As hard as it is to believe, the Yankees have just one more homestand left in 2007. Only seven games lie between the Yankees and the end of their 81-game home schedule.
We can wax poetic as much as we want about the end of the season and the tight race for a spot in October. But for the Yankees, business is booming. For the seventh year in a row, the Yankees are going to break their single-season attendance record. And they owe it all to Alex Rodriguez.
Following Wednesday night’s game, which saw 52,538 fans pass through the games, the Yanks’ season attendance total sits at 3,895,475 through 74 games for an average of 52,641. While the Yankees won’t surpass the 4.48 million fans the 1993 Rockies drew, they will top the AL single-season attendance record set by the 2006 New York Yankees.
At worse, the Yanks will draw 4.3 million fans, and I know this because John Sterling opted to hand out some useful information a few weeks ago. He said, during a broadcast in August, that by the time the end of the season rolls around, the Yankees will have drawn 50,000 fans in over 60 straight home games. With eight games left at home, the Yanks are going to see at least another 400,000 fans this year and probably something closer to 430,000 to 440,000 more fans.
No matter how you slice or dice, that’s a lotta people. And, as I mentioned, the Yankees owe Alex Rodriguez’s super-human season and his presence in the Bronx a debt of gratitude. Scott Boras is probably counting his money as I type. Take a look at this graph showing the Yanks’ annual per-game turnstile totals since the dynasty started in 1996:
In 1996, the Yanks drew an average of just 27,789 fans per game. In my mind, those were the good old days. I could walk up to the ticket windows 10 minutes before first pitch and walk away with a Tier Reserve ticket for $10 in section six. Now, I’m lucky to land section 26 on Stubhub.
The following year saw the Yankees’ average per-game tally hit 31,856. This total grew in leaps and bounds until flattening out around at around 42,785 in 2003. (For the full list of numbers, go here.)
Then in 2004, something remarkable happened. The Yanks, coming off a World Series loss, saw in increase in attendance per game of over 5000 fans to a per-game average of 47,788. While the percentage increase per game paled in comparison to what the Yanks saw after their first World Series in 15 years, the 5000 new fans per game are no small beans.
So then what else happened in 2004? Alex Rodriguez happened. Alex Rodriguez, the biggest name in baseball, landed on the Yankees, the biggest team in baseball, in New York, the biggest stage in baseball. It was a match made in attendance heaven. With A-Rod around, fans flocked to the stadium. They came to cheer in 2004 and 2005. They came to boo in 2006. And they’ve turned the Bronx into a veritable lovefest this year.
So with A-Rod playing up to the old mantra of “If you crush home runs, they will come,” the Yanks have seen their per-game attendance creep up to 50,000 and beyond. For an unprecedented third year in a row, the Yanks will draw 4,000,000 fans. Next year, they’ll break their own record again. With 2008 as the swan song for the House that Ruth Built, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yanks sold out nearly all of their games next year.
Then, when the new stadium opens, the Yanks will run headlong into their maximum attendance figures. The new stadium, which we already know won’t have the good seats in the upper deck, also won’t have nearly as many seats. The stadium is set to a 53,000-seat capacity with additional space for 1000 standing-room-only spectators. While this total of 54,000 is much higher than the original 51,000-seat plan and much less of a drop than the fleecing the Mets are pulling over their fans, it’s still significant when every game is drawing in the 52-54,000 range.
But for now, things are good. A-Rod hits two home runs in one inning. The Yankees are playing exciting, meaningful games in a season that will come down to the wire. It’s a good time to a be fan. Or one of 4.30 million of them.