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No Beer Goggles For Baseball Stadium Brew Prices

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Change has been the story of the season for the Miami Marlins, formerly the Florida Marlins. With a new coach, a new name, new team colors and a new stadium the baseball team set a franchise record for winning games in May.

But one tradition isn't changing anytime soon: beer. Ordering a beer at a baseball game is as American as apple pie. So is forking over a small fortune for that beer.

According to an analysis by TheStreet.com, the most expensive beer of any baseball stadium is sold at the new Marlins Park, where baseball fans pay $8 for a Bud Light draft.

"It's kind of weird," said Shane Marinelli, a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton who was visiting Marlins Park for the first time. "I'm used to, like, $3 pitcher nights and, like, dollar beers and stuff. But I have no choice."

Marinelli works a part-time job at a sporting goods store where an $8 beer is "an hour of work, on average," he says. "It's expensive, man!"

But the problem with TheStreet.com report is that some stadiums have bigger cups than others.

Marlins Park, for example, has a 20-ounce cup. Ounce for ounce, Miami's not even in the top 10 for expensive beer, and Marlins officials are quick to point that out.

"You know we did not want to be the high and certainly did not want to be the low and we knew we'd be somewhere in between," says Claude Delorme, the Marlins executive vice president for operations and events.

He says the Marlins could be charging a lot more — customers in Miami have been trained to expect expensive drinks. You go to a nightclub and the markup on a bottle of vodka might be 4,000 percent. In that sense, the 800 percent markup on Bud Light at Marlins Park could be much worse.

But still, why does it need to be so expensive inside the stadium?

"Well, when you look at it, the pricing reflects basically the total cost of the operations including our players," he says.

That's the official company line.

But maybe Jon Greenberg from Team Marketing Report, which collects data on stadium beer prices, has a more gratifying answer?

"Well, because they've got you there," Greenberg says. "It's just like any amusement park, any zoo, any movie theater. You're kind of a captive audience."

He says aside from a brief hiccup during the recession, the only trend in stadium beer is that prices go up.

Since 2000, the average price of a ballpark beer has jumped almost $2.

It's even worse in St. Louis, one of the most beer-centric places in the country. Anheuser-Busch is headquartered there and the local paper has a beer reporter.

"When you go 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," says Evan Benn, who writes the Hip Hops blog for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Benn says ordering 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.

"I think it might cause you to nurse it a little bit longer and make every last ounce count," says Benn.

That's how college student Marinelli planned to make his beer last him through the Marlins game: slow sips.

Copyright 2012 WLRN Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wlrn.org/.

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