I was doing a piece for SBNation.com on baseball attendance trends, and in the process was looking at the figures for this year compared to last. I was surprised to see the Diamondbacks' overall numbers, which seem to held up much better than I expected. After all, we had a franchise-record low crowd during the recent Washington series and many pundits have been predicting the number would crater entirely. But overall, the attendance per game at Chase Field is down only 465 on last season, a number almost exactly in line with the average drop across all baseball this year, of 402 per game.
After the jump, more semi-focused ramblings on attendance, both here and elsewhere.
Actually, there's an argument to be made that the Diamondbacks are actually doing better than average. The overall number is significantly boosted by the Twins, who are getting the usual boost from a new park, and are packing them in to Target Field, to the tune of more than 10,000 more than at the Metrodome last season. On the other hand, and at the opposite end of the chart, the Mets are no longer getting the "new park" boost from Citi Field, and attendance there is more than 6,100 lower. Take both those off, and the numbers for the other 28 teams, unaffected by new park factors, are down by 579 per game.
A few things on the schedule have impacted the Chase numbers, both for good and bad. Having the Yankees come to town for three games certainly helped - those contests averaged more than 46,400. If those are excluded, the AZ average drops to 23,668, which is about sixteen hundred down on last year. On the other hand, the Cubs series - traditionally a big draw - was a major flop. The 2010 series averaged barely 22,400 - the same series last year (which also ran Monday through Wednesday) pulled 29% more, approaching 29,000 per game. It seem Cubs fans living in Arizona are just as fair-weather as many D-backs fans.
Looking at the games so far, here are the averages, broken down by team, for 2009 and 2010. I have excluded Opening Day from both years, and also Luis Gonzalez retirement night this season.
It's hard to do a direct correlation, because day of the week also factors into turnout - weekend games, regardless of the opponent, are always going to be better attended than ones from Monday through Thursday. This could explain, say, the jump for the Phillies, since this year, they had a weekend series, but in 2009, they came to Arizona at the start of the week. The remaining 21 games break down as follows: six vs. COL, and three each against CIN, SDP, HOU, SFG and LAD. If I had to make a projection, I'd say the team will likely get over two million, and probably beat 2005's number of 2,059,424, as attendance usually ticks up down the stretch.
Looking at numbers elsewhere, things could certainly be a lot worse - and in some cases, I'm wondering why that's the case. The Diamondbacks have slid a couple of spots in the overall numbers, down from 19th to 21st, but I always look to our siblings in Tampa Bay, and they're actually doing worse this season. They are down 1,729 per game, and have also dropped a couple of spots, from 21st to 23rd - the sheen of their 2008 World Series run seems to have worn off. However, that pales in comparison to the Indians, whose average crowd is at the lowest for a season since 1992; and the Blue Jays are worse stiil, below twenty thousand for the first time since 1982.
That kind puts the dip here in Arizona into a bit of perspective. When you see a franchise careering toward a near-thirty year low in attendance, dropping sixty-three fans per game over the major-league average change for the year suddenly doesn't seem like quite such an issue, does it?
There has, however, been a bit of static over the announcement that season-ticket prices are being increased. That doesn't affect me directly, but one surmises this might also result in an increase in single-game prices, which would hit me in the wallet. [On the other hand, I wonder if the increase in season-ticket costs is partly because the team knows a large proportion of season-ticket holders will make a nice profit reselling their All-Star Game seats?] I do understand the need for it, though it doesn't exactly come at an opportune time, with the team looking set for the second consecutive trip to the cellar.
If the team is going to compete, the money has to come from somewhere, and baseball is a business like any other - income and expenditure must be balanced somehow, and you can either cut the latter or increase the former. I'd like to see the team get a bit more creative with regard to enticing fans back to the ballpark; one idea I would love to see is working out a deal with the light rail, whereby a Diamondbacks ticket is also valid for a ride to/from the park. That would encourage people to take the train, and the reduction in overall cost (no parking fees) might be an encouragement for people to come to Chase.
I'd also like to see dropping of single-game prices. Especially for "premium games," the gap has grown to the point that it has often been cheaper to buy a season ticket holder's unwanted seats on the secondary market, rather than from the ticket-office. That would seem to be the team shooting themselves in the foot. And then there's the service provider... I cheered in 2001, when it was announced that the Diamondbacks had cut ties with the infamous Ticketbastard. Unfortunately, in July 2007, it then bought out Paciolan, the team's service provider, and here we are right back in the extortionate grasp of the monster. Why do I hate them? Here's why.
Two Bullpen Reserve seats for a semi-random game against Colorado. Face value = $30. Ticketmaster price, with the cheapest available delivery option - $39.50. That's a 32% mark-up. And the cheaper the seats, the higher that goes; on two outfield reserve seats, it becomes an astonishing 44%. They are basically legitimized scalpers, with their "convenience fees" and "service charges" gouging a ticket far beyond what is reasonable. Contrast, say, the service fees charged by Brown Paper Tickets. $9.99 and under: 99 cents; above that, $1.99, regardless of purchase method. In a hypothetical universe where the D-backs used them, the mark-up on the tickets bought above would have been just 13% and 12% respectively. This is basically why I will never buy tickets online from the official site.
There's nothing like a full stadium, wholly engaged in the game, as we experienced at SnakePitFest v3.2 - 49,000 fans, cheering on the team, makes for a marvelous atmosphere at the ballpark. It's a great experience, appreciated by the players as well as those in the stands. Hopefully it's something which we will see more of in future, and not just on Opening Day or when a legend's number is retired.