Could Teams Still Turn a Profit If Concessions Were Cheaper?

My stint as a stadium vendor says the answer is yes

John W. Miller
Heated
Published in
6 min readOct 16, 2019

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Left, Mike McGinnis for Getty Images, right, Pastor Scott for Getty Images

This is peak sports season in the United States, when summer meets fall and baseball, basketball, football, and hockey are all alive at the same time.

From tipoff to buzzer and spring training to World Series, one of the only certainties in all sports is this: If you want to spoil a lovely night out watching the home team, go buy your family some burgers and sodas.

The $105 tab will be a friendly reminder that, for all their romance and charm, pro sports are a business. You’re sitting in their seats and they want your money.

But does eating and drinking at ballgames really have to be so expensive?

I became fascinated with the economics of food and drink pricing at sports stadiums after working a Major League Baseball game as a vendor at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park a few summers ago. I’d quit my job as a Wall Street Journal staff reporter. I was up for stuff.

A friend suggested vending at ballgames. You could make a few hundred bucks a game being one of those guys who walks around and sells beer from a box, he said. With prices so high, his promise of good money sounded right.

We signed up as part of a part-time crew hired by Aramark, the massive Philadelphia-based food service contractor that controlled the Pirates’ concession contract.

Teams typically hire companies to sell their food and drink, and collect commission between 35 and 55 percent of total sales, according to Chris Bigelow, a Kansas City-based food service consultant for teams.

My friend and I were invited to a “grand slam training” event at PNC Park. A man who talked with the enthusiasm of a wedding planner schooled us on proper cheerful etiquette: If somebody yells, “The Pirates really suck,” say something like, “We’ll get ’em tomorrow, sir” or “They’re having a better year than expected.” Under no circumstances were we to talk to reporters. “They’ll twist your words,” he said.

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John W. Miller
Heated
Writer for

John W. Miller is an award-winning writer, journalist and filmmaker. Check out his recent film “Moundsville” at www.moundsville.org