Just about 17 million people attend at least one NFL game each season. That represents only about 5 percent of people in the nation. And it’s no wonder. The NFL is by far the most expensive team sport to attend in America, with the trade-off being each team only plays eight regular-season home games each year.
It’s a numbers game. But that means taking the entire family to a single game is still a pretty good chunk of the monthly salary. Across the league, it will cost four people on average nearly $500 for a Sunday afternoon watching their favorite team, including an average of $102.35 per ticket.
Finding the cheapest football cities for families
Nowhere in the NFL is the price of going to a game a steal, but where are the cheapest cities for football games in the league? We singled out four core game-day expenses — ticket prices for a family of four, parking at an official stadium lot, two beers, two soft drinks and four hot dogs from stadium concessions — totaled them up and ranked every city for its affordability to take the entire fam to the game.
It’s no surprise that high cost-of-living cities in the Northeast and on the West Coast rank rather low on the list. The lion’s share (no pun intended) of the cheapest cities for families come from Great Lakes Rust Belt football hotbeds and a few places where football season is literally hot. Here are the top 10 best values in the NFL for parents and kids.
10. Detroit (Lions)
OK, so the Detroit Lions don’t exactly have the league’s winningest history. In fact, it’s been nearly 30 years since the Lions won a playoff game. Not only has the team never appeared in a Super Bowl, but it’s also been six decades since they have even played in a title game. And yes, they were the first team to go 0-16.
But Lions fans are a resilient crew, still nearly selling out most games at beautiful Ford Field, ranked among the “Best Stadiums in the NFL” by The Big Lead. It’s a sure stretch better than the old Silverdome in Pontiac, MI, which was a whopping 25 miles outside of downtown.
But in a city with noted economic struggles over the last few decades, the Lions have kept the family game day experience affordable, even tied for the cheapest beer in the league at just five bucks for a brew.
Stars like Matthew Stafford and Matt Prater are primed to lead a Lions turnaround as recently happened in Kansas City, Dallas and Jacksonville. The city of Detroit itself is experiencing a similar upturn, with a revitalized downtown and a rise in population. But for now, rents remain relatively low, with a three-bedroom apartment available for $2,922 a month on average.
9. Kansas City (Chiefs)
Kansas City is a giant college town that just happens to have an NFL team. Sunday game day at Arrowhead Stadium is one big red-and-gold tailgate, with face-painted kids, marching bands and parking lot parties steeped with the smell of burgers and barbecue starting in the wee hours.
Those same fans that filled stadiums at Kansas State, University of Kansas and University of Missouri on Saturday are the same ones streaming into Arrowhead on Sunday.
By all accounts, MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are the class of the AFC and the team arguably most likely to challenge the Patriots for their Super Bowl berth (depending on the status of Mahomes’ injury). But even with stratospheric expectations on both sides of State Line Road, the Chiefs have kept costs for a family day out at the stadium more affordable than most of the league’s top teams in the standings.
The cost of living on the Great Plains is among the most affordable regions in the nation, and not only is that apparent in the price to bring your family to the game in Kansas City, but to settle down in the City of Fountains, as well. The cost of an average three-bedroom unit in KCMO runs just $1,652 monthly.
8. Miami (Dolphins)
Glitz and glamour. Golden sands and beach bods. “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Ballers.” South Beach, Aventura and Brickell. With Miami‘s well known high-end and high-roller image, it might be surprising to find Magic City on the list of the most affordable for a day with the family at an NFL game.
Part of the reason for the affordability and family-friendly prices at Hard Rock Stadium (the former Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and Sun Life Stadium, among others) is its location in the residential suburb of Miami Gardens, a full 15 miles north of downtown Miami.
At the time the stadium was built in the late 1980s, this area of Miami was unincorporated and largely undeveloped, keeping real estate and construction costs down, which translated into low amenities costs all around that have remained to this day.
While the Dolphins haven’t secured a playoff victory since the 2000 season, games at Hard Rock Stadium have stayed above capacity for the season for the last half-decade. It’s no wonder with reasonable prices and the warm South Florida sun. Depending on where, Miami rental prices are not always that lucky, with a three-bedroom apartment renting for $3,143 a month on average.
7. Nashville (Titans)
When it was announced in 1995 that the Houston Oilers were leaving town and heading to Nashville, football pundits were skeptical about the success of the franchise in a city so much smaller and lower profile. After one disastrous temporary season in Memphis, the Oilers-cum-Titans established themselves in Nashville at the forefront of a Music City revitalization in 1998.
The NFL and the Titans saw the future of Nashville and predicted it correctly. The country music capital diversified and grew into one of the South’s biggest financial, tech, healthcare, entertainment and tourist hubs alongside a population growth of 22 percent since the team moved to town.
The city has since birthed a successful NHL franchise, a new MLS team and a rejuvenated downtown just across the river from Nissan Stadium. Yet through all the growth, a day at the Titans game remains among the most affordable in the league.
With everything going on in Music City U.S.A., rents are on the rise as expected, with an average 3-bedroom listed for $2,572 a month.
6. Tampa (Buccaneers)
Years of pumpkin-colored pratfalls and paper bag-covered heads have given the Tampa Bay fanbase a questionable reputation. But the franchise that lost its first 26 games gave way long ago to the Jon Gruden-era Bucs that won three division titles and Super Bowl XXXVII.
Despite a few seasons since in the second division and the worst lifetime winning percentage of any NFL team, fans still turn out in droves to fill the quarter-century-old Raymond James Stadium.
And those fans have been rewarded with an affordable place to take the family each Sunday, one of the three Florida teams among the top eight. Sure, it’s been a dozen years since the Bucs have made the playoffs back in the Derrick Brooks-Warren Sapp-Ronde Barber era. But the future under new coach Bruce Arians and Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Jameis Winston looks bright as fans continue to fill “Ray Jay.”
While the franchise represents the entire Tampa Bay region, the team itself resides in the city of Tampa (as opposed to baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays that play in St. Petersburg). With the downtown Channel District for pre-game eats to the nightlife of Ybor City for post-game drinks and a plethora of industries and proximity to gorgeous Gulf beaches, Tampa is a popular Sunshine State spot in which to settle. A three-bedroom apartment rents for $2,073 on average per month.
5. Jacksonville (Jaguars)
In a state with destinations like Miami, Tampa, Daytona, Orlando and the Florida Panhandle, Jacksonville — an oceanfront city with one foot in the Sunshine State and one in the Deep South — is often overlooked.
The NFL certainly saw the potential of Jacksonville on the national stage in 1993 when it chose the city for expansion. The population was exploding as one of the fastest-growing cities on the East Coast, tourism was booming and the league was adding another city to its championship host city roster, bringing Super Bowl XXXIX to town in 2005.
Jacksonville’s underdog status belies a successful history. Their first playoff appearance came in their second season, which was followed by three more consecutive post-season berths culminating in a league-best 14-2 1999 season and a 62-7 Divisional Playoff win over Miami in Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson’s last NFL game. The team would go on to appear in the playoffs three more times behind players like Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith and Byron Leftwich.
But the franchise fandom’s pinnacle may have come in the form of the Jags’ biggest supporter, fictional Jacksonvillian Jason Mendoza (played by Manny Jacinto) on NBC’s “The Good Place,” a superfan of the team and especially former quarterback Blake Bortles. If Jason takes three of his Dance Dance Revolution buddies to a game, they’ll find the most affordable Sunday for a squad in the South, despite one of the highest prices in the league for beer.
Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States. No, for real. At 750,000 square miles, Jacksonville is indeed the biggest city in the continental U.S. by area. But with only just under 900,000 people filling for all those miles, there’s a lot of room for residents to claim. For $1,349 a month on average, you can grab an average three-bedroom apartment in the wide-open spaces.
4. Phoenix (Cardinals)
While places like Green Bay, Chicago and Buffalo freeze over from bitter winds and feet of snow as the football season drags on, the sunny and warm Sonoran Desert city of Phoenix averages a balmy 68 degrees during the winter. The hometown of the Arizona Cardinals (who actually play in Glendale, the metro area’s fourth-largest suburb) is a top-tier place to catch an NFL game.
Not only is Phoenix the biggest city in the Southwest, it’s also the most affordable place to take the family for a football game in the entire western U.S. A Sunday at newly-renamed State Farm Stadium is filled with shorts and T-shirt-clad Cardinals fans laying back and soaking up the sun, with a cheap $5 draught in hand.
Despite being the fastest-growing city in the nation, rental prices remain relatively affordable, with $1,639 monthly on average snagging you a three-bedroom apartment. But be aware of the game day commute: Glendale is a long 13 miles away from downtown Phoenix.
3. Buffalo (Bills)
There are few more resolute fans in the NFL than Bills fans in Buffalo. The Nickel City was ranked by The Weather Channel as the “Worst Weather City in the NFL.” Blowing winds, freezing temperatures and the snowiest stadium in the league make it a tough go for fans in 40-year-old New Era Field stadium, which sits 11 miles south of downtown Buffalo in Orchard Park.
On the field, Bills fans would rather talk about great individual players of the 1990s like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith than those legendary four consecutive Super Bowl losses (or that former running back named O.J.).
And fortunately for the fervent (often shirtless) fans in the stands, the future is on the rise. In 2017, the Bills snapped the longest active playoff drought among any team in any of the four major professional leagues.
Even through nearly two decades of playoff futility, fans still packed the fifth-oldest stadium in the league. One of the reasons is that Buffalo offers the best game day value of any team in the expensive Northeast.
While the Bills serve the second-most expensive stadium hot dogs and fifth-highest priced soft drinks, that’s of little concern when you factor in the NFL’s cheapest ticket prices, with an average of just $284.32 for a family of four, less than half the price of the Los Angeles Chargers, the league’s highest.
As a 14-time winner of the Golden Snowball, Buffalo is a place where unless you’re headed to the stadium, you might want to hole up inside for the rest of the winter, where a three-bedroom apartment comes in with an average monthly rent of $1,964.
2. Cleveland (Browns)
It hasn’t always been this way in Cleveland. The Browns are the only major pro team to reach the championship game in each of their first 10 years of existence. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, the Browns made the playoffs 14 times in 30 seasons before the team packed up and moved to Baltimore in 1995.
After three years, the Browns were back in expansion form and have since, to be kind, struggled. The team has two winning seasons and 30 different quarterbacks this millennium, including a streak of 635 days without a win.
Cleveland is an easy place to knock if you don’t know it. The “Mistake on the Lake,” you know, the one that caught on fire. The city that LeBron turned his back on. Twice. But it’s also the city that loved its Browns so much — the team of the Jim Brown and the Dawg Pound, Bernie Kosar and the Kardiac Kids — that when Art Modell tore the franchise away from the banks of the Cuyahoga, fans marched in protest, signed petitions by the thousands and filed lawsuits to keep their team.
While the Browns have fizzled mightily since, fortunes are on the rise in Cleveland for the first time in a generation, with many pundits picking the Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr.-led squad as Super Bowl contenders.
As the team’s fortunes rise, so has the attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium. Fans back on the Browns wagon are treated to the second-lowest ticket prices in the league (one of only two teams averaging under $300 for four passes), and the second-most-affordable trip to the game for a family of four.
The working-class Cleveland citizenry still revels in the basic Buckeye aesthetic of “Major League” and “The Drew Carey Show,” which carries over to the Midwest Rust Belt cost of living. A family apartment with three bedrooms rents for $1,743 a month on average.
1. Cincinnati (Bengals)
A day at the stadium is more affordable in Ohio than anywhere else in the nation. Both of the Buckeye State franchises lead the list of cheapest cities to bring a family to a football game. But once again, Cincinnati tops its AFC North state-mates. As former Bengals head coach Sam Wyche said, “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!”
In the Queen City, you’ll pay a league-low $355 for a family of four to attend Paul Brown Stadium, which includes the third-lowest ticket price, a tie for the lowest beer price and by far the lowest price for parking by more than four dollars. That affordability is certainly by appreciated patient Bengals fans who have suffered through a roller-coaster of ups and downs over the decades.
For years, Cincinnati’s Bengals were sort-of affectionately known as “The Bungles,” a series of missed opportunities, unfulfilled promise, Montana-to-Taylor moments and cringe-worthy injuries to the likes of Tim Crumrie, Carson Palmer and Ki-Jana Carter.
But after heartbreaks in the 1980s and futility in the ’90s, the Bengals have racked up seven playoff appearances since 2005 mirroring the fortunes of Cincinnati under revitalization, a John Facenda-worthy comeback story and the best family value in the entire NFL.
The Paris of America has much to offer beyond “WKRP” and Skyline Chili 5-way. Those that settle along the Ohio River in Cincinnati, can snag a three-bedroom apartment for an average of $1,381 a month.
Ranking all 32 NFL teams
Below are the full rankings for all 32 teams.
While affordable Midwest and Sun Belt cities place very high on the list, markets with national footprint teams like the Cowboys, Bears and Packers, as well as large coastal cities with elevated costs-of-living expenses and higher ticket demand drop to the bottom, with a day at a Los Angeles Chargers game way out in front with a total of $764 for a family of four, nearly $170 greater than second-to-last place.
|Rank||Team||Average Ticket||Beer||Soda||Hot Dog||Average Parking||Total Cost for Family of Four|
|6||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||$82.59||$10.50||$5.25||$6.00||$20.06||$405.92|
|9||Kansas City Chiefs||$83.40||$7.50||$5.00||$6.00||$40.00||$422.60|
|16||New Orleans Saints||$97.72||$10.50||$5.25||$5.50||$28.50||$472.88|
|17||New York Jets||$94.16||$10.00||$3.50||$6.00||$47.95||$475.59|
|24||New York Giants||$115.31||$10.00||$3.00||$6.00||$15.94||$527.18|
|25||San Francisco 49ers||$116.98||$10.00||$4.00||$5.00||$38.54||$554.46|
|27||Los Angeles Rams||$118.09||$10.00||$6.00||$6.25||$43.53||$572.89|
|29||Green Bay Packers||$122.68||$8.50||$5.00||$6.00||$40.00||$581.72|
|30||New England Patriots||$127.04||$9.50||$4.50||$4.00||$40.00||$592.16|
|32||Los Angeles Chargers||$165.77||$10.50||$6.00||$6.00||$44.50||$764.58|
Prices for average ticket and parking prices, plus beer, soda and hot dog costs come from Team Marketing Report’s 2019 NFL Fan Cost Index. After adding up the cost of four tickets, parking, two beers, two soda and four hot dogs, we ranked which team was most affordable for a family of four to attend a game.
The rent information included in this article is based on October 2019 rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.