Batting in the Billions

We’ve all been there: scouring StubHub for somewhat reasonably priced tickets, forking over $15 for parking, hailing beer man (after beer man, after beer man), grabbing some crab fries, maybe ducking into the Majestic Clubhouse store -- oh, and watching a baseball game -- all with 45,000 of your closest friends.

And if you’re like me, you deliberately held off on adding up how much money you spent on a summer at Citizens Bank Park. (And you got a little queasy that night you convinced yourself it wouldn’t be as much as you thought, and then learned it was in fact much, much more.)

Forbes published their annual “Business of Baseball” rankings Wednesday, which lists each Major League Baseball organization by their team value. This year, the Philadelphia Phillies were ranked No. 6 with a team value of $609 million.

Not a bad return for David Montgomery and company, who bought the team for $30 million in 1981.

While the Phillies may trail the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Mets in “team value,” they have something none of those teams have (well expect maybe the Sox): an overflowing stadium full of people lined up to see one of the fiercest organizations this side of the millennium.

It’s no surprise that Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s Smug Level™ gets a hearty boost each time he sneaks a new headliner into town. When he inked Ryan Howard’s multi-million dollar mega-deal he said there was no more money. When he pried Roy Oswalt from the Ed Wade’s grasp he said there really wasn’t any more money. And when he rocked the baseball world by luring Cliff Lee back to Philadelphia he said there was absolutely no more money.

And how do the fans respond? We spend more money.

It’s amazing how a baseball team can move a unionized, blue collar city to stuff ballparks to almost 104 percent its capacity game after game. Even the corporate, Wall Street, white collar Yankees can’t say their fans do the same.

Just how much money are the fans shelling out?

According to Forbes, the average ticket price at Citizens Bank Park is $33. This is probably a low estimate since it’s based on paying face value for a seat (which, let’s face it, rarely happens). So let’s figure in the third party processing fees and markups and call it an average closer to $45 per ticket. Most lots are $15 to park in, and if you’re coming from the other side of the river you can add a $4 bridge toll to your travels. (And if you’re me, you’re driving the 300 miles from Virginia Beach, buying a tank of gas, and paying closer to $25 in tolls -- one way.)

Once inside the park, it’s not unlikely to grab (at least) a drink and a hot dog before heading to your seat, and that’s going to run you another $10 or so. If you can hold out for the whole game without flagging down the pistachio girl or heading over to Chickie's and Pete's for some crab fries, or if you don’t bring the kids who will want a stuffed Phanatic souvenir or ice cream in a helmet or SillyBandz or whatever it is the kids like these days, you might make it back to the parking lot having only spent approximately $70 on the entire experience (per person). Multiply that by the average 45,027 paying fans that attend the game and we’re talking about a cool $3.1 million exchanging hands each and every day, and that’s probably a gross underestimate.

Baseball revenue is more than just what gets spent at the game, though. On top of everything there’s merchandise, merchandise, merchandise!

The Phillies were ranked fourth in MLB licensed product sales in 2010. Of the Top 10 player jersey sales, the Phillies also have Cliff Lee (No. 5), Chase Utley (No. 4) and Roy Halladay (No. 3) topping the list.

I’ve already spent 10 percent of my annual salary on Phillies tickets. I don’t think I can bring myself to figure out how much I’ve contributed to the merchandise sales, too. Feel free to give me all the credit for single handedly donating Luis Castillo’s potential salary, though.

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