Image credit: Pitch Clock (Getty Images)
Among the many complaints and concerns that have been raised about the pitch clock coming to the major leagues is one that seems to come up over and over.
I say it’s odd because normally fans don’t really worry too much about how much a team is taking in for concessions revenue, but it’s a relatively simple question being asked, so I figured I’d try to answer it.
Does shorter game times in baseball lead to reduced concessions revenue?
The good news is we have a large test group of 120 teams that played in 2022 with the pitch clock rules that are coming to MLB in 2023. Sure MLB teams have higher concession prices, and they have larger crowds, but the same dynamics are at play.
So I asked minor league front offices: with their average game time dropping by nearly half an hour in 2022, did they see a drop in concessions revenue?
The answer I got back universally from more than a dozen minor league operators was no. Minor league teams did not see a loss in concessions sales because games were shorter.
“We didn’t see concession sales suffer due to shorter games as fans were staying the same amount of time as they normally would, but were now just staying until the end of the game instead of the end of the seventh inning,” said one minor league team GM.
“We did not see a negative effect on concession sales. People still eat and drink as much as they used to. The 7th-9th innings of a 3 hour, 30 minute game are not high concession sales,” said another.
“From a concessions perspective, we have not seen a drop off in per caps whatsoever. A game lasting an hour longer than normal on a Thursday night doesn’t benefit us on the concessions side, because 90% of the fans have already gone home to get to bed,” said a third.
A fourth operator said their concession revenue actually went up. He also noted that their post-game promotions where kids run the bases were better attended because families were much more willing to stick around for the entire game, which he took as a positive sign for developing young fans.
Multiple operators also noted that the gameday employees have said how happy they are with the change since they are getting home half an hour earlier than they were before.
So there you have it from the people who have experienced it and measured it. The pitch clock may do a lot of things, but it’s unlikely to harm MLB concession sales.