The Equity Factor

Why World Series Tickets Cost 81 Percent More in Boston Than St. Louis

A man selling programs at Fenway Park. Credit: Bill Bradley

So you want to go to the World Series, huh? Unless you have season tickets, or number among the lucky few who got through to the box office in time, you’ll need to take out a mortgage on the secondary market. And if you live in Boston, it’s going to cost you 81 percent more than it would to attend a game in St. Louis.

Some people might point to the respective team’s stadium capacity: Busch Stadium in St. Louis holds 46,861 while Fenway Park in Boston clocks in at 37,400. There are fewer tickets in Boston, therefore the tickets are more expensive. Supply and demand, it’s simple economics.

But take a closer look at the two metro regions, and it becomes quite clear — to borrow a phrase from noted St. Louis luminary Nelly — that it must be the money. “Personal income in Boston per person is $55,000 annually in the metro area,” Brian Goff, distinguished professor of economics at Western Kentucky University, told me. “For St. Louis, it’s $43,000.”

St. Louis, Goff said, has a total personal income of $117 billion annually. Boston’s more than doubles that, with $250 billion. There’s just more money to go around in Beantown. As Tim McLaughlin wrote at Reuters earlier this week, someone earning $100,000 after taxes in Boston is equal to $65,000 in St. Louis.

The average price of a ticket in Boston is $1,486.11, according to ESPN. In St. Louis, it’ $819.93.

The Boston metro area boasts 4.5 million people and St. Louis, 2.6 million. They are equally crazed baseball cities with rabid fan bases. That means a pool of two million more people who might want tickets to the fall classic out East. (This doesn’t even include the Red Sox fans scattered all over New England outside the Boston metro region.)

“St. Louis is one of the premiere baseball towns in the U.S.,” Goff continued. “But so is Boston. There’s not more interest in baseball in St. Louis than there is in Boston. And yet Boston is bigger, has more income per person and much more total income than in St. Louis. That’s going to drive up the price of tickets.”

And, if you want to get down to the brass tacks, almost everything is cheaper in St. Louis, according to the Council for Economic Research: Groceries are 21 percent cheaper, health care is roughly 20 percent cheaper, and housing 58 percent cheaper than in Boston.

Anecdotally, I can vouch that the MLB’s East Coast-Midwest price gap isn’t limited to the 2013 World Series. In 2011 and 2012, I went to see the Detroit Tigers play the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. I paid around $120 for tickets to both games. I saw the Tigers play the Red Sox at Comerica Park here in Detroit last week, and it cost me $55 one night and $59 two nights later. I went to two games for the price of one.

The lesson here? I guess it’s don’t cheer for the Red Sox.

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Bill Bradley is a writer and reporter living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Deadspin, GQ, and Vanity Fair, among others.

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