Last year SI.com writers analyzed each major league ballpark from a fan's vantage point in order to determine which venues offered the best value and experience. But this time around we went to the best source: the fans. In a survey on SI.com we asked readers to rank their hometown parks on a variety of criteria, from parking prices to the availability of restrooms to the quality of concessions. We also asked for opinions on what makes the park special -- or disappointing. More than 8,500 responded.
We broke the fan experience down into seven categories and rated each on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best.
The categories included:
Average ticket price
The figures were taken from Team Marketing Report's 2006 Fan Cost Index, which represents a weighted average of season-ticket prices.
Average cost of concessions/souvenirs
The estimated amount a family of four would spend at a game. The total, based in part on Team Marketing Reports calculations, includes four regular-size hot dogs, four small soft drinks, two small draft beers, parking for one car, two game programs and two adult-size adjustable caps.
We derived an average rating fans gave for park accessibility and came up with a statistical breakdown of how easy it is to get to and from the game.
Are there enough restrooms? How much variety will one find at concession stands? Does the in-game entertainment add to your enjoyment at the park or does it merely give you a headache? Again, we averaged how fans rated each stadium's amenities and offer a statistical portrait of fans' responses.
Using fans' candid comments, we put together a summary of what fans think of the vibe inside the ballpark and the sense of history one leaves with. Fans also rated the experience, the average of which constitutes the overall rank.
What sort of entertainment and dining options are near the park? Is it safe to walk the streets after the game? Readers' vivid descriptions are detailed, while their answers provide the basis for the overall rating. (Quotes in each report are from fans unless otherwise noted.)
We took into account a team's on-field performance, because if the home team is winning, your experience at the park is likely to be better. Also, we factored in star power, because fans come to see their favorites.
The final score
A word of caution before we delve into the rankings. The Fan Value Index is an effort to find the ballparks that offer the best experience for the money, not the ballpark that has the best experience in an absolute sense. And in cases of a tie, the team with the better record this season was awarded the higher overall ranking.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn't offer a nod to the Zagat restaurant survey folks for offering a wonderful template by which we were able to incorporate reader comments into this year's Index, and a heartfelt thanks to all of those who took the time to fill out our survey and share their comments with us. This would not be possible without you.
Check out the pull-down menu above or click on the links in the chart to read a profile of each park.