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What factors affect Chase Field attendance?

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It’s not the Cubs or the Dodgers who have historically seen the biggest crowds at Chase.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This originally started as a look into what teams bring the most fans to Chase. The very large crowds for the recent Dodgers and Cubs series were in sharp contrast to the ones, barely half the size, for the two home games against the Astros. So I dug into history, to see what we find about team attendance based on the visiting side. But once I was in there, it proved relatively trivial to parse the data and see what impact things like day of the week, and month of the year, also have on attendance. (Note: this is all for the MLB definition of attendance: we’ve all seen contests where there was an obvious difference between the numbers of tickets sold and butts on seats)

There have been 1,601 regular season home games for the Diamondbacks to this point. A total of 48,218,186 fans have attended those games , which works out at just over thirty thousand per game: 30,118, to be precise. But, obviously, the range is significant, going from 49,826, on June 9, 2006 against Boston, to the 12,215 crowd versus the Padres earlier this year. [Fun facts: the largest crowd before which the D-backs have ever played was 61,674, on April 24, 1999 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The smallest? Just 4,340 in Montreal on May Day 2001. This kinda explains why MLB decided to move out of the city.]

Attendance by year

And sorry if you’re on a phone. You’ll probably want to look at the tables somewhere else. :)

Year     Total  #    Avg
1998 3,604,237 81 44,497
1999 3,015,948 81 37,234
2000 2,942,251 81 36,324
2001 2,735,821 81 33,776
2002 3,198,975 81 39,494
2003 2,805,542 81 34,636
2004 2,519,560 81 31,106
2005 2,059,331 81 25,424
2006 2,091,005 81 25,815
2007 2,316,507 81 28,599
2008 2,509,924 81 30,987
2009 2,129,183 81 26,286
2010 2,057,224 81 25,398
2011 2,105,432 81 25,993
2012 2,177,617 81 26,884
2013 2,134,895 81 26,357
2014 2,073,730 81 25,602
2015 2,080,145 81 25,681
2016 2,036,216 81 25,138
2017 1,624,643 62 26,204

The most obvious trend is annual attendance. The team started with by far the biggest crowds in their inaugural season, but lost over 7,000 per game the following year. With an exception of an expected good bump after winning the World Series, attendance declined every season through the end of 2005. Since then, attendance has stabilized, sitting between 25-27,000 every year, save for our run to the NLCS in 2007, and the year thereafter. Interesting to note that the division crown in 2011 led to an improvement of less than 600 per game the following year, about a quarter of the boost after the 2007 title. I presume the deeper you go, the more valuable it is.

Attendance by month

For this category, I merged the five games in March to the April pot: for obvious reasons, those have a skewed percentage of Opening Days, which explains why they average 43,945 per game! Similarly, the slightly larger number of October games (20) have been merged in with September’s contests.

Month       Total   #    Ave
Mar/Apr 8,011,709 274 29,240
May     7,807,179 268 29,131
June    8,187,984 269 30,439
July    7,534,745 251 30,019
August  8,465,357 280 30,233
Sep/Oct 8,211,212 259 31,704

I was surprised how little an impact the month has. Especially once you get past Opening Day, April and May are lowest, but I’ve have expected a bigger uptick from school being out, etc. than we see. The range covering all of April through August is only about 1,300, or less than 5%, so it doesn’t appear the summer vacation translates into any large rush by families to the ballpark. I know the team brought the typical start time half an hour earlier, to 6:40pm, specifically for family purposes. I don’t recall exactly when it was: it might be interesting to look at the season before and after that, see if there was any kind of difference, after we filter out the annual change.

Attendance by day of week

Day     Total   #    Ave
Mon 5,407,115 195 27,729
Tue 6,806,565 248 27,446
Wed 6,427,137 246 26,127
Thu 3,618,422 138 26,220
Fri 8,072,522 257 31,411
Sat 9,398,902 258 36,430
Sun 8,487,523 259 32,770

Not too many surprises here. The weekend is bigger than the week, peaking on Saturday night. That day is also the one most likely to get the benefit from prime giveaways such as bobbleheads. Sunday has its fair share of giveaways, and the Friday night fireworks have always been a popular draw. I would likely not have had Monday as the best weekday: indeed, my guess would have been that it might be the lowest draw. However, both Wednesday and Thursday do have their share of day games, which will tend to be light for walk-up traffic, because many fans are working when they take place. Mondays also get some good holiday special dates.

Attendance by opponent

Finally, let’s take a look at the numbers by opponent. This is trickier, because of the widely ranging number of games, which doesn’t apply, say, to calendar months. The range here is all the way from the 175 times we have played the Los Angeles Dodgers, down to just the one series versus the Boston Red Sox. Particularly for those with a smaller sample size, the other factors may well come into play. We’ve never played the Red Sox on a weekday game, for example, which is bound to help. [As an aside, it seems kinda weird that we have only faced Boston three times here in Phoenix, but no less than fifteen times at Fenway Park]

So these factors should be born in mind. It may be best only to compare teams that have played a similar number of games here. For instance, the other teams in the NL West have all played here often enough, day of week and month factors are going to have evened out. For NL East and Central opponents, whom we play every year, those should largely have evened out, now we’re in our 20th season. But for American League opponents, whom we have faced between only 3 and 17 times in Arizona, random skewing towards or against weekend series could have a significant impact. That all said, here’s the list, in descending order of draw.

Team     Total   #    Ave
BOS    136,883   3 45,628
NYY    379,744   9 42,194
CHC  2,656,256  74 35,895
DET    555,447  17 32,673
ANA    454,583  14 32,470
LAD  5,671,859 175 32,411
MON    777,086  24 32,379
SEA    388,335  12 32,361
OAK    476,021  15 31,735
ATL  2,224,842  71 31,336
SFG  5,354,465 171 31,313
STL  2,209,707  71 31,123
TEX    461,856  15 30,790
NYM  2,072,334  69 30,034
CIN  1,909,406  65 29,375
SDP  5,105,716 174 29,343
MIN    260,294   9 28,922
MIL  2,044,046  71 28,789
COL  4,974,618 173 28,755
CLE    314,968  11 28,633
PHI  1,903,854  67 28,416
PIT  1,980,017  70 28,286
HOU  1,825,213  65 28,080
BAL    251,303   9 27,923
KCR    244,398   9 27,155
FLA  1,782,847  66 27,013
CHW    240,979   9 26,775
TOR    287,923  11 26,175
WSN  1,018,900  41 24,851
TBR    254,286  11 23,117

Boston is clear at the top, with the only three games here virtually all being sell-outs. The Yankees are not far behind, with a larger sample size. All nine of those contests here came after we faced them in Phoenix for the first time, during the 2001 World Series, and the epic nature of that has to play into making the series a hot ticket, and not just for relocated New Yorkers. But the top four spots all arguably belong to snowbird teams, followed by the two franchises from Los Angeles. Curious that the Angels have seen bigger crowds than the Dodgers, but with the far smaller sample size for Anaheim, I’d be reluctant to claim anything definitive.

Across the NL West, however, the Dodgers definitely have the largest pull here in Arizona, about eleven hundred ahead of the Giants. The Padres sit in third, with the Rockies trailing at the back of the pack. I imagine if you reversed this, and looked at the D-backs draw around the division, you’d find more of them at Petco Park than anywhere else. It’s the closest park to Phoenix, within reasonable driving distance for a weekend trip, and I venture to suggest the city is generally a more appealing destination than the other division rivals for Arizonans.

Interesting to contrast the good attendance for Montreal (seventh) with the team which replaced them, Washington finishing second-last. It’s especially odd given the woeful crowds which saw the D-backs in Canada, as noted above. But a factor here is the Expos playing from 1998-2004, when crowds here were a lot higher. The average over that time was 36,724, so the Expos were pulling in significantly fewer. The mean in the Nationals’ era (2005-17) is over ten thousand fewer, at 26,204 - comparing both to the average for their time, Washington are actually the better draw.

And, clearly, nobody wants to watch our expansion siblings in Tampa, whether it’s there or here!