By Kyle Jones
COLLEGE PARK – With just two winning seasons in the last 10 years, Redskins fans don’t have a lot to brag about.
But as they renew season ticket contracts for 2012 at FedEx Field, they can find comfort in knowing they are getting the second-best deal in the league to be there.
“Everyone complains about the cost to get tickets, to park, beer, food, but when you look at it compared to other cities, it’s really not that much,” said Gregg Tabachow, a Redskins fan from Silver Spring, Md.
And he’s right.
When the average household income of NFL markets is taken into account, it cost local families less to see the Redskins in 2011 than all but one other NFL team, according to a Capital News Service Analysis. The Baltimore Ravens ranked 18th. (Jump to interactive chart comparing NFL team costs).
According to Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index, which tracks prices to attend sporting events, it cost a family of four an average of $441 per game to see the Redskins live. The price includes tickets, refreshments, parking, a program and one souvenir.
With an average household income of just more than $108,393 in the Washington, D.C., metro area, a full season of Redskins games would cost a family of four $3,528, or 3.25 percent of annual income.
In the Baltimore metro area, where the average household income is $84,348, it cost a family of four $486 to attend a Ravens game. A full season of Ravens games would cost a family of four $3,888, or 4.6 percent of annual income.
Fans of both teams haven’t seen a ticket price increase in several seasons. Washington’s last adjustment was in 2006, with the average ticket price remaining $79.13 since then.
“For Redskins fans, you have to look at absolute dollars,” said Redskins fan Charles Stephenson of Alexandria. “It’s insanely expensive to attend games.”
He estimates that it costs his family of five close to $750 to attend a game, including tickets, parking and food.
For their money, Redskins fans like Stephenson have paid to see a lackluster team for more than a decade. With the number two pick in the NFL draft pending, fans are hoping for a better return on investment.
“If the team is competitive and exciting, and the product is improved with the cost remaining the same, fans will get more bang for their buck,” Tabachow said.
In Baltimore, Donald Kunkoski, president of the “Chamber of Ravens Nests” Fan Club and a season ticket holder, said it’s tough for Baltimore fans to pay high prices to attend games.
“I feel good about the value I’m getting, but I’m starting to wonder how much longer I’ll pay for it,” he said.
Kunkoski has held his two upper level season tickets since the Ravens’ inaugural season in 1996, when they were just $35 each. They have jumped 114 percent since then to $75.
“From what I observe, Ravens Nests season ticket holders are blue collar workers,” said Kunkoski of Frederick. “Many have had difficulty in this economy.”
Baker Koppelman, vice president of ticket sales and operations for the Ravens, said he is aware of the financial difficulties facing some in the area.
“We certainly take into account the market,” Koppelman said. “We’re probably overachieving there because we’re becoming an important part of the community and meeting and exceeding fan expectations. It starts with putting a good product on the field.”
The return on investment for Ravens fans is seeing the team make the playoffs each year since 2008. The Redskins last post-season appearance was in 2007.
“In four years, we’ve felt good about where we stand and seen that there hasn’t been much pressure around the league [to raise ticket prices], given the economy,” Koppelman said.
The Redskins said the struggling economy — not on-field performance — is behind the flat ticket prices.
“We’re sensitive to fans during these economic times,” said Tony Wyllie, senior vice president of the Washington Redskins. “We’ve elected to keep the prices flat. It was a conscious decision by the ownership.”
Besides the Redskins and Ravens, 16 other NFL teams did not increase ticket prices between 2010 and 2011.
“People brag about keeping prices the same. NFL teams rarely lower prices,” said Jon Greenberg, executive editor of Team Marketing Report.
To determine ticket prices, teams look at economic data, team performance and compare themselves with other NFL teams, Greenberg said.
“They also consider secondary markets like StubHub,” he said. “If fans are willing to pay a certain price, the team will want to keep that revenue.”
In Washington, the team isn’t the only one keeping the revenue. Prince George’s County, home of FedEx Field, receives 10 percent of each ticket under the county’s admissions and amusement tax.
“I can’t say that higher ticket prices would mean more revenue,” said J. Matthew Neitzey, executive director of the Prince George’s County Conference and Visitors Bureau. “What really matters is fan attendance.”
In 2011, 615,368 fans attended Redskins games at FedEx Field, averaging 83 percent of stadium capacity per game. The only revenue the county collected was on those tickets. Food, parking and souvenirs are excluded.
In terms of fan value, the Redskins were second only to the Oakland Raiders in 2011, the CNS analysis found. The Redskins’ longtime rival, the Dallas Cowboys, hosted the NFL’s most expensive games for fans to attend when household income was taken into account.
On average, it cost $613 for a family of four to attend a Cowboys game. With an average household income of $74,372 in the Dallas metro area, a full season would cost 6.6 percent of household income.
Fans who pay an average ticket price of $110 for a Cowboys game get a seat in the 3-million-square-foot Dallas Stadium, which opened for the 2009 season, and is the largest stadium in the league. It is 1 million-square-feet larger than Met Life Stadium, home to the Giants and Jets, which opened in 2010.
“Jerry Jones is trying to recoup on that billion dollar stadium,” said Tabachow. “It sounds like Redskins fans are getting a bargain.”