- Jon Greenberg, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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The average ticket prices in Major League Baseball were virtually the same as last season, according to research by Team Marketing Report, but the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox showed dramatically different prices for the 2012 season.
The average non-premium season ticket is $46.92, according to the report's exclusive Fan Cost Index (FCI) survey, which can be found at fancostexperience.com.
While the Cubs kept their prices mostly the same, the White Sox showed the biggest percentage decrease, with a 28.7 percent drop in average season ticket price, from $40.56 in 2011 to $29 this season.
It was a necessary move. The White Sox's decline in attendance has been alarming. According to ESPN's attendance tracker, the team lost 193,261 fans from 2010. They averaged 24,705 as the team failed to stir interest for anything but the Ozzie Guillen-Kenny Williams soap opera.
Attendance has dropped every season since averaging 36,511 in 2006, coming off a World Series title, but ticket prices continued to climb.
The White Sox slashed prices across the board. For example, upper box seats went from $29.44 to $18.02, and lower reserved from $41.25 to $30.02.
The Cubs' average ticket is down 1.3 percent, their second small decrease in as many seasons, to $46.30. That's a 60-cent drop from 2011. It's the third-highest average ticket in baseball, behind the Boston Red Sox ($53.38) and the New York Yankees ($51.55)
The Cubs have the third-highest FCI total at $300.29, while the Sox dropped from fourth to 12th. The Fan Cost Index total is created by combining four non-premium tickets, two beers, four soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking, two programs and two adult-size hats.
The cheapest beer at Cubs games increased to $7, and that's only available at a handful of small stands. Vendors and the main concession stands are selling beer for $7.50.
The Cubs drew an average of 37,258 during a 71-92 season that preceded massive change in the organization. Attendance was down from 37,814 in 2010, 39,610 in 2009 and a record 40,743 in 2008.
"Like I've always said, I'm really not worried about attendance," team owner Tom Ricketts said Thursday before the Cubs' season opener. "But we've got to put a good product on the field. The fact is, I think this is a very compelling team. People are going to enjoy watching these guys play. They're going to see guys who come to the park prepared, they're going to see guys playing the game the right way, hard. They're going to see guys who are aggressive on the basepaths. So I think the kind of baseball we're going to play is going to help us a lot."
Despite perceived slow ticket sales before the 2011 season began, the team blamed noticeably small crowds last spring on the unseasonable weather. Ricketts brought up Mother Nature again Thursday.
"We got brutalized last year," Ricketts said. "Last spring was worse than this past winter. We have good weather and we're going to play good baseball, and I'm not worried about attendance after that."
The Cubs have a five-tiered pricing structure, but when averaged, most seating categories were nearly the same as the previous season. Bleacher seats were down a few dollars and field box infield seats were up about $1.
The Cubs drew 41,167 on a cold but sunny Opening Day, slightly less than in previous seasons. The White Sox open at home April 13.
Jon Greenberg works for ESPNChicago.com and Team Marketing Report.
While the Cubs kept their prices mostly the same, the White Sox showed the biggest percentage decrease with a 28.7 percent drop in average season ticket price, from $40.56 in 2011 to $29 this season.