The economy of sports, especially professional sports, has always befuddled me. The confluence of several recent events shows a quirky relationship between those wacky sports economics and their effect on personal history.
Consider, for example, the New York Yankees. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is being paid about $28 million this season, or roughly $173,000 for each of the Yankees’ 162 games. Every time the Yankees draw (for them) an average 53,000 fans to the park, it would take more than $3 of every ticket just to pay Rodriguez for that game. He will make more this season than the entire U.S. Senate or 100 surgeons.
Until Sunday, Rodriguez played in Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923 during the heyday of Babe Ruth. The venerable baseball shrine will be replaced by a new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium next season. The new park will have 6,000 fewer seats and half as many bleacher seats as the old park. Many seats will be further from the action than “The House That Ruth Built.”
Higher salaries and new ballparks with higher ticket and concessions costs have transformed the game dramatically from the days a generation or so ago when a family could afford a trip to the ballpark and when players took off-season work to feed their own families.
That the old Yankee Stadium lasted so long is a rarity these days. Perhaps nowhere has the rate of history change been as rapid as in that of sports facilities, which are also largely underwritten by taxpayers. In 1988, a shining Miami Arena was unveiled, the home of professional hockey and basketball. On Sunday, they blew it up. In 1984, Indianapolis joined the big leagues of sports buildings when it opened the RCA Dome. Demolition on it begins this week.
With sports history turning over so fast, it may soon be impossible for a parent to take a child to see a major league sporting event in the same venue as mom or dad did. That is, even if they can afford to.