By all accounts, the Yankees had a very successful weekend at the gate. They averaged 47,988 fans per game and drew 143,966 over the weekend. Those figures represent the highest three-day total and best three-game average in the short history of new Yankee Stadium.
Yet, as the Subway Series unfolded, I couldn’t help but think about the 21,000 fans who didn’t get to see the Mets and Yankees in person this weekend. Prior to this weekend, the Yankees and Mets were averaging around 55,522 fans per Subway Series game at Yankee Stadium. Just once — a make-up game on a Sunday in June 2004 — did the teams fail to draw at least 54,978 fans.
On its surface, the low attendance numbers aren’t surprising. After all, new Yankee Stadium has a capacity that is 4500 seats fewer than the ballpark across the street did. What is surprising though is that the three games against the Mets weren’t up to that capacity. The Yankees didn’t draw the 52,325 fans they claim can fit into the new stadium, and even omitting the 2000 standing room-only tickets, they weren’t even within 2,000 fans of the 50,325 non-SRO capacity crowd.
Prior to the weekend showdown, Mark Feinsand published a short piece on this very issue. He wrote:
Through the first 29 games in the Bronx, the Yankees have had only one sellout in their new $1.5 billion palace, all the way back on Opening Day. Last season the Yankees sold out 58 of their 81 home games. Even that crowd was announced at 48,271, well short of the stadium’s listed capacity of 52,325. The team said that the remainder of the tickets had been given out as comps, so they didn’t count toward the official total…
“Since the price was dropped, sales have been good, combined with the fact the team has won,” a person familiar with the Yankees’ ticket sales said. “Sales have gotten better day to day. It (the price reductions) did work. Plus, the team is winning and that helps.”
The person added that 88% of all seats available to be sold for the entire season have been sold, though the remaining 12% presumably include many of the most expensive seats. Still, if Yankees-Mets can’t bring a full house, what series can?
The real issue remains, of course, the high-priced tickets. The Yanks won’t hit a capacity crowd until all of the luxury suites and all of the Legends Suites tickets are accounted for. We’re still waiting for that day to come this year, and if I had to bet, I’d put money those seats costing less next year.
For now, the Yankees continue on in the economic experiment in sports ticketing that is new Yankee Stadium. The seats for key series will be empty, and those of us who didn’t have the chance to buy tickets will just have to live with the jarring sight of empty Yankee Stadium seats when the Mets (and Red Sox) are in town.