CINCINNATI -- After writing an article last week on how Reds attendance was about 9,000 short of average during the most pivotal series of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals, the biggest piece of feedback I received was about how the cost of baseball games has gotten out of control, and that for many economic situations, it is difficult if not down-right impossible to make it down to the ballpark.
I understand that a Reds game may not be on your list of priorities, but there is a way to attend one on a tight budget.
Reds costs boil down to a few specific subjects: Ticket prices, parking costs and paying for food.
Here are some tips on how you can save on all Reds-related activities:
Dynamic pricing has definitely altered the more important series' this year, pushing up centered View level tickets to $22 against teams like the Pirates on a Saturday and even $25 in some spots against the St. Louis Cardinals during the season.
But you can still find cheap seats in these well-sought games.
In the corners of the View Level (sections like 536 and 511) you can snag tickets for the upcoming Pirates series for $8 (Friday, Sept. 27) and $9 (Saturday, Sept. 28). If you're adding that up for your significant other and two children, it's about a $40 expense with fees included for those corner View Level spots. If you prefer the bleachers, $16 is the charge out there, leaving you with a total for a family of four of about $70 with fees.
For the upcoming Tuesday game against the Cubs, centered View Level tickets are $15 each, or face value of just $6 in the corners, and $14 bleacher seats. In the Reds future series against the Mets (Sept. 23-25), prices are slightly different, with about a $12 charge in the bleachers, but $22 for centered View Level, with still $6 in the corners. Those $6 in the corners allow for a very affordable night out with the family, at a cost of around $30 with fees for the game.
Not having any luck finding seats you really want via Ticketmaster and Reds.com? Stubhub is a place where you can find better seats for the same price as the cheap ones.
For Tuesday's game against the Cubs, $6 is a price you'll find for bleacher seats and View Level alike (and not just the corners either). That's sold with the fees included, and will end up costing you just $24 for your entrance to the ballpark.
Looking for some nicer seats? Section 134 on the Field Level listed tickets on Stubhub for as low as $8 per ticket as of Monday morning, far below the face value of $41. That's potential for just $32 for some great, lower-level seats for a family of four, which is cheaper than just one face value ticket in that section. There are a variety of other deals on Stubhub for this series, you just have to do some searching.
The Mets series has similar offerings. Bleachers are selling for $6, View Level for $8, and in section 112 at the Field Level, tickets were available Monday morning for just $13, well below the same $41 face value, for a family-of-four total of just $52.
The upcoming Friday and Saturday games against the Pirates actually have tickets listed higher than face value from the View Level on Stubhub, but bleacher seats are still a reasonable $8-$10. If you're looking for lower-level seats, as of Monday morning, you can find cheaper Stubhub seats for Friday's game in section 139, listed at $27 rather than the face value of $35. In this case, it's best buying up the cheap face value of the bleacher and corner View Level tickets. Same goes for Saturday's game, with the exception of a hidden gem of just $28 for section 108 (face value of $35) as of Monday morning.
Search for Reds tickets on Stubhub at http://www.stubhub.com/cincinnati-reds-tickets/.
Free parking around game time is hard to come by, but is possible to find. If you're downtown around an hour prior to game time, you should be able to find a spot here and there, but you have to be willing to drive up and down 3rd-6th streets a few times, and for a few blocks of walking to the ballpark. Not willing to park downtown? Newport has loads of street parking on the other side of the river, with just about a 15 minute walk to the ballpark afterward.
SECRET FREE PARKING: Right before Mt. Adams dips into downtown, there are several spots where you can cruise on up next to the sidewalk and park your vehicle for a few hours, free of meters, other charges or crowds. If you're approaching Mt. Adams from Gilbert Avenue, take a left onto Elsinore Place and keep right onto Van Meter Street. Drive almost to the first stop sign where Van Meter intersects with Monastery Street, and on the left side of the road, parking is permitted as the street winds all the way back toward the Rockfish building. There are almost always several spots available there, and while there is a steep hill to walk down (Monastery Street to Eggleston Avenue), it's not much further of a walk than where the charged lots are.
IF YOU'RE WILLING TO PAY: There is a lot underneath I-471 where Eggleston Avenue meets Pete Rose Way that almost always charges just $5 for parking. It's no more than a 10 minute walk to the ballpark, and you can snicker as you walk past the $7, $10 and $17 lots along Pete Rose Way. It's also very accessible to avoid crowds after the game, with an easy right turn to Columbia Parkway, I-71 or I-471.
Don't forget the Ky. side of the river, where in Newport there are several $5 lots, which includes Newport on the Levee. Fountain Square is also typically only a $5 charge for the length of a ballgame, but that fills up early on game night.
Here is a map of most of the surrounding parking options for Reds games (prices could be different day-to-day)
View Where to park for Reds games in a larger map
It's not a very well kept secret that Great American Ball Park allows you to bring in a small, soft cooler full of food and sealed drinks (no glass bottles). This is the best way to save on food costs. If you purchase a 9 oz. package of Oscar Meyer deli meat at Kroger, it goes for around $3, and can feed the whole family. Add in a half loaf of bread to cover sandwiches for $1, a half-pound of American Cheese from the deli for around $3, and you've got yourselves a picnic lunch/dinner at the ballpark.
Unsealed bottles of water are welcome and the cheapest way to bring your own beverage. Game attendees have the option to buy 12 oz. bottles for $1 outside the ballpark and then bring them in, or grab a 24-pack at Kroger for around $3.50, and it will end up costing you less than $.50 each game. If you want a snack to go with that, most granola bars sell for around $3, and can feed each member of the family no problem.
If you save yourself the cash by grabbing food ahead of time, it's just $10.50 to feed everyone.
Short on time to shop before first pitch for game time food? Don't forget about the $1 food sections around GABP. Hot dogs, peanuts and small soft drinks all go for just $1 each in a booth on the third base side up in the View Level. During a crowded game, the wait can be long (30 minutes or more), but if you're seeking cheap food, get there 30-45 minutes prior to first pitch and you'll no doubt have affordable grub in hand before the game starts for the whole family.
Total cost of eating in the ballpark on a budget: Six $1 hot dogs, two bags of $1 peanuts and four $1 soft drinks = $12.
WHAT ABOUT THE BEER?
Most fans are quick to mention the price of a beer (Up around $8 per cup and can) and how it has gotten too high for their taste buds. If you're able to save on the initial food costs, ticket prices and park for free, you might have that leftover cash to splurge for the high cost of beer. But at the end of the day, if you're on a budget, beer is just that: A bonus that can be left at the gate.
Cost for a family of four to see the Pittsburgh Pirates game Saturday, Sept. 28 at 4:10 p.m.
Four tickets in corners of View Level: $40
Parking: $5 (if you get frustrated with looking for the free spots)
Food: $11 (with either brought-in or purchased-at-ballpark items)
Add a $6 charge for gas round-trip
Total: $62 ($70 if you need that beer)
Can you make it to three games each week on that cost? Probably not, but if you skip the Olive Garden dinner or save on the Starbucks for a few weeks, you can afford one more game to root on your playoff-bound Reds.
(All ticket prices listed as of Monday morning, Sept. 9).
UPDATE: Reds attendance was about 3,000 above average over the weekend, particularly good at Saturday's game, which reached 40,799. The per-game average for the sweep over the LA Dodgers was 36,206.
There are just nine home games left in the regular season, and the Reds are fighting to avoid a one-game Wild Card playoff.