The Columbia Fireflies’ opening night was a blast for 6-year-old Landon Nieto and 9-year-old Hayden Geib, even if the cousins spent most of the game playing on a grassy berm just beyond the stadium’s right field wall.
It was just as fun for Landon’s parents, who could take the kids along for opening night at Spirit Communications Park without breaking the bank.
“There’s nothing better than being out in fresh air, with baseball and fireworks,” Tammy Nieto, Landon’s mother, said as a Fireflies staffer handed free T-shirts to kids nearby. “That’s a nice feature.”
Tammy Nieto guessed the Chapin residents would spend about $50 for a night at the ballpark.
That included just $20 for four tickets on the Bojangles Berm. The other $30, give or take, paid for two hotdogs, a pair of Philly cheese steaks, a bottle of Gatorade, a bag of popcorn and two beers.
“That’s still nothing,” said Eric Nieto, Landon’s father. “This is awesome.”
Here lies much of the appeal to minor league baseball, which returned to Columbia on Thursday night after more than a decade away: It’s family friendly, and it’s affordable.
“If you’re getting seats, food, drink and dessert, $50 sounds about right,” said team owner Jason Freier. “You can get three hours of entertainment and be fed for about the price of taking your family to a movie. This is a volume business here. We don’t want anybody to be priced out here. ... We will always have highly accessible price points.”
By contrast, the average Fan Cost Index, a representative look at the costs for a family of four to attend a game, for Major League Baseball teams this season is $219.53.
And bringing a family of four to an NFL game would cost around $480.89, according to FCI.
A $50 bill stretches much farther in Spirit Communications Park, where you can sit just behind home plate for $10.
Grassy areas and standing room spots along the outfield wall are cheaper and allow ample room to kids to play.
“They’re high-energy, so it would have been tough to keep them in a seat,” said Eric Nieto.
That’s just fine by the Nietos.
“These guys aren’t really watching, but they’re having a great time,” Tammy Nieto said as she kept an eye on the youngsters. “It’s really more about the family interaction.”