The team had previously come close this year to breaking the previous record of 15,509, set versus the Cincinnati Reds in August 2010. A mere forty-seven more people than that showed up for the last contest in May, against the Houston Astros. But last night was almost fourteen hundred fewer than the old mark. Going into last night's series finale, the total mark for the season was 1,164,422, which is 43.595 fewer than after the same number of home dates last season. On a per-game basis, this year's average is 25,314, which was down 948 on last year's figure of 26,261.
However, the team has actually improved its ranking across MLB, going up from 22nd to 21st this year. It's the result of attendance overall in the majors being down 256 per game, with 70% of clubs seeing a decrease. That overall figure is being kept buoyant by large increases for both the Blue Jays and Mets. Combined, they are seeing close to seventeen thousand a game more. At the other end, the Reds are showing the sharpest decline, and are the only team off more than four thousand a game, being down over 6,500. The Diamondbacks' change puts them firmly in the middle of the pack, at seventeenth place.
It's probably not a shock. This team has been so woeful at home that I know even long-time season-ticket holders have been having to fight ennui when it comes to going to Chase. Ironically, last night's record was set as the team pulled out a rare home victory, but their overall mark of 15-31 there is hardly encouraging return visitors. Excluding the Braves, Arizona's current winning percentage at Chase of .326 would be the lowest by a team in the National League at their home park, since the 1972 San Diego Padres.
The palpable sense of disappointment is certainly another factor. There have undeniably been worse D-backs teams, as recently as 2014 in fact. But I'm not sure I recall one with such a big gulf between pre-season expectations and cold reality. This is a team which was expected to compete, and was expressly built for a post-season challenge this season. Instead, they find themselves on pace for a record significantly below last year, and the only battle in which they're currently involved is with the Padres for last place.
I will admit to being part of the problem. I haven't actually been to Chase Field this year, though that's mostly because of scheduling. [Mrs. SnakePit and I don't currently have a common day off] But, outside of Opening Day, even traditional big draws haven't been pulling in the fans. The gate for Star Wars Night this year was 32,448. In 2015, when it was also a Saturday night and against the same opponents (the Giants), it was 37,609, over five thousand more. The Fourth of July game also dropped in attendance, by a smaller amount: it was 42,113 (vs the Rockies), but Monday pulled in only 39.203.
It's probably only going to get worse the rest of the way. We've already had the Yankees and Cubs come to town, with the resulting surge of things coming out from under the desert rocks. The remaining weekend series against non-divisional opponents on the schedule, are versus the Brewers and Reds. These are the two sides with the biggest drop in attendance this year, so are unlikely to provide much of a boost. But right now, if even the drop of 948 per game is sustained, attendance on the season is going to be perilously close to under two million (about 3,350 over), for the first time ever.
Even if the team starts to win, it's likely going to take some time - probably not until 2017 - for victories to translate into butts on seats. While the increased TV revenue stream should help, the problem is that smaller crowds at Chase will certainly have an impact on team revenue going forward, and thus on the available payroll. It becomes a bit of a vicious circle. No-one wants to see a losing team; yet without the income from the turn-stiles, it's harder to build a winning side.
It's going to take the best work from the inventive minds of the team's sales and promotions department, to figure out how to get the gates clicking at Chase again But right now, the cynic in me wants to suggest that if the D-backs want to relocate, they should perhaps consider Salt River Fields. For Tuesday night's crowd was only a few hundred more than the 13,514 who turned up there for a spring game against the Royals on March 12...