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.