No matter how we slice or dice the numbers, the Yankees had a down year at the gate. Playing in a new ballpark, the team sold out just two home games, and although MLB’s overall attendance declined by 6.65 percent in 2009, the Yankees saw a 13.5 percent dip in home attendance. A perfect storm of overpriced seats and a bad economy led to this dip, and the Yankees are already working on correcting the problem for 2010.
On Monday afternoon, with all but one regular season game left in all of baseball, Maury Brown released his 2009 attendance wrap-up. For the Yankees, the numbers tell an interesting story. The team drew 3,719,358 in paid attendance this year for a per-game average of 45,918. According to the Yankees’ figures, this total represents just 87.8 percent of capacity for the season.
Let’s put these numbers in perspective. Their overall attendance and per-game average were both second best to Joe Torre’s Dodgers, but for the Yankees, second-best is a new position. They have led the league in attendance every year since 2002. This is the first year since 2004 that they have failed to draw over 4 million fans, and their per-game average had not been below 47,788 since 2003. Their 87.8 percent capacity rate is also a five-year low.
One of the primary causes of this attendance dip is the new Stadium’s capacity. With an alleged capacity of 52,325, new Yankee Stadium never saw a crowd larger than 49,005 pass through the gates. To those who have followed our coverage of the new Stadium, this development comes as no surprise.
Meanwhile, the other driving factor behind this dip were the ticket prices. Early in the season, the empty Legends Seats made the headlines, and although the Yanks eventually lowered the prices on those seats, pockets of empty blue marked those high-priced areas throughout the summer. Last month, we reported on adjusted ticket prices for 2010, and yesterday, the Yankees announced a few new ticket policies for 2010. The team is breaking up the Legends Suites and will be adding a second tier of lesser-priced-but-still expensive seats with fewer amenities. The AP reports:
A total of 538 seats along the foul lines will be called the Champions Suite and will no longer have access to the duplex restaurant behind home plate, according to the team’s 2010 premium seat plan. Those seats cost $500 to $1,000 this year as part of full season tickets but will sell for $300 to $500 next year. They will still have waiter service and access to lounges down each foul line with free food to take to the seats and soft drinks.
Their removal leaves 1,357 seats in the Legends Suite. [These] seats behind the plate, which fetched $850 to $2,500 this season, will cost $650 to $1,250 next year, while seats behind the half of the dugouts nearer to home plate and the section just to the plate side will go for $800 to $1,500.
Apparently, the Yanks’ great ticket pricing experiment was a little to rich for the tastes of 2009. We’ll see how the team fares next season, but if the playoff plans for standing-room only work out and ticket demand increases as the costs go down, the Yanks should see an increase in attendance next year.
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Meanwhile, as a brief post-script, the Yankees will not be allowing backpacks into Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. Although stadium security regulations had been relaxed during the regular season, per order of the Office of the Commissioner and the NYPD, the team is asking its fans to mindful of heightened security efforts during the playoffs. I’ll be there in the new SRO areas behind section 229 for Game 2 of the ALDS, sans backpack of course.