Why The Green Monster Takes More Of Your Money

Bill Bradley investigates why tickets to the World Series cost 81 percent more in Boston than 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 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.)

Update from a reader:

I think there’s an added wrinkle here: you’re not necessarily looking at the population as a whole, but at the upper part of the population.

Yes, there are a lot of die-hard Sox fans here (myself included). Back in 2004, a lot of us would have paid nearly anything to go to Game 6 of the Series (which the Sox swept in 4). But I think the average guy making $60K or even 100k is not going to blow 2% of his annual income on three hours at the ballpark.

For a segment of the population, however, $2000 is a margin of error. Hotshot lawyer? Tech millionaire? Loaded undergrad? These are the types who are going to throw thousands of dollars at a playoff ticket. And I’d imagine that there are a lot more of these types in Boston than Saint Louis. Plus, in Boston, season ticket holders snap up most of the playoff tickets, so there are even fewer seats to go around.

So, yes, while partly supply and demand (and who the supply and demand is). If this were a larger market, then there would be more supply and prices would be lower. If this was a commodity (like, say, a regular season ticket, which are plentiful), there would be no reason to push up the price exorbitantly. But because of the scarcity and the nature of the goods, there is only enough supply to satisfy the very top of the market. And that very top is willing to pay a lot of money.