If you win or tear it down, they will come

Brackman, Sublett help Waikiki to their second straight win
Rivera's surgery set for Tuesday

Allow me to interrupt coverage of the world’s most boring Division Series playoff round to opine for a minute on attendance. Maury Brown over at the Biz of Baseball analyzing the 2008 attendance numbers, and the findings, at least to me, are interesting.

The 2008 Major League Baseball regular season is the second highest attendance mark in history, drawing 78,624,324, falling just 1.14 percent below last year’s record of 79,502,524 in paid attendance, a sign that baseball’s popularity remains exceptionally strong. While the figure is the second best ever, forecasts at the beginning of the season were for a total attendance in excess of 80 million. Still, the strong attendance figure comes at a time when the economy has been hit exceptionally hard, gas prices impacted travel, and the weather wreaked havoc at open-air stadiums, lowering walk-up ticket purchases…

Next season, MLB will most likely not reach this year’s attendance figure. With both the new Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field coming online with reduced seating capacities than the outgoing facilities, attendance for the two strongest attended teams will drop.

Still, MLB has always focused on revenues, and next year should be no exception. While attendance dropped sllightly this year, revenues were up from $6.075 billion to $6.5 billion this year. Even with the expected 2009 decrease in attendance, and concerns about the economy prevailing into next year, expect revenues to remain flat or slightly above this year’s figure.

It’s remarkable that baseball has managed to sustain such lofty attendance numbers over the last few seasons. With the economy in the tank, people are seemingly finding solace in the 81-game home schedule.

What’s interesting about this year’s attendance numbers, as Brown notes, is that they mostly follow team success. While the two Florida teams both enjoyed good seasons, they were the outliers, drawing relatively fewer fans than other good teams. But in general, the teams that won drew more fans that the teams that didn’t win.

No where was this more evident than in Washington, DC. While the Nationals moved into a new stadium — once a guarantee of lofty attendance figures — the team lost 102 games. They enjoyed an attendance increase over their final 2007 numbers at the RFK Stadium pit, but they had the smallest home attendance for a team in a new ballpark since Camden Yards ushered in a Golden Age of stadiums. People just don’t want to see bad teams play.

Next year, attendance numbers are bound to go down. Neither the Yankees nor the Mets can actually meet their 2008 attendance numbers. The Yanks will probably draw around 4.238 million fans next year, which would be capacity for the new stadium and a few thousand fewer than this year’s totals. The Mets, on the other hand, decided to cut the size of their new stadium by over 12,000 seats. The most the Mets can draw is 3.645 million fans. Why a team in a metropolitan area the size of New York’s would opt to cut capacity by so much is well beyond me.

In the end, though, baseball is alive and well. Fans are flocking to games, and no one is predicting the demise of our National Pastime.

Brackman, Sublett help Waikiki to their second straight win
Rivera's surgery set for Tuesday
  • E-ROC

    Did the Mets offer a reason for downsizing the amount of seats available? If anything, they should’ve added more seats, instead of subtracting.

    Over the next couple years, as teams move into new stadiums, the revenue in the MLB will continue to grow. It is amazing what a billion dollar building can do for a team’s revenue.

  • Tripp

    I sometimes wonder about fans and not going to games. You live in DC and your team is a bad baseball team, but look at the division they are in. Fans can go to the games to see Mets or the Phillies or the Marlins as well. All of those teams have some great players and the fans should take advantage of going to see those teams.

    Similar to how Kansas City sells out when the Yankees are in town.

  • ortforshort

    A large percentage of the seats are psl’s and a large percentage of that is corporate. While average folks are getting squeezed big time, corporations are doing just fine. Now with the bailout, I don’t think teams will have any problem filling their corporate seats.

    • steve (different one)

      did the yankees do psl’s? i didn’t think they did.

    • pounder

      I could not agree more.Greed will eventually kill the Golden Goose.

  • Jesse

    Just to focus on a problem with Baseball right now. I went to a Nationals game this past season when visiting friends in the DC area. When walking to the game we were told by numerous people that the game was a sell out. In disbelief that the Nationals would sell out a random game in the middle of July we continued to walk to the stadium. In fact there were tickets available however there was zero affordable tickets remaining. The cheapest seats available were $40 a seat. Which for us Yankee Fans may seem like pennies but for a losing team with zero stars it was quite high.

    What was interesting, as we stood thinking if we were going to spend that much on baseball tickets over 100 people walked up to the ticket window, all of which were between 16-24. Each one of them decided that 40 bucks was too lofty for baseball and turned around. Yet, we decided to buy the tickets.

    And the most disappointing part was that the entire upperdeck and bleacher area was sold out, however the lower sections were completely empty. Our “cheap” tickets were 25 rows up just right of the foul pole on the field level, and we were sitting alone.

    Why do the nationals do this? DC is a weird city where the population changes every 2-4 years because of the elections. During the summer the city is flooded with interns that either make no wage or minimum wage. Of the thousand of people that turned away from the Nationals park, none of them were wearing nationals gear but instead decided on a beautiful summer night they wanted to watch baseball. But, the Washington ownership has made a decision to have empty seats with higher prices rather than packed stadiums with lower ticket prices.

    This is the reason that there attendance was not higher. People that wanted to see the games, 16-24 year olds, could not find tickets that would fit their budget.

  • MikeD

    I wonder if the high prices of tickets will eventually impact baseball attendance. Not today, but in a five, ten and 15 years. Throughout my teens and twenties, I was able to go to Yankee Stadium with my friends because it was pretty cheap entertainment. That’s not the case today (meaning cheap). I can still go the Stadium because I make more money and I’m part of a box-seat plan. I wouldn’t have been able to do this when I was younger. Is baseball — and the Yankees — in danger of breaking the cycle and losing a generation of young fans?

  • Paul Beerwort

    Fond Memories…

    Your article was interesting about Shea Stadium…I was there for a international convention in the summer of 1978 with an attendance of 60,000..The world famous Yankee Stadium….I was there in 1955…1958 for the world’s largest religious convention that was held there and the nearby Polo Grounds for 8 days…from July 27-August 3. The peak attendance of 253,922 for both stadium to hear the widely advertised public address that Nathan H. Knorr then president of Watch Tower Society gave was GOD’S KINGDOM RULES…IS THE WORLD’S END NEAR?…the New York papers said this was the “best behaved convention ever held in New York city”…Delegates came from 123 countries. Mass baptism at Orchard Beach was 7,136.

    Not to be overlooked was the mass feeding at both stadiums over 800,000 meals cooked and serve by volunteers…the Army…Navy…and the Civil Defense came to get tips on how to mass feed people if a disaster was to come.

    I was there again in 1961…1963…1968 and 1973…and then in the new stadium in 1986…1988…those were the days…I was disappointed when they renovated the stadium…it just wasn’t the same anymore…

    See http://www.divinewill1958.com for historic picture.

    Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses made history at Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium and I was proud to be there for the ball game of life everlasting…

    Thanks again…Paul E. Beerwort formerly of Philly but now in Eastman, Georgia….