Eating Money: The Real Cost of Attending NFL Games and the Falcons’ New Menu

The cost of attending a sporting event has never just been about the cost of the ticket. There are a million other factors to include, like transportation, parking, and souvenirs. The worst tends to be concessions. In nearly every single situation, grabbing a decent lunch or dinner at a stadium or park will be the most expensive meal found outside of a restaurant where it matters which fork you use. According to, the average cost of a single hot dog in an NFL stadium in 2015 was $5.29. That doesn’t seem like much until you remember you can buy a dozen for less at most grocery stores. According to Sports Management Degrees editors, the Fan Cost Index (total cost of attendance) in 2012 for a family of four was $443.93, topping out at $634.78 for a Cowboys game. Average prices for each component were:

  • Ticket: $78.38 (x4)
  • Beer: $7.28 (x4)
  • Soft Drink: $4.57 (x4)
  • Hot Dog: $4.84 (x4)


Those prices have only gone up, and it doesn’t include parking. 49er fans could pay as high as a whopping $75 for parking at AT&T stadium, and the league average of $31 is nothing to sneeze at either. Price gouging on professional sports concessions isn’t a new development. What is a new development, however, is what the Atlanta Falcons have decided to try out this year.


Team officials are rolling out what they call a “fan-first menu” in their new stadium, opening in 2017, with staggeringly reasonable prices on concessions. A number of items will be priced at just $2, including soft drinks (with unlimited refills, guys), bottled water, hot dogs, pretzels, and popcorn. They also plan on dropping food items like pizza slices, nachos, waffle fries, and peanuts to $3. A 12oz domestic beer will fall to $5 (for reference, a 20oz at a Raiders game will run you $10.75). This flies in the face of conventional practice at not only football games, but major sports as well. That’s a reduction of 50% or more from league averages. Think about that in terms of FCI with 2012 numbers: Assuming ticket price is the same, with those concession prices, a family of four’s cost for attending an average-priced NFL game falls from $434.93 to a much friendlier $349.52. Plus, the refills on soda kills the possibility of repeat costs, since the FCI model assumes each member only gets one of everything.


The Falcons no doubt hope that this will drive increased traffic to games through affordability, and encourage profits through volume rather than premium pricing. In the big picture, it should be important to fans that this plan succeeds. If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that the league is driven by money. That means that if this pricing model becomes viable, it could move league-wide, especially if fans of other teams clamor for it.


One of the biggest issues with football games is the number of people priced out of them by the rising cost of tickets and associated costs. A lowered concessions cost could make NFL games accessible to millions of fans willing to fill in unoccupied seats simply by making the peripheral costs of attending the game go down. It’s not just good for them, it’s good for teams. That’s not to mention the positive press teams could garner for prices that aren’t ridiculous.


It’s very cool what the Falcons management is doing. Naturally, it’s money-driven. They want to make more, and that’s fine. It could still change the game as far as NFL game attendance goes. To be honest, I really couldn’t care less what their motivations are if they can put a cold one in my hand for the same price I’d pay at a regular bar. So here’s to you, Atlanta. I hope you find success here, and that the folks at Soldier Field are watching.

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