Economy Sacks Fans Efforts to Reach Sporting Events

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This May the Redwings made yet another Stanley Cup Finals appearance, but Hockeytown had a different look than it had in years past. It was more of a ghost town for the Finals between the NHL’s greatest dynasty and its greatest up and coming player, Sidney Crosby, as the game didn’t sell out. Why would no one want to go? Fifty-Four dollars is why. With ticket and travel prices rising fans are forced to stay at home, and all of a sudden, there it was, the stark reality of our economy had invaded the safe haven of the world of sports.

 

 It also invaded the safe haven of UPS employee Chuck Wernecke. Wernecke says that he has been going to NASCAR events at Michigan International Speedway and around the country for four years now and has seen the effects of rising prices. “It can really add up fast” Wernecke said of the prices that rise faster than the cars race around the track. “Our tickets can be $65 to $75, or more. Plus you have to pay a camping fee and fees for all the extra cars and people that would camp there.” Wernecke did mention that a hotel was an option, but with such a buzz around all the racing cities, hotels can cost as much as $400 a night. He added that with the NASCAR venues being so few and far between many families make a weekend of the trip. Wernecke estimated one weekend could cost $600-$700. Wernecke says that his friends and family have to save all year to make it to an event.

 

Michigan International Speedway is well aware of the economic strife that affects the country, particularly the state of Michigan. “Michigan is an economy all its own” said Sammie Lukaskiewicz, Director of Communication for Media and Public Relations at MIS. She went on to explain that MIS has made changes to address the stress the economy has put on its fans. MIS has lowered prices on 23% of its 132,000 seats. While seats used to start at $55, they now range from $40 to $110, and children under 12 are admitted for free on Sundays.  

 

“We’ve also invested in our facilities… Attendance has started to decline, that’s why it’s important that we make things better for our fans” Lukaskiewicz went on. MIS has added over $20 million to make the venue better for the fans, including replacing the first turn grand stand. Despite the decline in attendance, MIS did still draw over 100,000 for the race in August, which is 24,995 more than Spartan Stadium holds.

 

Lukaskiewicz also credited part of the ticket decline to sponsorship. Sponsorship is a much larger part of NASCAR than other professional, and college sporting venues. A sponsor may decide to not buy an extra few hundred tickets.

 

While MIS is, and has been well aware of and affected by the economic crisis for years, Michigan State has not. An representative from MSU’s ticket office said that they had seen no decline in sales of football or basketball tickets.

 

One person who has felt the economic strife is Bill Abraham, a single father, and traveling nurse. ”Ticket prices are decent for Spartan games, but $5 for a soda gets a little out of hand” Abraham said about attending events at the Breslin Center. Abraham also cited a time just last month when the price of tickets and travel prevented him from taking his son, Tyler, to a WWE event in Grand Rapids. “It was over $100 for tickets, even for bad seats, plus getting there, and buying t-shirts, it was all a lot” Abraham went on.

  

The economy’s role on sports affects more than just the owners and managers of sports franchises; it also affects fans of all ages, and even families as a hole. Bill Abraham is just a microcosm of the epidemic of fathers willing, but unable to spend times with their sons at sporting events. Unfortunately for Abraham, and more so for Tyler, no change is in sight. It’s a sad day in sports when father and son can’t afford to attend.

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