Personal Finance

Americans spend $56 billion on sporting events

Key Points
  • Sports lovers also coughed up $33 billion for athletic equipment and $19 billion for gym memberships over the past year.
  • The average cost for a family of four to attend an NFL game is more than $500.
  • Older adults and lower-income Americans are less likely to go to events.

Did you just drop a few hundred bucks or more going to a professional sporting event over the weekend? You're not alone.

Consumers shelled out $56 billion to attend sporting events over the past year, according to a new study by The amount includes the cost of tickets, transportation, and food and drinks. By way of comparison, that's more than double the $27 billion-plus that Americans spent on book purchases in 2015, according data from the Association of American Publishers.

Ty Montgomery of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with fans after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field on September 10, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
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"The fact that people are spending this amount of money on sporting events shows the emphasis they're putting on experience and memories instead of just stuff," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for

Separate data from shows the average 2016 cost to attend a National Football League game for a family of four was $502.84. The amount includes four tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking and two cheap hats. That compares with $363.58 for a National Hockey League game, $339.02 for a National Basketball Association game and $219.53 for an Major League Baseball game.

"There's no question that many sporting events – especially big ones like NFL or NBA games – are becoming harder for the average working American to afford," Schulz said.

Category of spending Percentage of American adults who spend on it Total U.S. annual spend ($billions) Average annual spend per participant
Sporting events34%$55.90 $710
Athletic equipment29%$33.40 $487
Gym membership fees23%$19.20 $354
Sports-themed video games12%$8.00 $273
Race entry fees8%$4.80 $254
Fantasty sports leagues4%$2.30 $251

Source: Source:

The survey, conducted in mid-August, shows that that consumers with lower incomes are less likely to attend sporting events. Among respondents, 26 percent have incomes under $30,000 compared with 49 percent who earn more than $75,000.

Older consumers also are less likely to head to a stadium, with just 21 percent of people age 53 or older attending. In comparison, 43 percent of respondents age 18 to 52 attend. Parents are also more likely to splurge on events than non-parents.

Americans also spent more than $33 billion on athletic equipment and $19 billion on gym memberships over the past year, according to the survey. In all, consumers shelled out more than $100 billion on sports-related purchases in the last 12 months.