the fact that the guys owning these teams are in the business of making as much money as they possibly can and that slightly better attendance at lower rates won’t accomplish that nearly as well as their current model.

That’s not to say they aren’t part of the solution, however. Bringing things back to where we started, one of the things the NFL can offer at games that you can’t get at home is the communal celebration seen at tailgates around the league. Making that a priority, including designated family-friendly areas well away from those lubricating themselves all morning in addition to lower prices, is one way the league can stop trying to mimic the home experience while maximizing the enjoyment of going to an NFL game.

We look forward to hearing other suggestions from PFT Planet in the comments section.

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39 Responses to “Soldier Field parking price hike highlights issue with NFL’s stadium experience push”
  1. joetoronto says: Jul 12, 2012 10:22 AM

    Plain and simple, it’s just not worth it.

  2. squared80 says: Jul 12, 2012 10:27 AM

    Someone will pay it. Until fans stop going, the prices will keep going up. Again, someone will pay it.

  3. savocabol1 says: Jul 12, 2012 10:32 AM

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again….why would I want to spend over $200 and have my entire Sunday consumed by a football game when I can watch it with all my friends in front of my 60in HD flat screen.

    Not to mention the fact that watching it on TV at home or in a bar I actually get to see replays, watch close plays at several different angles, get up to the minute information on potential injuries that just occurred, watch different games during halftime/commercials, drink beer that isn’t $20 for a 12oz, and not have to worry about the headache of traffic after each game.

    I will be missing out on a tailgating experience which sucks. But I think my wallet will get over it.

  4. wrathofgodzilla says: Jul 12, 2012 10:39 AM

    I don’t always agree with Joe, but when I do, it’s because he’s right.

  5. blackandbluedivision says: Jul 12, 2012 10:41 AM

    Wow that’s pretty cheap compared to parking elsewhere in downtown Chicago.

  6. dabeardown says: Jul 12, 2012 10:42 AM

    I love going to Soldier Field, but it’s basically like a mini vacation.

    $105 – Ticket to nose bleed seats
    $60 – parking
    $50 – 6 Beers
    $20 – Food

    $235 just to attend the game for 1 person, try bringing a family of four. Over $500? I think I’ll pass for now. Plus my 55″ HDTV doesn’t charge admission and my wife doesn’t charge me to park in the driveway.

  7. mantastic54 says: Jul 12, 2012 10:43 AM

    Yet despite the increase, The bears will sell out every game within 1 minute of tickets going on sale.

  8. zn0rseman says: Jul 12, 2012 10:48 AM

    Good beer and good food would really help in my opinion.

    Right now, you pay something like 9$ for a Bud Light and another $7 for a bad hotdog or slice of bland and gooey pizza.

    If I could go to the game and buy an ice cold Warsteiner Dunkle and some smoked meats that I love, that would make me far more likely to want to attend the game.

    Also, at games the prices for gear and knick-knacks is higher than at most stores. They should be selling things like jerseys, coffee mugs, hats, t-shirts and everything else cheap at the game. This would draw fans to the games, since you can buy stuff cheaper at the game than you can elsewhere. Think of it like an outlet mall for fans. Only you get to see the game live as well as take care of all of your football shopping needs.

  9. raiders757 says: Jul 12, 2012 10:55 AM

    It’s obvious that the entertainment providers in America just don’t “get it” anymore. Lower the prices and stop being greedy. The seats will fill and you will still get rich. It won’t hurt to downsize your yacht by ten or fifteen feet, or rent a private jet instead of owning one.

  10. pleasantsurpriselefty says: Jul 12, 2012 10:56 AM

    I had seasons tickets and enjoyed going to the games but when they raised parking fees to $30 I packed it in. It’s only when everybody stops going will they stop that nonsense.

    Why would any Patriots fan want to subsidize Robert Kraft’s viagra bill which seems to be substantial these days?

  11. ravenfan820 says: Jul 12, 2012 10:58 AM

    We need to have a day across the entire NFL slate of games when no one buys a single thing inside the stadium. No food, no beer, nothing…..

    Fans have to show the owners that we are serious about prices being to high and we are reaching the tipping point.

    Maybe this site can organize the day we do it??

  12. east96st says: Jul 12, 2012 11:00 AM

    Let us know when they develop a scanner that indicates who will turn into a raging a**hole after three or more beers. The simple reality is society has changed for the worse. When I was kid, if some drunk douche wanted to scream vulgarities and make a fool of himself, my dad and every other man in the stands would have pounded him senseless and the cop would have arrested the drunken idiot and thanked the men that “softened him up”. There were autographs, before and after the game, for KIDS and players were happy to do it. Adults stood to the side and made sure the kids said, “Thank you”. No idiot who makes his living off Ebay knocking over children to get a football signed. Even if Ebay had existed, no one would have the guts to plow in front of kids. Again, the dads would have made sure of it. Now, everyone can act anyway they damn well please because “I paid for my ticket, man, and I have rights.”. Of course, what’s ignored, is they trample everyone else’s rights behaving in a manner that would have been unthinkable in public not that long ago. Sorry, public sporting events have been disgusting spectacles were barely literate morons vent all their anger at the world while proving that most Americans can’t handle their alcohol. Pass.

  13. cidman2001 says: Jul 12, 2012 11:03 AM

    Hey, I think I see the problem here. I can buy a ticket to Nascar race for less than I can park at Soldier field! I can take my family to the movies for less than I pay to park at Soldier Field. I can buy a few cases of beer and tailgate in my living room for what I pay to park at Soldier Field….. and on and on. It’s not rocket science. The owners can work on “the fan experience” all they want. The fact is the prices for everything are simply too high. If you want to fill the seats, how about at least trying to make it affordable for the average person?

  14. miainthemia says: Jul 12, 2012 11:18 AM

    I think you said it well – it’s up to the owners to decide how to maximize their profits. I couldn’t care less about “enhancing the in-game experience” or declining total attendance. These guys make their own decisions.

    The real problem is the blackout rule. It shouldn’t exist for teams that take public funds to build stadiums, pure and simple.

    It would be great if community leaders/politicians would actually stand up and fight for the rights of their constituents, instead of handing over tax dollars to private corporations when teachers, policepeople, health care professionals, and many other public sector workers are getting laid off due to our crap economy. While all citizens are getting less and less public services for their tax dollar on a daily basis, it’s outrageous that some municipalities can justify spending those same tax dollars on stadiums which drive profits for private enterprises – and those same taxpayers (who can’t afford the exorbitant prices of pro football games) can’t even watch the games at home! In a stadium they paid for!

    That’s the joke we all live in in this country. Communities fighting over themselves to hand their money over to the richest among us.

    And before you start spitting BS about how football teams generate tax revenue – stop it. You’re wrong. They do not generate new tax revenue, just redistribute where tax revenue comes from. Every major economic study of any worth has validated that the overall tax revenue a city gets from having a football team (or any pro sports team) is not in the least bit incremental to what they would have gotten had there been no football team. The biggest difference? The taxes that players and coaches pay on their salaries earned in said city/state. Of course, that only applies to cities and states that have an income tax.

  15. binkystevens says: Jul 12, 2012 11:19 AM

    You can park on a dude’s lawn 2 blocks from Lambeau for $5. And get a ticket on the 50 yard line for $60. All the while enjoying the best in-game experience in the NFL.

  16. packergalmke says: Jul 12, 2012 11:20 AM

    In Green Bay, the Packer’s organization set up the Tundra Zone, a permanent structure in the parking lot. It is free for anyone, with a game ticket or not. Two former players (different ones every time) show up to give out free autographs and talk to fans. This is for every home game.

  17. westcoastraider says: Jul 12, 2012 11:24 AM

    At least give me a shirt or bobble head for attending the game

  18. farmmbig says: Jul 12, 2012 11:26 AM

    It has to end sometime— There’s no way the profits can continue to grow within the Professional Sports area.

    They’ve lost touch with the real fan and the average American– especially in these difficult financial times. You can only increas prices so far when people are either losing their jobs or stuck on frozen salaries while the cost of essentials continue going up.

    Been a sports fan all of my life. But the fact that pro sports have alienated average financial people is disheartening– But I can live without it.

  19. buckhenderson says: Jul 12, 2012 11:26 AM

    This whole discussion drives me crazy. I understand that stadium and parking revenue is relevant for teams. However, the revenue stream pales in comparison to the shared broadcast revenue.

    The NFL ought to be (and probably is) primarily concerned about degrading the attractiveness of the game for television broadcast if they play the game in ghost towns.

    As a previous commenter said, the answer is easy — drop the price until the stadiums are full.

    The problem with this is the gap between the haves and the have nots will widen. The weak teams with attendance problems will need to give up local revenue so that they do not endanger the golden goose of TV revenue…

  20. smokin22 says: Jul 12, 2012 11:30 AM

    I had some Rams tickets offered to me once years ago vs the Pats while on a business trip in St. Louis and jumped at the chance to finally be able to attend a pro game. Took the train to and from the game so parking wasn’t an issue. While I’m glad I went to the game so I could at least say that I’ve been to a pro game once, I have no desire to ever go to a game again, as it was almost impossible to even tell what was happening on the field, no leg room in front of the seats, ended up watching most of the game on the big screen over the field. Even if I could afford the cost of going to the game I have no desire to ever go again.

  21. restonraven says: Jul 12, 2012 11:35 AM

    I go to one – maybe two Ravens games a year. It is simply too cost prohibitive and I make a comfortable living. It is cheaper for me to buy two tickets to one of the marquee games (e.g. – Steelers & Cowboys this year) than spring for a PSL and season tix + parking pass and food for all the games on the home schedule. Yes – it is a fun atmosphere and M&T is a great stadium experience. I just simply cannot afford more.

    I will also say that I will NOT bring my children to a game. It really has turned into an adult only rowdy bar experience. To watch grown men get drunk, shout obscenities and get into physical altercations simply because they are wearing different jerseys and cheer for different professional sports teams is commonplace. I’d love to tell the drunken fist-fighting clowns in the Ngata & Polomalu jerseys that neither Troy nor Haloti would take the time to piss on them if they were on fire. I really do fear incidents like the shooting at the 49ers/Raiders game last year or the Giants fan that was nearly beaten to death by Dodger’s fans last year are going to happen more often if stadiums don’t make this a more friendly experience – which is hard to do when there is beer and beer advertising everywhere.

  22. Great Caesar's Ghost says: Jul 12, 2012 11:45 AM

    Let me play in one NFL down. That’s something I can’t do at home.

  23. tgraider says: Jul 12, 2012 11:56 AM

    Well for those of you that don’t know and clearly that is most. The parking lots a crossed the NFL in many cases are privately owed and operated. For me and my Raider Family tailgate for 5 hours prior to in game is a major part of the experiance. I will gladly continue to pay for it even at $50.

  24. FinFan68 says: Jul 12, 2012 11:58 AM

    It costs 3 times as much money to park at Soldier Field (and many other NFL stadiums) for a regular season game as it did to buy a ticket to the first Super Bowl. [OK, "First World Championship Game, AFL vs. NFL" for all you sticklers:)]

    This is why the NFL owners are blasted on many other articles. There was no need to raise the prices at all other than pure greed and the knowledge that plenty of people will just simply pay it.

    Fans direct their anger solely at the owners and that is misplaced. They deserve criticism but not all of it. Some of that criticism needs to be directed towards fellow fans. People pay PSLs not because the owner says they must but because they don’t want “the next guy” to get “their” seats. Fans are competing against fans and that is what is driving prices up. The love of the game is inviting scams to take advantage of fans. (PSLs, $10 swill, $8 hot dog or cardboard pizza, etc.)

    The rise in quality of the home experience will mean one inevitable thing–pay-per-view NFL games. The league will try to make as much money as they can and will expand the ares in which they already make that money. The only hurdle is the network money. Once the TV contracts get so big that advertising money won’t quite cover it, the networks will back off from bidding (at least one already has) and the road to PPV NFL gets some new pavement and fans will be forced to pay the toll if they want to see the games at all.

  25. domeunit says: Jul 12, 2012 11:59 AM

    I can get burgers, beers, use a bathroom that hasn’t been puked all over, and hang out with my friends/family at home for half the price of a nosebleed ticket. It’s not surprising that the average fan is staying home since they’ve been priced out of attending. I’ll just watch the game on my couch with people that won’t use the walls as a bathroom and people that won’t get drunk and fight for wearing a different jersey than yours. Being at the game is fun, but not at the price of a vacation.

  26. robf2010 says: Jul 12, 2012 12:27 PM

    “I’ve said it before and I will say it again….why would I want to spend over $200 and have my entire Sunday consumed by a football game when I can watch it with all my friends in front of my 60in HD flat screen. ”

    As long as 70,000+ people ARE willing to pay that $200 and spend their entire Sunday in attendance, people like you can stay home and watch the games for free with all of their friends. As soon as attendance starts consistently dipping below sellout, you and your friends will have to listen to your games on radio while the networks show you some other game. That’s how it used to be. The NFL needs to improve the stadium experience and make it worth whatever those fans are paying. In fact, they need to go further than that. They need to make the experience better than the ones fans get at home.

  27. butchhickory says: Jul 12, 2012 12:31 PM

    Let me start out by saying I love football. But why would I want to go to a game when I can say home and have a better experience? They want to make going to a game the same as staying home. Really? Then, I’ll just stay home. That’s like going to a restaurant and asking what the 30 dollar meal tastes like like and they say ” it tastes just like chicken”. Then, I’ll take the 10 dollar chicken meal.

  28. hoosiermizuno says: Jul 12, 2012 12:48 PM

    As much as i hate the high prices and i think the attendance is on a downward spiral….these owners are smart enough and have enough analysts to know what combination of price and attendance will make the most money.

    If they dont sell out but sell 90% of the tickets at $100 that beats lowering the prices drastically to $60 just to sell 100%. it boils down to the demand and whats going to make the most money.

    My argument has always been that once fans start staying away to the point that owners start decreasing profits, these fans won’t automatically start showing back up once prices are lowered. Might be better off lowering prices now to keep the fan base for the future.

  29. nortonfest says: Jul 12, 2012 12:49 PM

    “Price of a vacation” seems to be a common theme here, and I agree. I usually get in one game a year. This year it will be in KC, next year in Dallas. It is expensive, but it is my reward for working. I do wonder how so many people can afford season tickets and all of the other costs that go with it.

    The biggest complaint I have is when the tickets are not sold to actual fans but to companies that are in the business of scalping the tickets. So now the $45 nosebleed seat is sold on StubHub or eBay for $100, and not only is the rich owner getting richer, but so is some other a$$-clown that doesn’t care about the team at all.

    If I am lucky, I will find some reasonably priced seats from someone not trying to screw me royally. Occasionally you can find someone who for whatever reason can’t go to a particular game and isn’t out to rob you blind.

  30. diehardtwinsfan says: Jul 12, 2012 12:55 PM

    Here’s the thing, the owners are going to charge the highest prices they can possibly get while still filling seats… they can do all the marketin gin the world, but when push comes to shove, it’s the fans that dictate that price point, because once it gets too high, the fans stop paying… this is why attendence is down, the oweners, for the most part, are on the wrong side of the bell curve. They found the max and are exceeding it. Some teams can still get away with it, but others are going to struggle. If the economy was better, they might still be able to get away with raising prices, but a good chunk of their fan base cannot fork out a signficant chunk of change just to watch a game, and so they don’t go….

    Until the economy improves, the owners are going to need to lower prices.

  31. vader7176 says: Jul 12, 2012 1:00 PM

    I wonder what the NFL price gougers will do once the new FBS NCAA tournament starts raking in huge cash.

  32. romo2dez88 says: Jul 12, 2012 1:23 PM

    Both Binky and Packer are right.
    As a lifelong diehard Cowboys fan going into Lambeau field was the best stadium experience I’ve ever had. Coming from a guy who’s been to 15 NFL stadiums I can honestly say that there is nothing like it in the NFL. Polite fans, hometown feel, but most importantly, people that truly love football and truly respect the game. We lost 42-7 (We got the tickets before Romo went down for the year) but we had the best time we’ve ever had. It makes you really respect the Packers and their organization. It’s all done the right way.

  33. buckhenderson says: Jul 12, 2012 1:32 PM

    The problem is the local optima. Local revenues are kept by individual owners while broadcast revenues are split.

    Therefore, in the near term, each individual owner has an incentive to maximize local revenue, even though it may negatively affect shared broadcast revenue in the future.

    However, sharing all revenue is not a good solution either, as it would encourage more “Mike Brown” style free riders.

  34. tebowsafraud says: Jul 12, 2012 1:35 PM

    Seems to me the best deal in Chicago is to pay $50 for parking near Soldier Field (most prefer the Planetarium spots). Get there as soon as the lot opens and do the whole “tail gate” thing. THEN…

    About 35 mins before kickoff you leave the stadium area and head over to your local pub of choice to watch the game on their huge HDTV screens.

    That way you have the best of both worlds!

  35. Burritto says: Jul 12, 2012 2:20 PM

    Lowering prices is an obvious solution, but think about it… how much lower would the games have to be for those of you who are suggesting this? If you’re upset at spending the price of a vacation to take your family to the game, would a 10% price reduction (costing the team millions) be enough to change your mind? It seems like you want the game at an entirely different price point, and it’s going to take more than dwindling attendance for that to happen.

  36. nflpasux says: Jul 12, 2012 3:23 PM

    re “Cheaper prices are an easy suggestion, but those making it gloss over the fact that it still doesn’t solve the issue that going to games costs a lot more money than staying home.”

    You too quickly have dismissed the root of the problem. Attending NFL games has never and never will be as cost-effective as staying home to watch on TV. However, there’s a big difference between being merely being more expensive and being ridiculously hosed. NFL tickets, food (often worse than fast-food), watered down beers, outlandish tailgate prices at dumpy facilities with porta-pots instead of working sanitary facilities, etc. push the cost of attending NFL games in good but non-premium seats toward $1,000/day for a family.

    Here’s hoping that the 85% blackout rule is the tip of the iceberg. NFL and NFLPA have been sticking it to the consumer for so long that they assumed that it could go one forever. It may take large swaths of empty seats around the league to finally convince the NFL robber barons that their price gouging — in particular mandatory purchase of 2 preseason games — needs to be reversed by major price decreases. Or else they may kill the goose that laid the golden egg (the goose being the paying fan).

  37. pagomes1 says: Jul 12, 2012 4:08 PM

    Going to Eagles games are frustrating that i cant receive any cell service. Makes it difficult to text friends in the stadium to meet after game or to check up on other games going on around the league on my phone.

    All of my friends have stopped going to games because of technology issues of not seeing replays, updates and lack of communicating via cell phone. I love tailgates and the NFL experience but rather save money and find out myself of key fantasy alerts at home rather than hearing about it 4 hours later.

  38. hoosiermizuno says: Jul 12, 2012 4:41 PM

    Has goodell responded to the apathy of fans going to the games? just curious if this issue is even on his radar or if he just blames the economy and doesn’t really see it as a problem and teams are still getting rich even on lower attendance.

  39. manofaiki says: Jul 12, 2012 9:54 PM

    The one thing that helps separate a customer of your business from his money the first time is what is called ‘perception of value’ or POV.

    He or she SEES something you are offering that they want, and they give you a certain amount of their $ to obtain the item or the experience.

    Whether or not you get REPEAT BUSINESS from them depends on if their POV goes UP or DOWN after the item is used or the event/experience is over.

    In the highly competitive hotel business, they invest a lot of their $ studying what their customers want because they are looking for repeat business where the customer is HAPPY at the thought of coming back and shelling out more $ to them even if their price has gone up.

    They carefully study the experience of the average hotel guest from the moment they exit a vehicle and arrive on the grounds to the moment they check out and leave the premises. What did they customer like? What did they not like? How was your checking in experience? What did you like about the bathroom, the shower & what did you not like?

    Has the NFL ever attempted this? From the moment you drove onto the stadium parking lot, what did you like/not like? One the way into the stadium on foot, how was it? Were you able to fully enjoy the game or were there distractions/things that made you uncomfortable? If so, what?

    Maybe the NFL itself hasn’t done this homework, but if I’m an NFL owner with my own stadium, I’d be keenly interested in what my customers think of the live-attendance experience and I’d be constantly looking for ways to improve it.

    This is why Jerry Jones is my favorite owner in this regard, because the way he put Cowboys Stadium together shows he learned a lot from listening to fans and trying to give them a full an experience as possible with a minimum of discomforts.

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