CHICAGO (AP) — Sitting on a bench in front of Soldier Field, watching his beloved Chicago Bears play in person, money wasn’t exactly a big concern for Corey Metzger.

Or any concern, really.

“This trip has been a long time in the making, and I spent whatever it took to make it happen,” said Metzger, 45, who works in law enforcement in Fargo, North Dakota. I have been.”

Metzer’s frantic pilgrimage is a familiar sight for sports fans, especially after the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic. But persistently high inflation and gas prices are adding to the monetary pipeline that resumed as fans returned.

U.S. inflation rose 8.2 percent in September from a year earlier, the government reported this month. That’s not far from a four-decade high of 9.1 percent in June. Higher costs of housing, food and medical care were the major contributors to this increase.

Given the industry’s reliance on disposable income, the inflation numbers are a troubling sign for sports business leaders.

“What’s historically been true for teams is that they try to be less on the ticketing side because once someone comes in, they usually get it done once they come in,” he said. A consultation, said Ron Lee, a senior vice president at Navigate. Firm in sports and entertainment. “But with costs going up substantially across the board after the turnstiles, I think they have some decisions to make.”

The average cost for a family of four to attend a 2022 Major League Baseball game was $256.41, an increase of $3.04 from last season, according to a report by Team Marketing. Behind the increase was the price of original engine tickets, with the average price of a general ticket rising 3.6% to $35.93.

Despite the price hike, Americans have largely kept up their spending, especially on entertainment and other services like travel that they missed out on during the pandemic. Still, there are signs that solid spending won’t keep up: Credit card debt is rising and savings have fallen as consumers, especially low-income earners, find their finances hurt by rising inflation.

Casey Lynn, 43, a low-voltage technician from Minneapolis, and his wife, Lori, 44, a commercial lender, aren’t big football fans, but they decided to watch the Bears on a trip to Chicago. While Casey Lynn said she was worried about the ticket surcharges, the couple didn’t want to miss out on the chance to see the game.

“Gas is a necessity. Electricity is a necessity. Sports is not a necessity,” he said. “But when in Rome, why not?”

Dan Quinn, 38, a life insurance wholesaler from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, makes the annual trip to Chicago to see the Bears with his brother, Dave, 47, of Valparaiso, Indiana, who has season tickets. But this time around was a little different.

“Flying here, rental cars have tripled in price, that’s definitely included,” he said. “But it’s a once-a-year thing.”

The brothers got something to eat a few hours before the game. Dave Quinn usually stays away from concessions at Soldier Field, but “I just had to pay for myself tonight,” he said. “I had no children or my wife with me.”

Concessions typically have high profit margins for sports teams and suppliers, but rising equipment, transportation and labor costs have eroded those margins. The changes come after concessionaire companies have already been deeply affected by the pandemic.

“The whole model is kind of disrupted in a big way because we’re dealing with inflation of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30%,” said Jamie Oblitz, president of the Delaware North Sports Service. “And you can imagine. We can see what impact it has had on us and it has forced us, like many companies, to think and do over the last six to 12 months.”

Paul Pettas, vice president of Sodexo Live, estimates that overall spending has increased 10% to 15% over the past 12 to 24 months.

“In reality, costs are across the board, but we certainly try to do as much as we can to keep it as low as possible so it doesn’t impact the average fan or guest at our events,” he said. Don’t fall,” he said.

Concessionaires also face lingering issues with their supply chains, which have improved recently but remain a factor. Oblitz recalled his company running out of peanuts midway through the 2021 World Series in Atlanta, so two workers took a truck to another location, loaded it and then drove through the night back to Trust Park.

“Things are not good,” Obletz said. “They are better than they were, it feels like, three to six months ago, and our hope is that it will continue to improve.”

The problems have forced discount companies to get creative in trying to address rising prices with minimal impact on consumers in terms of food options and price.

The chefs are redesigning the menu to replace items with significant price increases and consolidating other options. They’re using analytics to test portion sizes — do consumers need six chicken fingers or would five do the trick? – and take a closer look at their vendors.

“There are dozens of things that we’ve tried to do and are doing as we speak, very aggressively trying to address the price increases that we’re seeing,” Oblitz said. Oblitz said.

Allison Birdwell, president and CEO of Aramark Sports + Entertainment, said the company is leaning “more than ever” on analytics and its data science team when it comes to menu strategies and new concession items.

“With this guidance, we are working to provide fans with the items they are looking for,” Birdwell said in a statement to the AP.


AP Economics writer Christopher Rogaber contributed to this report.

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