As an avid sports gambler, I’m always looking for any advantage when it comes to watching a game. The same applies when I take a trip to the ballpark, where I’m always looking to save a couple dollars or find some sort of value. Just like a casino, the ballpark makes you feel like the deck is stacked against you and there’s no avoiding the fact you’re going to get ripped off.
So, imagine my delight when I became aware of the growing trend in MLB stadiums to offer an AYCE (All You Can Eat) option. Baseball is still recognized as America’s official pastime, but gorging yourself on an unlimited buffet can’t be far behind -- so it makes sense to partner the two together.
It seemed a little too good to be true, really, so I decided to investigate whether an AYCE ticket was worth it. I purchased two for $30 at the Dodgers' Right Field Pavilion, one for myself and one for my vegetarian girlfriend.
First rule is pretty obvious: Beer is not included. I’m sure it’s some sort of liability to serve unlimited beer -- and, let’s face it, that would never happen for $30 at a ballpark anyway.
Second rule is that you have a limited menu. Yes, it’s technically all you can eat, but the options are limited to Dodger Dogs, peanuts, nachos, popcorn and soda. Additionally, you can’t just order nine hotdogs all at once. They limit you to two dogs and one item of each other per trip.
Another catch is that food and beverages aren’t served after the seventh inning. Be proud to know that you live in a country that has a last call for soda.
I made the classic buffet mistake and went too hard in the early round. I filled up my cardboard trough with the max, going for two Dodger Dogs (normally $6), peanuts ($4.75), popcorn ($5.50) and nachos ($6). I hit the wall early, but was determined to make a second run. Like all great athletes, I don’t know the meaning of the word "quit!"
My second run included two more Dodger Dogs and another bag of peanuts. My stomach was in serious pain, and I quickly learned the definition of that "quit" word. Unlimited access to refillable water cups and soda was a huge benefit to the whole experience, and a big savings.
I also had some of my girlfriend’s garlic fries and pizza that she bought outside of the AYCE pavilion, because she’s a vegetarian and refused to hop on the meat train and accompany me on my quest for Kobayashi-like greatness. The AYCE pavilion, much like the competitive eating circuit, wasn’t designed for vegetarians in mind, and there were no veggie dog options.
The Final Verdict
A regular Dodgers ticket in a comparable seat probably goes for around $15, so I came out ahead paying $30 for an AYCE ticket, since I had racked up an estimated $53.75 in retail concession sales.
Clearly my stomach gave 110% and left it all out on the field. And as a manager, that’s all I could ask for.
There definitely was value in an AYCE ticket, and I could see myself getting another one. It reminded me of Thanksgiving, in that you go into it knowing you'll feel like crap afterward, but you savor the once-per-year experience regardless.
I would definitely recommend it for a family or a big group, but it's probably not ideal if you are traveling with someone who is serious about health food, and it's especially not ideal if you're on a first date. No one is attracted to you getting meat sweats in an excited food binge while trying to "break even."