Sunday June 23, 2013

PITTSFIELD

With the Boston Bruins on another run to the Stanley Cup finals this spring, I just had to venture down the Mass Pike to find out what all the excitement was about.

I came away shocked.

Not with the hockey. The Bruins beat the Penguins 2-1 in double overtime the night I was there. You couldn’t have asked for anything more than that. What floored me were the prices for tickets and team merchandise. It made me wonder why I didn’t decide to sell T-shirts for a living.

The cost of tickets? Slightly over $200, (gulp), which I get because it’s the playoffs. Still, that’s a lot of money to spend when you sit three rows from the top of the arena.

It was the cost of the merchandise that really floored me. My friend and I, both suckers for team stuff, spent the ride to Boston debating whether we should buy something. The first place we hit when we got to the Garden was the Pro Shop. The first thing I saw were some flashy Bruins-Penguins’ playoff T-shirts. Fifteen, 20 dollars? Try $35. "Wow," I said loud enough for someone to hear me.

My friend wanted to buy a Bruins’ jersey. It cost almost as much as our tickets did. Ouch! Running out of options, I considered buying a T-shirt with a Bruin players number on it. Another $35 bargain. Oy vey!

I ended up buying a cap that was under the $30 mark, but not by very much.


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It made me grateful that if you want to attend a game in the Berkshires where you have to buy a ticket to get in, it doesn’t cost you the equivalent of a car payment to stroll into the stadium, purchase a souvenir, and get something to eat.

Baseball around here really is a bargain.

The big difference, of course, is that we don’t have professional teams around here anymore (R.I.P., the Canadian American League in Pittsfield). The Pittsfield Suns and the North Adams SteepleCats both play in summer collegiate baseball leagues where the players are still amateurs, so they don’t have to jack up their ticket prices every year to make payroll.

But even under those conditions it’s a bargain to watch baseball around here if you’re a fan. You only have to plunk down $5 for a general admission ticket to see the Suns’ play at Wahconah Park (box seats cost $8). High rollers can book an in-game picnic with fireworks for $22, (you have to book ahead of time) and that’s the most expensive package that the Suns offer. You can’t get your shoes shined in Boston for $22.

It’s hard to top ticket prices that low, but somehow the SteepleCats have. Their regular ticket price of $5 is the same as the Suns’. But families of five can see a game for $12; high school students, college students, and seniors (over age 65) pay $3; and youngsters between the ages of 6 and 12 only need $1 to get in. Kids age 5 and under are admitted free.

Interested in going the season ticket route? The SteepleCats have four different ticket plans, and they range in price from $45 and $100. The Suns season ticket plans range from $18 for those age 18 and under to $50 for a general admission seat to $190 for a box seat.

In some places in Boston it probably costs that much to park your car for the night.

When it costs that little to get into a game, the price of team merchandise is bearable. Neither the Suns nor the Steeplecats sell anything remotely close to a $200 game jersey. The most expensive item the Steeplecats offer women’s full zip hooded sweatshirt for $42.95, according to the team’s website. The most expensive item offered by the Suns is a sling backpack made of real baseball leather that retails for $35. Remember, that was the cost of a T-shirt at TD Garden.

OK, it’s not the National Hockey League or Major League Baseball. It’s not even high level minor league baseball. But it’s still affordable and fun. I don’t know about you, but even at this level, I’d rather watch them on the way up than see them on the way out. The latter is what independent league baseball offered when it twice tried to make a go of it in Pittsfield. We all know how that turned out.