A frank look at hot dog prices at MLB ballparks

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 29: A fan buys a hot dog from a vendor during a a game between the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox on August 29, 2023 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Actor Humphrey Bogart once remarked that a hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz. Most baseball fans would agree with the sentiment, though Bogart might be surprised by how much the average ballpark frank would set him back these days.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, roughly 20 million hot dogs are consumed at MLB stadiums every season, which averages out to roughly 8,000 hot dogs per game. (The NHDSC also claims the average American eats a whopping 70 hot dogs per year, and if that seems like an insane number, well, you’re not alone.)

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It’s difficult to fairly compare hot dog prices across MLB ballparks; several teams offer plain hot dogs of varying sizes for different prices, while other teams offer a single-size hot dog for one price, all in addition to specialty stadium-specific dogs topped with a variety of unconventional garnishes, such as mini pierogies, crab mac and cheese and Froot Loops.

Last year, USA Today gathered hot dog prices from 28 of MLB’s 30 teams. Building on that important research, and inspired by readers’ reactions to the price of concessions at Nationals Park after the team’s annual ballpark tour for media members ahead of Opening Day, I sought to compile a list of the cheapest hot dogs available at every ballpark, regardless of size. The following summary is based on hot dog prices obtained from hospitality vendors, teams and, in a few cases, the MLB Ballpark app.

Excluding promotional deals, such as dollar dog night, the Toronto Blue Jays boast MLB’s cheapest hot dog at $2.55. It’s available, along with similarly priced value items, at two concession stands at Rogers Centre. The Arizona Diamondbacks have the cheapest hot dog on this side of the border, a $2.99 offering at nine concession stands throughout Chase Field.

The Miami Marlins feature a $3 hot dog as part of their value menu at LoanDepot Park, and the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins sell hot dogs for $3.99 at Truist Park and Target Field. The Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners offer $4 hot dogs at select concession stands, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards has a 410 menu - a nod to Baltimore’s area code - featuring hot dogs and other items for $4.10.

In all cases, these hot dogs are smaller than more expensive hot dogs offered at other concession stands within the ballpark. For instance, the Blue Jays and Twins sell more standard size hot dogs for $4.97 and $7.49, and the Braves offer a jumbo all-beef dog for $9.49. It’s good to have options.

The average lowest price for a hot dog across MLB’s 30 ballparks this season is $5.99. The Chicago White Sox ($5.49), Boston Red Sox ($6.25), New York Yankees ($6.29) and Detroit Tigers ($6.49) are among the teams whose cheapest hot dogs are priced closest to the average.

The most expensive hot dog in the majors is the $8.39 Colossal Dog at Oakland Coliseum, where the Las Vegas-bound A’s are averaging fewer than 6,000 fans. (Insert joke about A’s owner John Fisher needing to offset the cost of the league’s lowest payroll here.)

According to Aramark, the hospitality vendor for the A’s and eight other MLB teams, the Colossal Dog is a quarter-pound offering from Lodi, Calif.-based Miller’s. Hot dog size information was not available for most teams, but the A’s might be the only club selling a quarter-pounder as its basic hot dog.

The average hot dogs found in a grocery store are two ounces, while the hot dogs featured on ballpark value menus are typically closer to 1.5 ounces. (As the food critic for the Seattle Times noted two years ago, the aforementioned $4 hot dog available at Mariners games “could stand to improve its meat-to-bun-ratio,” and while it’s an excellent option for families with kids, the heftier $8 Mariner dog rates much better.)

MLB’s second-most-expensive basic hot dog is the $8 Angel Dog at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium, followed closely by the $7.99 hot dogs at Wrigley Field, Nationals Park, Dodger Stadium and Petco Park. Wrigley Field, Nationals Park and Dodger Stadium are serviced by Levy Restaurants, while Petco Park partners with Delaware North.

“In most cases, we work very closely with our clients to determine pricing,” said Shawn Mattox, a vice president of operations for Delaware North, which handles concessions for 10 MLB teams. “We use our revenue management team along with our [business intelligence] team to help run analytics on how things sold in comparison to other items, and whether they’re up or down from previous years. We keep in mind sensitivity to pricing and look at cost increases and things of that nature.”

In 2022, an official from one hospitality vendor told ESPN that hot dog costs increased between 20 percent and 30 percent, which was the highest annual increase in 30 years. Here in D.C., the price of a hot dog at Nationals Park increased by 50 cents, or 6 percent, from last season, and similar price increases were instituted throughout the majors. The Nationals declined to make a ballpark operations official available for an interview about concession pricing, and Levy Restaurants did not respond to a request for comment.

The Nationals are one of several teams that offer discounts on tickets and concessions on select days throughout the season. Hot dogs are available for $4 - and pizza, pretzels and fountain sodas are also heavily discounted - during every Tuesday home game. The Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers, which are serviced by Delaware North, offer similar hot dog discounts on Tuesdays, while the Colorado Rockies have a concession stand featuring smaller and cheaper items for kids, including a hot dog for $3.15.

“We know that fans of baseball reach across a lot of genres, and families make up a good portion of that,” Mattox said. “I think we’re all sensitive to the fact that we want to make sure it’s affordable.”

The Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Blue Jays and Royals are among the handful of teams with regular dollar dog nights throughout the season. The Phillies discontinued their dollar dog promotion this year after a food fight erupted at a game last season, but Citizens Bank Park, which is serviced by Aramark, still features one of the cheaper hot dogs ($4.99) in the majors. Meanwhile, the A’s are offering $2 tickets and $1 hot dogs - presumably not the quarter-pound variety - at three Wednesday home games this season. The New York Mets sold a Citi Field record 44,269 hot dogs during their dollar dog promotion Tuesday, which was 30,000 fewer hot dogs than the Blue Jays sold on a record-breaking “Loonie Dog” night last season.

For fans who might balk at the idea of paying $6 or more for a hot dog, most teams, including the Nationals, allow you to bring outside food into the ballpark, with certain restrictions. Short of making a stop at Costco en route to the game, one option for Nationals fans looking to get their hot dog fix without breaking the bank is to grab a couple of grilled hot dogs at the Bullpen on Half Street for the same price as a single hot dog inside the stadium.

Of course, expensive concessions at sporting events, where teams have a captive audience, are nothing new, nor are annual price increases. Back in 1978, one fan decided to do something about it. That year, the concessions provider for San Francisco’s Candlestick Park increased the price of hot dogs by a nickel, claiming it needed to cover the cost of new equipment and additional workers after state and local health officials began requiring hot dogs sold by vendors to be pre-wrapped.

Ron Gordon, a 32-year-old high school biology teacher from nearby Redwood City, scrutinized the economics of the price hike and took his findings to the media, garnering coverage from the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated and CBS. He wrote to the Giants, the President’s Council on Wage and Price Stability and President Jimmy Carter himself, and he even created charts and wrapped hot dogs in front of the San Francisco Park and Recreation Board to show that the Giants’ concession provider had woefully underestimated the number of dogs its workers could wrap in a minute.

After a year-long effort that cost him an estimated $1,500 out of his own pocket, Gordon persuaded the board to roll back the price of hot dogs to 75 cents.

“I’m a Dodgers fan,” Gordon told reporters, “and I only come out to Candlestick a couple or three times a year. But I figure that the money I spent was an investment in justice. The only thing that bothers me is not that I know more about this than anyone else - but that I know more about it than I know about anything else.”

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