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Skip The Peanuts And Cracker Jack

Skip The Peanuts And Cracker Jack

YOU THINK THAT BALLPARK attendance is bad? The concessions biz is even worse. Turnout for America's once favorite pastime is down, in most places, as much as 25% from last season. Hot dogs, peanuts, beer, and soda are all off 50% or more, according to a BUSINESS WEEK spot check of parks.

Lower attendance, brought on by fans' bitterness over the baseball strike, is only part of the reason. Another factor: the changed post-strike crowd mix. Analysts say the fans who do show up--thrifty old people, for instance--may be more sales-resistant to pricey stadium fare. Bobby Calder, a Northwestern B-school professor, speculates that families with kids, who clamor for treats, are staying away. Plus the long absence from ballparks may have produced sticker shock.

This stuff ain't cheap. Example: Ogden Services, the vendor at parks in Philadelphia, Seattle, and Anaheim, Calif., charges $3 for a large soda. At McDonald's, it's half that.

The prices are no higher than last year, but why not try temporary discounts, as some teams have done with tickets? Few concessionaires even considered this. They figure attendance will bounce back later in the season. That's why Kahn's hot dogs, which were peddled for half off in May at New York's Shea Stadium, just went back to full price.