Avoid the squeeze play and save some dough at the Vet

Box seats at the Vet: $24.

Cold hot dog served by finger-licking vendor: $2.75.

Bringing your own hoagie and sneaking into the expensive seats: Priceless.

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According to the Chicago-based Team Marketing Report, an afternoon at Veterans Stadium will set back a family of four $132.42.

That’s actually cheap by major league standards. The most expensive team – the Boston Red Sox – fleeces a foursome for wallet-numbing $214.32, according to TMR’s Fan Cost Index.

In these Dow-impaired days, it’s tempting to write off a day at the ballpark as a bad investment. Despite its performance in the early days of the season, the Phillies starting pitching looks as grim as a bear market.

But under the blue sky, when the thwack of a hardball meets the soft leather of the catcher’s mitt, the lure of baseball is irresistible. Your 401(k) might have gone to hell, but Abner Doubleday’s game is still alive and wonderful.

It is Opening Day 2001. Catch a few innings at Broad and Pattison today.

And while you’re keeping score, here are a few ways to watch your bottom line.

We call ’em People Paper Penny Pinchers, and we’ll be sharing them as long as the Dow is down.

First, avoid the Vet’s parking lots. At 7 bucks a car, you could buy a share of some floundering high-tech instead.

Free parking is available in a variety of side streets around the stadium’s perimeter (notably, 10th Street above Packer), but watch out for parking tickets: They’ll wipe out your capital gains. SEPTA is only a bargain if you’re going alone or with one friend.

At up to $1.60 per person each way, it can be cheaper to park a car.

Your biggest savings are cheap tickets.

Given the Phillies’ dismal prospects, the scalpers will be hawking plenty of cut-rate box seats this season. By June, they’ll cost 50 cents on the dollar.

You can save even more with a $8 general admission seat, then move downstairs after the first inning.

(Yes, this is slightly illegal and possibly unethical. But it is also a grand baseball tradition. So move up, and tip your usher. )

Food and drink is your other cost-cutter.

Bring your own hoagie. It’s cheaper and better than a pair of scrawny hot dogs.

Though glass bottles and cans are prohibited at the Vet, you can carry in plastic jugs of non-alcoholic drinks to avoid the $2.75 sodas.

As for beer, you’ll have to sip it in the parking lot. You can split a sixpack with friends for less than the cost of a single cup of watery ballpark brew.

Who knows – if the Phils keep winning, maybe we’ll be drinking champagne in October.

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