The cost of having fun

Going out can be expensive, so families weigh their options frugally

Going out can be expensive, so families weigh their options frugally

June 30, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

The Speddens don't entertain many choices when they plan their evenings out. Time after time, they watch the Hagerstown Suns at Municipal Stadium.

"We come to every game," said Janette Spedden. "My son is a big baseball fan."

But there's often a fee for fun.

The Speddens, who live in Hagerstown, trim their expenses by purchasing a book of tickets for the entire season. The total admission cost is about $5 a game through the season plan - half for Janette, half for Dan and no charge for son Zach, who is 9 years old.

Still, they must eat, and after the chicken wraps and the chicken nuggets and the french fries and the Italian ices and the drinks, a night could cost almost $40, Dan Spedden said.


How does he keep track?

"Just by the number of ATM stops I make on the way," he said.

For a less expensive family outing, the Speddens sometimes go to the swimming pool at Greenbrier State Park. It's free for them because Dan is the club manager.

During a break at a birthday party at Playland, near Hagerstown, Todd Ack of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said he recently took his family - two adults and three children - to see a Frederick Keys baseball game.

The tickets were not too expensive, he said, but "the food is what killed us. We probably spent $100 that night."

More likely, he'll take his family camping in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., he said.

Sitting in the top row of the bleachers at Municipal Stadium, the Bricker family of Smithsburg - parents Sam and Carol, and children Kelly, 17, and Kevin, 11 - had finally gotten to a Suns game after several near misses.

Sam Bricker said his family used to go to Keys games, but it got too expensive.

At a Suns game, they figure on $10 for tickets (the children get in free for having A's on their report cards) and about $25 for food.

It adds up, but it's better than spending the same to play miniature golf, Sam Bricker said.

"It's over in an hour," he said. "Here, it's all night and the weather's good."

The Brickers also travel the local fire department carnival circuit in the spring and summer, taking advantage of $10 or $12 passes for a night of rides.

Mason Kreps of Hagerstown celebrated his 4th birthday, a few days early, with family and friends at Long Meadow Bowl in Hagerstown. His mother, Tonya Kreps, said she and her husband, George, often take Mason out to bowl a few games. Including a meal from the snack bar, the tab runs about $20, she said.

Some options

Here's a closer look at the dollars and cents of entertainment, using a sample of local establishments:

Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex

The rink has public skate sessions every day of the week, costing $1.50 to $5 per person. There's a family rate on Sunday - $16 for up to six people. Group rates are available at other times, too. It costs $2 per person to rent skates.

Food: $1.50 for large soda, $1.50 for a hot dog, 75 cents for popcorn, $8 for a whole pizza or $1.50 a slice.

Bonus: A family could have almost the entire rink to itself on Sunday, particularly during the slow summer season.

Playland outside Hagerstown

The amusement center - which has video games, a "play port" with ball bins and slides for young children, pool tables, a batting cage and laser tag - offers several package deals. The least expensive is the "value pack" of a 16-inch cheese pizza, a pitcher of soda and 15 game tokens for $12.99. The high-end package, which costs $45.99, includes a pizza with one topping, two pitchers of soda, 80 game tokens and four 15-minute laser tag sessions. None of the packages is required.

Children up to age 9 can use the play port for $2 apiece.

Food: $10.99 for a large cheese pizza or $1.50 a slice, 80 cents for a hot dog on the sandwich menu or $2.75 for one on the platter menu, $1.35 for french fries, $2 for chicken nuggets, $1.50 for a large soda.

Bonus: Kids aren't likely to run out of games to try.

Long Meadow Bowl in Hagerstown

It costs $2.25 a game for children and $3 for adults before 6 p.m. Games are $3 apiece for everyone after 6 p.m. There's a special rate of $1.50 a game on Mondays and Fridays. Shoe rentals are $2 at all times.

Food: $1.90 for a hamburger, $2 for a cheeseburger, $2 for a ribeye steak sandwich, $1.19 for a hot dog, $1.19 or $1.90 for french fries, $1.25 for a large soda.

Bonuses: The satisfying thunder that comes from smashing wooden pins and sending them flying.

R/C Theaters Valley Mall 16 movie multiplex in Halfway

$5.50 for children (under 11 years old) and senior citizens (over 60 years old), $7.50 for other adults. Ticket prices drop to $5.50 for matinees before 6 p.m. and $4.50 for most Saturday morning shows.

Food: $4.75 for large popcorn, $3 for small popcorn, from $1.75 to $3.25 for candy, $3 for a hot dog, $3.75 for nachos, $3 for Dippin' Dots ice cream, $3.50 for a large soda, $3 for a small soda.

Bonuses: A low-sweat, seated activity in air-conditioning - a summer perk, no matter what's showing.

Hagerstown Suns at Municipal Stadium

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