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Eric Peterson, Published February 12 2012

The price you pay: Fans, organizers weight costs for attending basketball games

Fargo - John Phelps likes when the home team wins, but a loss doesn’t mean Phelps walks away from a basketball game disappointed.

“As long as the games are competitive, I think they are just fun to watch,” said Phelps, who is the print shop director at Concordia College. “I get my entertainment dollar that way.”

Phelps is a North Dakota State basketball season ticket holder. He also goes to as many Concordia games as he can when those games don’t conflict with the Bison.

Like many in the Fargo-Moorhead area, attending sporting events is the main form of entertainment for Phelps and his wife.

The Forum looked at what costs for a typical night out at a basketball game. The price for an adult ticket in the F-M area ranges between $5 and $15. For a high school student, cost ranges from $3 to $5.

“I still think it’s a good value for people,” said Craig Anderson, the athletic director at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. “It’s a place to bring your family and you don’t have to pay and arm and leg for it.”

North Dakota State – which is a Division I school – has the highest ticket price at $15 for a women’s and men’s doubleheader.

NDSU charges $12 for a men’s game and $10 for a women’s game. A youth ticket for single games or doubleheaders is $5.

Most F-M area high schools charge $5 for adults and $3 for students. A few – including Moorhead High School – charge $6 for adults and $4 for students.

“I think people generally understand that we rely on the income to help take care of programs,” said Moorhead athletic director Don Hulbert.

A typical Saturday night out at an NDSU basketball doubleheader, if you add in basic concessions, would cost two adults $40. That’s $30 for two tickets, $5 for two sodas, $2 for a hot dog and $3 for nachos.

Phelps has season tickets, so his per-event ticket cost is less than $8 for each of his two season tickets. For single games at NDSU, Phelps and his wife usually purchase one soda each for a total cost of $5, he said.

For a Saturday night doubleheader, the couple usually buys food items and spends around $10.

“I would much rather spend that money than going out to the theater,” Phelps said. “If they lose, the game’s good, I think they’re playing a good game, then I leave happy. I got entertainment for the two hours or whatever it is the game lasts.”

The high schools at Fargo Davies, Fargo North, Fargo South, Fargo Shanley and West Fargo have boys and girls varsity doubleheaders when they play against each other.

Shanley is the lone school in that group that charges $6 for adults and $4 for students. All of those schools charge the same price for doubleheaders as they do for single boys or girls varsity games.

“If you start comparing the value of a high school game compared to a movie ticket, we are still pretty reasonable,” said West Fargo athletic director Curt Jones.

The regular price for a movie ticket at F-M area theaters is $9 general and $6.50 for children. For a matinee showing, the price is $7 general and $6.25 for children. A 3-D movie costs $13 general and $9 for children.

Ticket prices at Davies, North, South and West Fargo are on par with most other Eastern Dakota Conference schools. Those prices are discussed at EDC activity meetings.

Shanley athletic director Randy Nelson said his school decided to bump up prices $1 last season.

“It was our decision to raise ours a dollar and go from there,” he said.

EDC schools have used those $5 and $3 prices for at least the past 10 years, South athletic director Cory Lehman said. Lehman added tickets pricing is a topic that is discussed often in activity meetings.

“The last three or four years, the discussion has come up,” Lehman said. “The prices haven’t gone up, but the cost of running an event has certainly gone up.”

Lehman said the cost for hosting a doubleheader at South is around $1,100 to cover payments to game officials, ticket takers, score table workers and security. A single boys or girls varsity game costs around $600.

A typical doubleheader night at South would cost two adults $18.75. That’s $10 for two tickets, $1.75 for a hotdog, $3 for a taco in a bag and $4 for two soft drinks. Concession prices at the other F-M area high schools are similar.

Davies athletic director Lenny Ohlhauser said there has to be a balance when it comes to pricing.

Schools need to be able to cover the rising game costs and at the same time keep events affordable – especially for families who may need to buy four or five tickets for one event.

“You don’t want to make it to the point where it prevents them from coming to the game,” said Ohlhauser. “The main goal is to still get people to the game.”

North athletic director Troy Cody said attendance at North basketball games has been solid this season, especially against in-town opponents. Cody said the school had a $2,300 gate on Jan. 7 when it hosted two varsity games against West Fargo. That figure didn’t account for adult or student season passes.

“You are paying 5 bucks and you are being able to see two games,” Cody said. “That’s still a pretty good deal.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com