Who Gets the Seats at Sports With Limited Capacity Fans?

Even as we don’t have specific dates for the NBA, MLB, and NHL returns, the next iteration of sports coming back will be not a question of whether any fans can attend games, but how many and whom.

As I wrote before, don’t believe what you hear with surveys asking if people will go to games. Believe what you are seeing with people out and about in regions that are reopening. Nevertheless, at least in the near term, sports arenas and stadiums that start allowing fans will do so in a limited capacity. How will they choose who gets to come in?

It’s presumable that there will be a spectrum across sports that plays itself out similarly to the way there’s a hierarchy when things are normal. It’s going to be a lot easier for fans to get into a Purdue football game than to see Alabama or LSU. And it will be a lot easier to get into games where Alabama and LSU play cupcakes than, well, each other.

Recently, Outkick’s founder Clay Travis posed the question of whether people would pay four times as much to go to an NFL game at 25 percent capacity. He said he would do so as a Titans season ticketholder. I’d pay that much more money to go to a baseball game. I’m not quite as sure for football, because the camaraderie of a full stadium is a huge part of the experience for me.

If pro teams and universities do start charging multiples of typical face value to recoup gate losses, it’s inevitable that live sports will veer even more towards affluent and connected fans in attendance. This again is already the case in a number of regions. The Golden State Warriors charged at least $15,000 per seat for personal seat licenses at their new arena, and that’s before you get to the actual price of tickets. Legends Suite seats at Yankee Stadium require at least a four-year commitment and range from $400 to $850 per seat. Events like the Super Bowl and college football playoffs are all but completely inaccessible for the average earner.

With social distancing enforced in stadiums, the prices across America could escalate to being completely unaffordable for the typical family to go to games. It’s obviously completely unknowable to say when full stadiums and arenas will return, but I think it’s unfortunately the case that in the interim class differences will be highlighted by sports audiences.

Written by Ryan Glasspiegel

Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.