If you're the typical American family of two parents, two kids, and you're looking to enjoy a summer afternoon of Twins baseball at Target Field, prepare to drop a couple of Benjamins.

April's consumer price index showed the cost of admission to sporting events grew 15.4% year-over-year, and per Team Marketing Report's 2023 analysis, the average cost for a family of four to attend an MLB game was $266.58, including tickets, parking, souvenirs and food and drink. Now if it were fall and the Vikings were playing at U.S. Bank Stadium, be prepared to almost double that cost.

But for those sports fans who aren't diehards and just want to watch a game and enjoy the atmosphere without emptying their wallets, here's a guide to the Twin Cities' sports scene and how to navigate it on a budget.

When to buy

The Twin Cities has seven major professional teams (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, PWHL) and several Division I collegiate teams (including the Gophers), not to mention occasionally hosting some of the biggest events in sports (Super Bowl, All-Star Games, NCAA championships), which makes it one of the top sports destinations in the U.S

For high-priced events like the playoffs or any Vikings game, buying as soon as possible is the best idea, said Michael Nowakowski, owner of local secondary ticket seller Ticket King. Games around holiday weekends or those featuring a big star on the opposing team (like Shohei Ohtani when the Dodgers come to town) also require some planning ahead, he said.

Buying days, or even weeks, in advance also gives buyers more options of where to sit, including courtside or nearest to the field, he said. For outdoor events, don't forget to think about the weather forecast so you're not sitting in an unshaded section for a noon game in August or shivering during April (snow)showers.

"If it's a nice night out, there's plenty of opportunity to go and relatively affordable options to sit outside and watch baseball or soccer," he said.

If there's no urgency, buyers can usually buy tickets on the day of the event, especially those on a weekday. That's more common with teams like the minor league St. Paul Saints, the Twins, Minnesota United, Minnesota Aurora FC or the Lynx, Nowakowski said.

"The other nice thing about waiting until the day of the event for things that are not going to sell out is oftentimes, people in our industry are looking to liquidate our tickets, whatever we have left," he said.

If a team is on a record-setting win streak and fandom is peaking, the chances of scoring tickets as a bandwagoner is a roll of the dice. If you're just going to absorb the atmosphere, a preseason or exhibition game is a more budget-friendly choice.

"If people just want to get into U.S. Bank Stadium, preseason games are definitely the way to do it," Nowakowski said.

For preseason games, the Vikings have upper-level tickets starting around $15, said Charlie Boeckenheuer, Vikings senior director of ticket sales and service.

"It is an opportunity to see four quarters of football and all the different activations that happen outside of U.S. Bank Stadium," he said.

Attending Vikings training camp or attending the team's annual draft party, both at the TCO Performance Center, are also low-cost ways to see and interact with players, coaches and other fans, he said.

Promotional nights, where ticket prices are lowered or special discounts are offered for students or members of the military, are other times to consider attending.

How much?

According to SeatGeek, a secondary ticket provider, tickets to see the Loons in St. Paul start at $25 with an average price of $74. Tickets for the Twins start as low as $11 with an average price of $64. A typical regular season NBA or NHL game costs $94, and NFL games on average are $151. Minnesota Lynx tickets start as low as $13, with an average price of $97, the ticket seller said.

General-admission tickets to see the Aurora, a pre-professional women's soccer team that plays at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, are $17, said team president Jessica Poole. The team also offers reserved seating starting at $30. Children under age 3 are free. There's standing-room-only options for lesser prices, Poole said, and at the 7,500-seat Eagan stadium, an area near the videoboard is a spot where people bring blankets and sit on the grass.

"If you don't go to a bunch of events, I always recommend, make it worth your time," Nowakowski said. "For an extra $5 or $10, you can get a much more memorable seat. I definitely think it's worth it."

Make sure you're buying tickets from a reputable provider and not through online marketplaces like Facebook or Craigslist. If not from the team's website, only purchase tickets through an official ticket provider like Ticketmaster or SeatGeek, experts said.

If someone is planning to attend 20 games to watch teams that play 80-plus games per season — as is the case with the Twins, Wild and Timberwolves — it's wiser to be more rational with spending. Teams offer various ticket packages for those who want to go more than once or twice a year.

The Twins, for instance, have Twin Pass, where people can pay $59 a month — or $324 in full — for access to every home game but without a guaranteed seat. They essentially hang out in a standing-only atrium area and can come and go as they please, said Eddie Eixenberger, the team's vice president of ticket sales and strategy.

Elsewhere, the Loons (Minnesota United's nickname) provide a partial ticket plan for just the first five games of the season "that gives people an opportunity to get a small dosage of the season," said Bryant Pfeiffer, the team's chief revenue officer. For all 18 games, it's just under $500, he said. For a $35 single-game ticket, though, people can be in the stadium's Wonder Wall, a standing fan club section on the south end of the field with the most vibrant action, including chants and singing.

Park and eat

Diehard fans know where parking is the cheapest around stadiums and arenas. The newbies, not so much. Fortunately, MPLS Parking, the app for metered parking in the city of Minneapolis, offers tips on cheapest places to park near the city's main sporting venues. There are also some free parking spaces near some venues, as is the case at TCO in Eagan, where fans can park for free on gravel lots, Poole said.

Public transportation is another cheap option, especially with venues like Allianz Field, U.S. Bank Stadium and Target Center being close to light-rail stops.

As for food, "it's very important for people to understand that the concessions at every event are going to be more expensive than they think it's going to be," Nowakowski said. "They're going to spend more money than they think they're going to spend, so budget accordingly."

Sports organizations invest plenty into food and beverage offerings and want fans to try as many dishes as possible. But some teams offer options for families looking for a deal. The Twins, for instance, have three "Family Value" concession stands at Target Field, where you can buy hot dogs for $4 and other traditional ballpark fare at lower prices. Target Field also allows you to bring food from home, if you aren't big on peanuts and Cracker Jack.

At TCO Stadium, fans can bring their own sealed or empty water bottles (no metal or glass bottles), as long as they're under 32 ounces.

The Twins' 612 Happy Hour let's fans buy drinks and food at the price of those numerical digits — $6, $1 and $2 — throughout the ballpark from gate opening until first pitch on the Friday of a weekend series, for example.

"What we're encouraging fans to do, and not only Twins Pass [fans] but all fans, is to come to the ballpark earlier than normal to get in the doors and experience some new offerings that we have," Eixenberger said.

Get your money's worth

Don't feel obligated to sit in your seat to watch every second of the contest. Most of the stadiums and arenas have social spaces for fans where people can mingle, grab a drink or food and have conversations throughout the game.

If you made the effort to come to a game, at least stay for the entire event, Nowakowski said. Leaving when there's still plenty of time left on the clock just to beat traffic is a mistake many people make.

"You're going to be listening to the end of the game in traffic or on your way home, and someone makes a spectacular catch or a big comeback or something like that," he said. "You'll remember that the rest of your life."