MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Change has been the story of the season for baseball's Miami Marlins, formerly the Florida Marlins. New name, new coach, new team colors, new stadium. To mark the change, the team has managed to set a franchise record for winning games in the month of May.
But reporter Kenny Malone of member station WLRN says one tradition isn't changing anytime soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ice cold beer.
KENNY MALONE, BYLINE: Beer and baseball. Ordering beer at a baseball game is as American as apple pie.
SHANE MARINELLI: Bud Lite draft.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Eight dollars.
MALONE: So is forking over a small fortune for the beer. Eight dollars for a Bud Lite draft. Eight dollars.
MARINELLI: Kind of weird. I'm used to, like, three dollar pitcher nights and, like, dollar beers and stuff, but I have no choice.
MALONE: This is Shane Marinelli's(ph) first visit to Marlin's Park. He's a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and he works a part-time job at a sporting goods store, where an eight dollar beer...
MARINELLI: That's an hour of work, on average. It's expensive.
MALONE: The most expensive of any baseball stadium, at least according to an analysis by an online financial news site called The Street, but the problem with the report is that some stadiums have bigger cups than others. Marlins Park, for example, has a 20 ounce cup. I pull Shane Marinelli aside for a demonstration.
OK. So I have these shot glasses. I washed them. That's why they're wet.
I pour one ounce of Shane's beer into a shot glass.
All right. So, if I told you this costs 40 cents...
MARINELLI: I think it's actually better because, when you hear 40 cents, you don't think a lot.
MALONE: Ounce-for-ounce, Miami's not even in the top 10 for expensive beer and Marlins officials are quick to point that out.
CLAUDE DELORME: You know, we didn't want to be the high and certainly did not want to be the low and we knew we'd be somewhere in between.
MALONE: Claude Delorme is the Marlins' executive vice president for operations and events. He says the Marlins could even be charging a lot more. Customers in Miami have been trained to expect expensive drinks, he claims. You go to a nightclub and the mark-up on a bottle of vodka might be 4,000 percent. In that sense, the 800 percent mark-up on Bud Lite at Marlins Park could be much worse, but still...
Why does it need to be so expensive inside the stadium?
DELORME: Well, when you look at it, the pricing reflects, basically, the total cost of the operations, including our players.
MALONE: So that's the official company line, but maybe Jon Greenberg with Team Marketing Report has a more gratifying answer.
JON GREENBERG: Well, because they've got you there. It's, you know, just like any amusement park, any zoo, any movie theater. You're kind of a captive audience.
MALONE: Greenberg's company collects data on stadium beer prices. He says, aside from a brief hiccup during the recession, the only trend in stadium beer prices is the prices go up. Since 2000, the average price of a ballpark beer has jumped almost two dollars.
It's even worse in St. Louis, one of the most beer-centric places in the country. That's where Anheuser-Busch is headquartered. The local paper has a beer reporter. Evan Benn writes the Hip-Hops blog for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
EVAN BENN: When you go to Busch Stadium and you see the Clydesdales trot out at the beginning of the game and you see the Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser ads everywhere, you definitely get a sense of place.
MALONE: Benn says ordering a beer at Busch Stadium is a matter of local pride, but at 56 cents an ounce, St. Louis is second only to Boston for the priciest ballpark brew in the country.
BENN: I think it might cause you to nurse it a little bit longer and make every last ounce count.
MALONE: Precisely what college student Shane Marinelli plans on doing to last him through the Marlins game.
MARINELLI: Correct. I'll probably have one or two tonight.
MALONE: Show me a saving sip. It's very little.
MALONE: It's a 20 cent sip.
If there's anything more American than ordering beer at a baseball game, perhaps it's complaining about how expensive beer is at a baseball game. For NPR News, I'm Kenny Malone in Miami.
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