Thanksgiving and football go hand in hand — but usually you’re watching the games on TV at home with your family and friends. Although Thanksgiving is a holiday many associate with food, family and home, it’s also a great day to go to a game at the football stadium. “These games take place at a convenient time,” said Chris Leyden, content analyst at SeatGeek. “Most people are off work, and it’s a great chance to go to a game with your family.”
So, here’s a look at the cost of going to see an NFL game on Turkey Day.
Thanksgiving Football: History
The Thanksgiving football tradition started with the Detroit Lions. After moving the team from Ohio to Michigan in 1934, the team’s owner scheduled a Turkey Day contest in an attempt to raise awareness and attract new fans. This first Thanksgiving football game, which NBC broadcast on 94 radio stations, continues to be a timeless classic. The 11-0 Chicago Bears beat the 10-1 Detroit Lions in a stadium that sold out — all 26,000 tickets — just two weeks before the game. It’s estimated that the number could have doubled had there been enough seats available.
The extraordinary success of the game turned Thanksgiving football into an annual tradition. The game has taken place every Thanksgiving Day since 1934 — with the exception of 1939 to 1945, the six years during World War II.
Traditionally, both Detroit and Dallas host a Thanksgiving Day football game. “Almost 10 years ago, the NFL added a third night game on Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Vassilis Dalakas, professor of marketing at Cal State San Marcos. “The host for that game changes every year, and the league usually chooses an interesting matchup for that game.”
Thanksgiving Football Ticket Prices
“Typically, Thanksgiving games are going to be more expensive than a regular season football game,” said Manick Bhan, president and CTO of ticket site Rukkus.com. “But it usually won’t be the most expensive game of the year. Prices are usually highest for hardcore rivalries.”
Leyden agrees that the game itself has more impact on price than the nature of the holiday. “I think a lot of it has to do with the matchup of the teams,” he said. “That has a much bigger impact than the fact that it’s on Thanksgiving.” If you buy directly from the team, Thanksgiving football ticket prices can be pretty affordable. But if you can’t get tickets from the team, tickets on the secondary market will cost you.
“Face value on an NFL ticket is going to be the same price on Thanksgiving as any other game,” said Allan Bell, NFL analyst for 247Sports.com. “However, when you get to the secondary market, the prices will rise or fall with demand. Therefore, if the Thanksgiving game is between two really good teams … then the price you would pay to a scalper would go up. Bad teams? Price will go down.” This year, for example, the Bears versus Packers game is going to be one of the most expensive games in history due to the rivalry and history between both teams.
Thanksgiving Football Schedule 2015
This year, all six teams that are playing Thanksgiving football games are part of the National Football Conference. The first game is a classic Thanksgiving showdown between the Eagles and the Lions. The second game is likely to be quite a physical brawl when the Panthers take on the Cowboys. And finally, the night game pits the Bears against the Packers — one of the oldest and most ferocious rivalries in history.
The Thanksgiving football lineup on Thursday, Nov. 26 is:
- 12:30 p.m. EST on Fox: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Detroit Lions
- 4:30 p.m. EST on CBS: Carolina Panthers vs. Dallas Cowboys
- 8:30 p.m. EST on NBC: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles Game
At $79.16, Detroit is the only one of the three teams hosting a Thanksgiving Day game that has a lower average regular-season ticket price than the league mean of $85.83. In 2014, the average after-market ticket to see the Lions host the Bears on Thanksgiving in Detroit was $340.94, 112.7 percent above Detroit’s season average for 2014.
This year, however, tickets are much cheaper, and the game is the least expensive by far of all three. “It is the second cheapest Lions home Thanksgiving game since we started measuring,” Leyden said. “The Lions are not having a great season.”
This year, tickets to the Thanksgiving game start at $56 — just $6 more than their game the following week versus Green Bay, but more than double the $20 and $26 tickets against the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders, respectively. The average Thanksgiving Day ticket for this game is currently $142.44 on the secondary market.
In 2014, fans bought 64,175 tickets to the Thanksgiving game out of 65,000 available seats at Ford Field, which means the Lions game essentially sold out. Hopefully they can do it again this year with these cheap ticket prices.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers Game
With an average price of $110.20, Dallas is home to one of the costliest regular season tickets in the NFL. In 2014, the average after-market ticket to the Thanksgiving game in Dallas — where the Cowboys hosted the Eagles — was $390.13, an increase of 36 percent over the season average.
According to TiqIQ, the average ticket for the 2015 Thanksgiving game is going for $324.92. The cheapest tickets for the Thanksgiving game are currently $119. That is the most expensive entry-level ticket of the three remaining games on the Dallas Cowboys’ schedule — but not by much. Tickets to see them play the Jets at home on Dec. 19 start at $100.
“This year’s game is intriguing because it has the undefeated Panthers visiting Dallas,” Leyden said. “But it is a typical Cowboys Thanksgiving game — pretty standard.”
Attendance was 91,379 for the 2014 Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas versus Philadelphia. Dallas’ AT&T Stadium can hold up to 100,000 fans at once, which makes last year’s game at nearly full capacity.
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Game
With an average regular-season ticket price of $89.37, the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field is the 10th most expensive stadium to visit in the country — and it doesn’t get any cheaper on Thanksgiving. Although tickets are available at a starting price of $225, the average price is $484.60 — by far the most expensive of all three games.
According to Leyden, it is the most expensive Thanksgiving game since at least 2010, and the the third-most expensive game of the NFL’s regular season. Ticket costs are so high, in part, because the Packers are retiring the Brett Favre jersey, suspects Leyden. But also because the Packers and the Bears have had quite a rivalry between them for years.
Overall, Thanksgiving football tickets are not much more expensive than on any other day — if you buy from the team. Aftermarket tickets, however, are in higher demand and therefore cost much more. Although the holiday is generally associated with eating way too much with family, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to see a football game with your family, too.