As a Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Twins season ticket holder, I have plenty of personal experience when it comes to overpaying for season ticket packages because of lofty playoff hopes. This year, though, it was the Twins and not the Timberwolves that put a paltry product on the field, even with Jimmy Butler inevitably being traded before the NBA Trade Deadline on February 7 at 3 p.m. EST.
The $539 I paid for a 10-game, flex season ticket package for the Timberwolves’ 2018-19 season was a relative steal compared to the $760 I paid for a 20-game, flex season ticket package with the Twins’ for the 2018 season. Neither is the cheapest season ticket package available that assures you playoff ticket priority, but sometimes the seats are the only thing that make a Twins game worth watching, whereas the Timberwolves have an ample amount of visiting teams with players and even coaches worth watching.
Picking the games I’ll attend each season is like a holiday. I determined which dozen games I wanted to see moments after the NBA schedule was released, and I chose most of my Twins games on the same day. But instead of cutting Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks from my 10-game package, I was choosing baseball games based on promotions like Dollar Dog Day (Wednesdays) and $5 Kids’ Meal Day (Sundays). Here are the games I chose (number of tickets in parentheses) to see during the Timberwolves’ 2018-19 impending dumpster fire sale of a season.
Oct. 29, Lakers (1)
Nov. 14, New Orleans (1)
Dec. 1, Boston (1)
Jan. 6, Lakers (1)
Jan. 18, San Antonio (1)
Feb. 13, Houston (2)
March 29, Golden State (1)
March 30, Philadelphia (1)
April 1, Portland (1)
April 9, Toronto (1)
The NBA has so much to offer in opposing teams that choosing to attend 10 of 41 home games (24.4 percent) is easier than finding a similar percentage (24.7 percent) of baseball home games worth watching. Seeing LeBron James twice is a no-brainer, as is Anthony Davis once. The Brad Stephens-coached Boston Celtics are absolutely worth the price of admission regardless of whom they’re playing, as are Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs. James Harden and Chris Paul visiting in a rematch of last season’s playoff matchup I had to see at least once. Golden State as a whole is another no-brainer. That roster could feature five All-Stars if DeMarcus Cousins returns to form. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are worth watching, as is Kawhi Leonard, regardless of whom they’re playing. Portland is very well-coached, Damian Lillard is fun to watch, and an April 1 matchup could have playoff implications. Even if the Jimmy Butler-less Wolves aren’t in the playoff picture, they could play spoilers down the stretch. I even got a free ticket to the home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which thanks to Jimmy Butler drama, was a must-see game.
There aren’t as many premium games in baseball. In 2018, I saw just about every premium game the Twins played, including every game they played at home against the eventual champions, the Boston Red Sox (3). I saw every game they played at home against the American League runners-up, the New York Yankees (3). I also saw six (6) of the seven games the AL Central Champion Cleveland Indians played at Target Field (two Twins home games were played in Puerto Rico). Add a three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels and baseball’s best player, Mike Trout, and I still have eight games left to choose. (I had tickets to all three games against Houston at Target Field, but that was through a separate ticket deal for April games.)
My hypothesis is that the NBA offers fans of its worst teams the best value when it comes to their cheapest season ticket package because of the vast array of entertaining and exceptional teams, players, and coaches visiting. But let’s do the research and find out the best value for the cheapest season ticket packages for sports’ worst teams.
The Senators were the second-worst NHL team in the 2017-18 season, and at $60 per seat per game, their cheapest season ticket package leaves a lot to be desired. This might simply be due to the Ottawa market, which is no doubt more interested in the sport of hockey than that of the worst team in the NHL last season, the Buffalo Sabres. While Ottawa doesn’t have an NFL team to compete with the Senators, neither does Buffalo, really.
This is a smoking hot deal to see five premium games you can customize. I chose late season matchups against Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Toronto, and Washington. Those are fantastic matchups featuring the best offensive players in hockey: Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews (who should be healthy by March 20), and the Stanley Cup Champion Alexander Ovechkin.
The Sabres also offer the smallest percentage of games (12.2 percent) you can purchase to qualify for playoff ticket priority. Buffalo’s other awful pro sports team isn’t nearly as friendly to your pocketbook and won’t even sell you a season ticket package if you live outside Western New York.
In a live chat with Buffalo Bills season ticket representative Sarah Beth, I was told the cheapest season ticket package was $400 for this season, but they are no longer selling them. I could purchase single game tickets, but not a season ticket package for next season.
As of Wednesday, October 31 at 5:30 p.m. EST, you could see MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes and the equally electrifying Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt along with the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs running Andy Reid’s schemes for $50. Then you could catch Julio Jones making Matt Ryan look better than he is for $50. Then Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey visit Cleveland, and the final game of your four-game, season ticket package ensuring playoff ticket priority is capped by another wide receiver making his quarterback look better than he is. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton come to town.
Even though most of the games won’t be close, you could argue that four of the most entertaining players playing professional football right now (Mahomes, Newton, Jones, and Green) could all be seen for $200. The Cavaliers couldn’t do better than that simply because they’re a worse team than their crosstown, gridiron counterparts.
The Cavs aren’t selling season ticket packages anymore, and the sales rep couldn’t look back at prices from games already played. But if you want to know how much it would cost to see LeBron visit with his Lakers from the cheapest seats in Quicken Loans Arena, it’s $460 to $500. And that wouldn't even qualify you for playoff ticket priority.
For the 10 best games on the Hawks’ schedule, including the Golden State Warriors and LeBron’s Lakers, plus one more for free at a total under $450, Atlanta offers its fans immense value. For $91 less than I paid to see the same opposing teams visit the newly renovated Target Center, Hawks’ fans can secure their playoff ticket priority, but more importantly, member access to the soon-to-be-renovated State Farm Arena, featuring suites with golf simulators and a barbershop where you can get a shave and a haircut while watching the game.
The Orioles’ Sunday season ticket package featured a game against Boston, the Yankees, Astros, Indians, and Angels, but also featured games against Texas, Tampa Bay (2), Miami, and Minnesota. There’s value in allowing fans to pick the games they want to see, but paying less than $18 per game is relatively affordable. The Twins’ “Pick 10” package runs $220 and features just three premium games. Baltimore’s Sunday package features four premium games for $8 more.
The Marlins’ “Variety,” “Saturday,” and “Sunday” plans run at least $130, but I could only find a single seat in the cheapest section for the weekend plans. The variety plan, which most likely provides admission to the best games, was not available in any of the cheaper sections of Marlins Park. If we assume, however, that Miami’s Sunday package offers a similar percentage of premium games as Baltimore’s 13-game package and Minnesota’s 10-game, flex plan, then we can expect to see three premium matchups out of the 10. At $13 per seat per game, it doesn’t get any cheaper to secure playoff ticket priority in any league, but you have to watch the Marlins. At least they got rid of that hideous home run sculpture, though.
The price per game might not be as low as baseball or basketball can offer, but the freedom to choose your own games ensuring every one of them is a premium matchup makes Buffalo a go-to town for hockey. My editor in Toronto, Dan Szczepanek, said trips to Buffalo are a Toronto tradition. “It was always cheaper to drive two hours to Buffalo to watch the Leafs and Sabres, get a hotel, and spend a few days than it was to see the Leafs in Toronto.” The fact that you can establish playoff ticket priority for a measly $183 makes me want to buy a Buffalo Sabres season ticket package, and both of my teams are in the Western Conference.
Again, the percentage of premium games offered in the Hawks’ cheapest season ticket package make up for the higher price point per seat. Even if the Hawks operate the same way the Timberwolves do and make your free game the home opener, that was against Dallas and third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Luka Doncic, whom Atlanta traded for Trae Young at fifth overall and a future first-rounder. If you haven’t seen Doncic play, I assure you, he and Deandre Jordan make for premium entertainment.
It’s not all bad in Cleveland. Even with LeBron leaving and both the Browns and Cavs firing their head coaches in a 24-hour time period, you can still get premium entertainment from the teams and players visiting FirstEnergy Stadium at an affordable price. Even while Buffalo was in town, it would have cost twice as much for the same seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Ottawa is the last of our worst teams to provide incredible value when it comes to choosing the quality of opposing teams in their season ticket package. At $60 per game, it’s a bit pricey per seat, but the assurance of seeing the best opposing players in the NHL makes $60 worth every penny.
While just 30 percent of your games are against playoff-caliber competition, you’re paying $13 to see a baseball game. You can’t get a beer and a hot dog at a ballgame for $13.
While the Orioles’ cheapest season ticket package has a marginally higher percentage of premium games than Miami’s, the $17.54 price point per seat is more than it ought to be given their .290 winning percentage last season. The beauty of Camden Yards can’t compensate for the collosal incompetence of baseball played by Orioles at Oriole Park.
Since preseason games can’t be considered premium games, and the Bills are so bad the best game on their schedule annually is a visit by Tom Brady and the Patriots, there’s really nothing to like about being a Bills season ticket holder. The Jaguars were the other “premium” game on the Bills’ schedule this season, and we’ve seen how far they’ve fallen.
Seems my hypothesis was wrong. The NHL, not the NBA, provides the best value to fans of its worst teams when it comes to their season ticket offerings. The NBA is a close second, however, and the Cleveland Browns coming in third was a pleasant surprise. Baseball and the Buffalo Bills, however, have a long way to go to make their cheapest season ticket packages more appealing to fans of the sports’ worst teams.
It’s no secret that attending a Major League Baseball game is expensive despite being the cheapest option ($31) when compared to the NBA ($55.88), NHL ($62.18) and NFL ($92.98). I’ve been to 16 of the first 24 Minnesota Twins home games, but just experienced my first pair of doubleheaders over the last four days -- one a split doubleheader and one a traditional back-to-back. I doubt I’ll see many more split doubleheaders, as taking a break between games tends to leave seats empty during the second game.
Getting into the ballpark isn’t prohibitively expensive. You can get into Angels Stadium in Anaheim for less than $10, and standing room only tickets at Target Field in Minnesota are usually $11. But eating and drinking beer, liquor, soda or water at the the ballpark is expensive.
The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies have the most expensive beer in baseball, followed by Minnesota in second, according to Fortune. That doesn’t include tip. My research revealed that you can buy 16 ounces of Bud Light, Miller Lite or a Bud Lime-A-Rita for $7 at Target Field. You can expect to pay close to $5 for a water and more for soda.
Doubleheaders don’t have to be doubly expensive, though. I enjoyed two games, a meal and three drinks for less than $35. Here’s how you can save money at the ballpark.
When your game gets rained out, don’t exchange your ticket for a different game. Generally, if you have tickets to the makeup game, you’ll get free admittance to the second game of the traditional doubleheader. That’s not the case for split doubleheaders, though. Do your best to make it to the makeup game because they tend to be attended by fewer people, making for a more intimate game, shorter lines for the concession stands and bathrooms, and you’re more likely to get a foul ball, an autograph, or a chance to meet Tony Oliva, which happened to me Thursday.
You’re also more likely to win something if you attend the second game of a doubleheader. Professional sports organizations give away free stuff every game. At Minnesota Twins games, the big winners are those who get scratch-off tickets from the Minnesota Lottery. But there’s plenty of other door prizes to be had. I won a large, two-topping pizza from Papa John’s on Thursday.
The organization will say you can exchange your ticket for a ticket of equal value for another game, but equal value is what they declare, and face value of tickets changes depending on demand. So, if you have a ticket to see the last-place Royals play the Twins and exchange it for a game against the Yankees or Red Sox, don’t expect to get the same seats or even the same section. You are at the discretion of the corporation at that point, and you never want to be in that position.
If you are going to exchange your ticket for another game, check the promotions schedule first. You can get something free like a shirt, hat or bag just for showing up early, or take advantage of discounts on food. You can get a hot dog for a dollar at Target Field every Wednesday. Here’s every team’s promotions schedule ranked for 2017.
Although you’ll spend a few more minutes in the security line on your way into the ballpark, the wait is negligible when considering the value of having a bag with you at the ballpark, especially during a doubleheader. I take my laptop to the game in case I want to work (like I am now), a microphone in case I want to do a live broadcast (I do live, uncensored play-by-play of select games), a solar charger for my phone and computer and my preferred scorecard and pens to keep score.
I recommend taking a backpack to the ballpark as opposed to a satchel or purse. Your lower back will thank me if you do a lot of walking to or around the ballpark, as side-swinging bags tend to cause more back and hip pain. Backpacks also have plenty of hidden pockets, and security guards aren’t going to take the time to investigate every interior pocket, which brings me to my next point.
Beer is the biggest ripoff at the ballpark. While you’re getting 20 ounces of beer for around $8 at Target Field, you can get a hefty shot of liquor for $9 that will pack a bigger punch. My biggest suggestion is to not drink beer at the ballpark, and you can avoid doing so by packing your own booze.
While outside liquor is not allowed at any ballpark, I say you risk it. The worst that could happen is security discovers your stash and throws it out, but it’s highly unlikely if you use a backpack. You can use those interior pockets of your backpack to sneak in a flask of liquor. You generally won’t have to worry about your bag being scanned for metal, so your flask doesn’t have to be plastic unless you’re keeping it on your person. I forgot to finish all the water in my water bottle before entering Target Field on Sunday, and the security guard didn’t even take notice. That could have been filled with vodka, as it was visible on the outside of my pack. If you’re using interior pockets, though, you can bring in anything you want, including a pre-mixed cocktail. Just don’t drink too much or give your fellow fans a reason to have you removed.
You can bring your own food to the ballpark, so you never have to spend money on peanuts, sunflower seeds or hot dogs (unless it’s $1 dog day at Target Field). I usually pack a snack for every game, but for doubleheaders, I pack a cold lunch like a protein-rich sandwich.
You’ll burn a lot of calories and give your legs a workout just walking to and from the ballpark and your seat, and you’ll most likely sweat, so having a water bottle will allow you to take advantage of the free tap water at the ballpark instead of paying nearly $5 for bottled water.
If you fail to pack a lunch and/or liquor, I suggest getting both in one drink. Most ballpark bars will make you a Bloody Mary with a few fixings like olives, celery, a pickle and, perhaps, beef sticks and cheese. The Twins offer a Bloody Mary with either a cheeseburger slider or slice of pizza at Hrbeck’s Bar for $24, and it will fill you up thanks to an eight-ounce, Bud Light beer back.
If you don’t drink Bloody Marys, order liquor on the rocks. It’s the best deal you’ll get at the ballpark, especially if you order doubles. Bartenders tend to pour heavy drinks (about three full shots) when you order doubles, which run around $15 for bottom shelf liquor before tip. The more games you attend the better you’ll get to know the bartenders, and them you, so despite the expensive price I recommend you tip your bartenders. They’ll remember it, even if you don’t tip 20 percent. I do a dollar per shot as a base and go up from there.
If you intend to eat at the ballpark, try these recommended dishes so you know you’re at least getting something unique or well-received for the insane amount of money you’ll spend.
The easiest way to avoid overpaying to see a baseball game or doubleheader is to not pay for parking. The closest parking garage near Target Field costs up to $25 for event parking and the most expensive parking in baseball is in Boston and New York for $35.
If you don’t live near public transit or need your car after the game, use apps like Park Whiz or Best Parking to score cheap deals on parking. I can park half a mile from Target Field for $6 during every night game, and a few blocks further away I can score parking for $4. I’ve parked for free at public parks and walked 25 minutes each way as well. If I pack my bike in the trunk of my car, I can cut my time to the ballpark down to 10 minutes or less and lock it up at one of the many bike racks available right outside the ballpark.
Taking public transit is my favorite way to get to and from the ballpark, though. For $3.50 I can get dropped off right at the ballpark and returned a block away from my apartment. I can read or work on the way to or from the game instead of driving, so I can actually make money during my commute. It’s also safer than driving, and if I want, I can take in a few drinks at a nearby bar before boarding.
My entire day for two games at Target Field on Sunday cost me a total of $29. Since I purchased the Spring Ballpark Pass for every home game except Opening Day for $99 in advance, my average price per ticket was $6.60 and will continue to fall for each game I intend through May (six more games brings it down to $4.71 each). If you buy tickets to the rainout, you got a free ticket to the second game of the doubleheader, so that’s $11 for both games at Target Field. Add a double (really a triple) bourbon on the rocks for $17 including tip, and I’m right around $30 and you’re under $30. My transportation puts my total at less than $35, and if you don’t pay for parking or are willing to do some walking, and now you can save money at the ballpark, too.
The Minnesota Wild’s luck has obviously changed for the worse, but they’re in the playoffs anyways, hosting the hottest team in the league coached by former Wild head coach Mike Yeo.
The Wild and St. Louis Blues series will be the best in the west given the storylines. New Wild coach Bruce Boudreau is infamous for being wildly mediocre in the playoffs, and with a trade deadline deal that hasn’t worked, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher might be looking for a new job if the Wild exit the playoffs in round one once again this season.
Knowing all of that, I was surprised that my friend jumped at an opportunity to score two seats for game two in the lower level in row two next to the aisle for $280 each. He thought he could use them as leverage, but I told him that would be unlikely, as the price would drop. As of this writing, Craigslist has listings for lower-level, row two seats for as low as $180 for game one. The same row has already dropped $30 in price for game two. The fans have spoken, and they aren’t wildly confident in the Wild.
ESPN has picked the Blues to win the opening series in five games, and it seems Wild fans sense a letdown as well. Game one seats are going for below face value on Craigslist, which is unheard of, and if the Wild drop the first game, prices will continue to fall. That’s why your best bet when considering playoff tickets for just about any sport is to just wait. I jumped on Minnesota Twins playoff tickets in the last season of the Metrodome against the Yankees just before Joe Nathan blew the save in game two of the series in New York. It was a big mistake, as I ate two of the four tickets.
There’s rarely a time tickets can’t be found before the game starts. If you’re not too picky and just want to get in the door, waiting almost always pays off. Greed dissipates as the risk of taking a loss increases. The closer you get to puck drop the lower ticket prices get. The Wild box office even has select tickets available in the lower ($150) and upper ($110) levels for game one.
Even if the Wild win game one of the playoff series, tickets for game two will hold steady. Ticket resellers want every playoff series to go seven games. If it was a race to five wins that’d be even better for them. Don’t give them the satisfaction of fleecing you because you aren’t familiar with the local fan sentiment. Local Wild fans are fed up, and many won’t even consider attending the first series let alone the first game. This franchise is in all-or-nothing mode, so don’t go all-in on Minnesota Wild playoff tickets two days before the game. Wait.
Editor’s Note: An update follows.
Don’t get scammed by Craigslist ticket sellers! There are easy things you can do to avoid being scammed. Generally, if tickets are listed below face value it’s a scam. No one in their right mind, regardless of family emergencies, would list playoff tickets under face value. If there are no photos of either the tickets or the view from the seats, it’s likely a scam. If the Craigslist seller says they are a season ticket holder, ask for their account number located at the top of the tickets or call the ticket office and ask them to search their records by the seller’s name. The whole call takes about a minute and could help you avoid being scammed.
Editor's Note: An update follows.
By taking my own advice I managed to score tickets in row 10 to Game 2 between the Wild and Blues for $170. That's $110 less than my friends paid to sit in the second row. It was also $50 less than the going rate on Ticketmaster, not including fees.