Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cheaper on the Outside!!

Those who have followed this blog for any length of time (all three of you) know that I have criticized the Cubs organization on a number of occasions for their treatment of the paying fans.

I've had numerous problems with their arrogant tone used to demand payment for tickets that have gone up in price again, their unwillingness to even say thank you when you do hand them a check for thousands of dollars, or the stadium personnel's lack of warmth, efficiency, or even competency.

So it concerned me a bit when I stumbled on an article on the Houston Chronicle website by Ken Hoffman that revealed that the Houston Astros are the only major league team to ban all outside food and beverage from their ballpark. Hoffman is not bothered in the slightest by this fact.

"I’ve been to a bunch of stadiums around the country. I’ve never noticed a lot of fans bringing in food with them. I’ve never seen a guy at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia with a Subway sandwich in his pocket."

I'll grant you that the majority of fans don't bring in their own food. I've been known to grab a Jimmy Johns sandwich when walking up Clark from the Belmont stop, or grabbing a Quarter Pounder at the McDonald's across the street from Wrigley, but those occasions are rare and a ban on food would not bother me that much personally.

However, there are plenty of people who buy the peanuts out on the street because, as the peanut sellers outside will remind you, they are "cheaper on the outside." Lots of families will bring sandwiches, or their own bags of popcorn or cracker jack so they don't have to pay $20 more per kid to feed them during a game.

I see lots of 7-11 Big Gulp cups around the stadium that I know saved their owners at least $3 in beverage expenses.

While it may not be a big deal to Mr. Hoffman to spend that extra $10 on a hot dog, coke, and peanuts, it is a big deal for a family of four trying not to have to take out a loan in order to be able to afford enjoying a ballgame together.

My fear is that someone in the Cubs front office is going to see this as an opportunity to seize more revenue that flows outside the ballpark and bring it into the ballpark at an inflated price. They may have been fearful of doing it before because they didn't want to be the asshole in the league. But now that Drayton McLane has been outed as the pioneer asshole and blazed a trail in that direction, the Cubs could find it much easier to justify going down the same path.

I'm not naive enough to think that baseball isn't already heading in the direction of becoming unaffordable to anyone without a large sum of disposable income. But when the Cubs pay a guy $30 million to sit on their bench, use up their medical supplies, and leave runners on base at a staggering rate, I get a bit pissed that they then have to find these new revenue streams to help pay for someone I never wanted on my team in the first place.

So while it lasts, here are the existing rules for outside food and beverages as outlined on the Ballpark A to Z Guide:

"Bottles, Cans and Outside Beverages: No glass bottles, cans or alcoholic beverages of any kind may be brought into Wrigley Field. Hard-sided coolers and thermoses of any kind are not permitted into the stadium. Sealed Bottled water is allowed to be brought into the stadium.

Food and Beverages: Food and beverages are available throughout the ballpark at concession stands and carts managed by Levy Restaurants. Visitors may bring food or drink items into the ballpark, which are packaged in acceptable containers."

Enjoy it while you can.


Guest said...

I bring in all my food. If only I could bring in beer! The prices are insane and the food is mostly crap. I brought a whole pizza in last time. I cook hot dogs and wrap them in aluminum foil. I bring in coke and water (sealed of course). It's really the only way I can afford going to wrigley (which I really can't).

Tim McGinnis said...

If I could figure out how to keep the hot dogs hot during the EL ride to the park, I'd be tempted to do the same.

Derek said...


Oh man, you have no idea how big of a nerve the articles (there was another on Tuesday that 'broke' the news, in addition to the Hoffman one you linked to) on the 'no outside food/drink at MMP' rule has hit in this town. People are just absolutely livid that the Astros are the ONLY team of 30 that doesn't allow anything to be brought into MMP. Most of it is hyperbole and simple piling on Astros' management for putting a crappy team on the field again of course, but I haven't seen an outcry over something rather trivial around here in a while. It's unreal.

Personally, I am like you--I don't care if a team chooses not to allow outside food or drink. It's a smart business decision frankly. I think teams SHOULD allow food/drinks to be brought in--with some limits--as a small gesture of goodwill, particulaly towards families, but I'm not going to kill them for the not doing so.

It would be so typical for other owners to 'support' McLane by copying his policy but I don't know. Maybe all of the outcry going on around here could actually cause the Astros to loosen their rules a little, especially since the other 29 teams (ok...maybe not the Natinals) are doing just fine with their more fan-friendly policies. But if there's one thing Drayton McLane worries about--other than his bottom line--it's keeping the fans happy enough so that they come out to the park. Maybe if he sees enough blowback over this, he'll change his mind.

I'm certainly not going to hold my breath though.

Tim McGinnis said...

"People are just absolutely livid that the Astros are the ONLY team of 30 that doesn't allow anything to be brought into MMP."

I'm sure folks down there probably thought the "no outside food or beverage" rule was just par for the course. I'm sure that Cubs fans would be just as pissed if it turned out that every other ballpark but Wrigley had some sort of hand-stamping or re-entry policy and the Cubs don't (I'm not saying that's the case - merely a hypothetical).

If McLane really is taking that much abuse, the Cubs might be reluctant to make a change. But they have pretty much said that demand for Cubs tickets is "recession proof," so they believe that their fans will bend over and take almost anything they can think of without risking damage to their ticket revenues.

Sean Gill said...

ssshhhh! Don't give the Cubs any ideas!

I've brought my own peanuts, pizza, sandwiches, big gulps in for years. If I'm paying $7 for a 16oz beer I migth as well have peanuts that don't cost $5 for a 5oz bag....

Tim McGinnis said...

I'd be shocked if they hadn't already seriously discussed it in a meeting somewhere.

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