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The Stadium Food Scam: Clone Ballpark Eats At Home!

I’ve been keeping a dubious tradition for the past few years: Reviewing the season’s new stadium foods at MLB ballparks. But I’ve given up. The prices are so ridiculously high, and the dishes so pedestrian that I can’t bear to even mention them…

Stadium Dog - © 2024 - Blue JaysA typical MLB Stadium Chili Dog: A standard frank, a little chili, and a lot of
bun. Yours for a mere $16.00. Plus a domestic beer for about $10.00.
You could feed the whole gang for the same outlay at home!

They’ve got you, by the throat

The big pro sports stadiums have their patrons by the throats – literally. Nothing that might pass your gums and head on down the alimentary canal can be brought in from outside. Innocent mom’s have even been hassled by big, burly security guards about their infants’ baby bottles. You can’t even bring in water to slake your sun-baked thirst. You have to buy theirs. And that will cost you $4 or more per bottle, compared to the $0.25 or $0.50 it might cost you for the same brand, purchased by the case at the supermarket.

I’ve been to many an MLB game in my time, and even more NHL hockey games. Puck Palace fans in my town are so fiercely proud of their Ottawa Senators that the 18,652-seat Canadian Tire Centre is sold out for every home game. But one aspect of watching any pro sporting event from the stands that gets my goat is the prices and quality of the food and bevs the venue proprietors dump on you.


You may well ask where they get off, charge you $5 for a bottle of water. Or $10 for a hot dog. Or $15 for a tray of insipid nachos. The short answer is, ‘because they can’.

The big arenas and stadiums usually receive major subsidies from the municipalities in which they are located. But they are almost always owned by private corporations. Therefore, they can charge whatever they want to people who want to use their facilities. Based on what they’re charged by the facility, folks like pro sports teams who want to stage events there have to charge enough for tickets to cover the facility charge, their own costs, and a profit. The profit, many fans complain, is excessive. But that’s another story.

The sports teams are in business to make money. They have long known that fans who care enough to come out in person to the games will pay a premium for the privilege. The facilities lease food and bev stands to outside contractors at outrageous rates,and the contractors, in turn, have to charge outrageous prices for their wares.

And they have the right to insist that you don’t bring in anything to eat or drink.

Captive audience

You, as a stadium ticket holder, are a member of the ultimate captive audience. Outside of a prison or a submarine. Humanitarian issues aren’t the proprietors, the team’s or the concessionaires’ concern. You could be falling-down dehydrated, and the guy behind he counter would wait to see if some bystander was willing to buy you a bottle of water, before he offered one out of the goodness of his dubious heart. I’ve witnessed such a scene, at a baseball game in Toronto, on a searing afternoon when the dome was open.

Hard hearts have softened… A bit

As of this spring, you can bring any non-alcoholoic beverage under 600 ml volume into the Blue Jays’ park. “Fans may [also] bring outside food into the ballpark as long as the items are wrapped, bagged, or left inside a container.”

But why go to all the trouble?

Try something radical!

It’s a chump’s game – the whole stadium / area experience. You endue tremendous discomfort, ridiculous prices for everything, unconscionably long lines for the loo, and seemingly endless walking and stair climbing to get to your seat. I have a revolutionary idea to propose…

Just stay home, and watch the game on TV.

Bask in the comfort of your own air conditioning, adjusted to your personal preference. Embrace the privacy, the freedom from noise and crowds. And the disappointments of the food.

Compare prices

Aside from the aforementioned reality check, that stadium stands sell plan water for $5 a bottle, compared to $0.50 at the supermarket… Consider this:

You can get a 12-pack of house brand all-beef frankfurters for $6.50 or less, any day of the week. That’s under $0.55 per dog. And an 8-pack of buns will run you about $3.50; $4.00 if you go ‘premium’ brand.

So… You can have as many at-home dogs as you want for $1.05 each – before toppings, of course. But you already have those in the house!

How about nachos? Build yourself a jumbo, dinner-plate-sized serving with two payers of premium corn chips, real cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese, whatever veggies you want, salsa of your choice, and sour cream. Without boring you with the individuals calculations, I’ve painstakingly worked out that your home-plate (pun intended) of nachos will cost you a mere… $8.00 And it’s twice the size of the serving they would shovel at you, in a leaky cardboard tray, for $14.00, at the park.

Oh, yeh! The beer…

In my home jurisdiction, beer prices are pretty standard. You pay a little more for ‘premium’ pours. But you can pop a standard 12 oz. / 355 ml can of suds for $1.95. Compare with anywhere from $8.00 (for a draft) to $15.00 for an imported bottle or can at the ball park.

Soft drinks are also much cheaper at home. Get almost any familiar brand at the supermarket for just $0.66 per 12 oz. / 355 ml can. (when you buy by the 12-can case).

My take

Staying home and watching the game on the big-screen is in all ways superior to driving into the city, paying double digit dollars to park, spending maybe hundreds of dollars on tickets, walking miles to your seat, and paying exorbitant prices for sub-par food and drinks. Not to mention subjecting yourself to the burning sun and rock hard seats.

When I put it like that, I wonder why I ever went out to see a game at the park in the first place!

~ Maggie J.