Attendance down as Yanks firm up ’10 ticket prices

Time for A-Rod to turn around playoff slump
Should the Yanks try to bring Kevin Towers aboard?

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.

* * *

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.

Time for A-Rod to turn around playoff slump
Should the Yanks try to bring Kevin Towers aboard?
  • CountryClub

    Even with the 400k decline in attendance, I would bet a healthy sum that the yanks took in way more money this year than they did last year when you factor in luxury suites and the increase in prices of the best seats.

    • Pete

      Yeah, any reports on how much the concessions revenue went up from last year? I’d be curious to know…

    • Mac

      The garlic fries alone must have brought in millions more. God damn they are delicious.

  • Matt H. :: Sec105

    Any word on 2010 season ticket subscriptions? I wanna make my move fast.

    • Bo

      How about letting the post season play out before thinking 2010?

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        How does the postseason’s playing out affect Matt H’s ticket buying plans for ’10?

        • Pete

          Well, it certainly would affect his screen name.

          • Matt ACTY/BBD

            Haha, IETC.

    • A.D.

      Usually it comes out somewhere in the offseason, it’ll be awhile.

  • Pete

    Led the league in attendance every year since 2002, and this year we’re in second? Aha, the “Best Attendance Jinx” is broken!!!!

  • A.D.

    I wonder if the Yankees made more money despite lower attendance because of a better cut of concession money & higher ticket prices.

    Oh and by the way for those that missed it:

  • Bo

    The attendance numbers are entirely misleading. They’ve made so much more revenue with the higher priced tickets but that will never get discussed. It’l be spun as higher prices kept fans out and attendance dipped.

    • Chris

      You’ve seen the revenue numbers from the new stadium?

  • Mike HC

    The ticket prices were really outrageous, and are really still outrageous. I don’t care how much money you have, why would you spend over $300 for regular season Yankee tickets? And that is at the low end of the better seats. Over $100 for second level seats? I really just don’t get it. Who are even paying for those tickets? I don’t think the Yanks can even keep up this level. What happens when the new stadium feel ends? I don’t know

    • yankeegirl49

      Because they can.
      Why would someone spend money on a Porche when a Toyota will get them where there are going? Why would someone buy a Rolex when they could have a Timex do the same job?

      To be honest, if I had the money I would buy the best seats for every game and not care what they cost. Sadly, I do not, so I buy my $25 upper deck seats and am happy I can afford those.

      • Mike HC

        Fair enough, although, for the most part, people who have that much money have that much money for a reason. And it is not because they consistently shell out their money for overpriced items. I think the fact that the stadium was brand new had a lot to do with even how many people attended games this year. Once the stadium loses that newness, I think prices will drop even further. But maybe I’m wrong, and this is just the beginning and prices will sky even further. Who knows? My money is on them dropping

        • yankeegirl49

          I agree..I said it when prices were first announced for the new stadium. “Too expensive” is determined by what people are willing to pay. Dropping the prices during the season and now for next season shows that the prices were indeed “too expensive”, people were not willing to shell out that kind of cash on a regular basis. If that continues, the prices will go even lower until they find a price structure that allows them to sell the tickets and make the most money possible.

          I will say this..I go to a few road games each season and I love visiting the different parks. I went to Pittsburgh this season and sat field level down the 1st base line. The tickets were $20 face value. I would rather spend $25 and sit in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium knowing I will see a quality team with a chance to win every single year, than spend $20 for field level and have to watch the Pirates all season.

          • YankFan

            One thing to consider is supply & demand. The demand is not there for Pitt or most of the ML’s as compared to the NYY/Bos/LA teams.
            The second thing is to consider region & salary. We live in NYC where income & prices to buy anything are higher. Further you go out into the middle of the country there is a totally different income structure. $50,000 salary in NYC may equate to $30,000 salary elsewhere.

    • andrew

      In a city of millions and an equally enormous suburban area around NY, there are definitely a couple thousand people who can afford $100+ seats

      • Mike HC

        It is not about affording. It is about spending well more than $100 dollars for seats in the second level. After people have been to the new stadium once or twice, after they get used to seeing CC, AJ and Teix, I think less people will be willing to buy tickets at these prices

  • Monkeypants

    Yankee attendance dipped about 13%. The stadium has roughly 11% fewer seats (~50,500 v. ~56,500…forget about the standing room only spaces that were never put on sale). Put simply, they built the stadium to hold fewer people (who overall paid more), and that accounts for the great majority of the drop in attendance.

    • Frank C

      That seems like the most logical reason for the drop. This drove it much more than the higher prices. Stealing an idea from Bill Simmons, I wonder what the future will be for live sporting events with the advent of giant HD tv’s. Why blow $200 on a game when I can watch just as well (better?) from the comfort of my living room?

  • steve s

    Talking about attendance without talking about revenues is like discussing offensive prowess by only discussing batting averages and not on base percentage (or whatever other non-traditional offensive stat moves you). If it was important to the Yanks to have “every” ticket sold they would change their pricing. Doesn’t seem to me they are interested in doing that for next year either as the pricing for the good seats remains elitist. Anyone concluding that the decrease in attendance is about waning interest by Yankee fans or for baseball generally or due to a weak economy is IMO missing the boat; if 2008 prices were still in effect virtually every seat in 2009 would have been sold easily.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      I certainly understand that the Yanks are focused on revenue and that the new stadium is a cash cow for them. There’s no denying that. Still, the team would make a killing if tickets were slightly more reasonably price. The vast majority of their revenue comes from what they sell inside the stadium and not just ticket sales.

    • Mac

      Spot on.

      You can’t walk 5 feet without being given the opportunity to purchase something at the new park. I bet anything that concessions, merchandise went up even with less attendance and an economic depression.

  • HC

    Can someone please inform me as to what the new playoff standing room only policy is? I’ve been saying all year that they can comfortably sell 5-10k standing room only seats for $10 and make a ton off the concessions. Thx…

  • Raf

    the backpack ban being on again stinks but i understand them doing it again for the postseason. hopefully they continue allowing them next season. saves me $5 and a walk to the bowling alley

  • YankeeDoodleDandie

    Does anyone know what the revenues were from gate receipts this year vs. last year. Higher price tickets might have brought in more revenue despite the 13% dropoff in attendance.

    • Will

      Those numbers haven’t been released, but it stands to reason that the Yankees Stadium-based revenue will increase greatly. Not only is the average ticket price higher, but the team also owns the concessions and has a greater hand in the parking.

      While not perfect, the Yankees pricing plan probably was very successful for the team. Ironically, where they will need to dial the prices down is on the high end. Judging by the secondary market, the cheaper seats, however, seem to be underpriced, and will be likely candidates for raises in 2011. If the team can’t subsidize the lesser cheats with overpriced premium ones, then the result of all the “complaining” will be the “rich” will pay less, while the “average fan” pays more.

  • Steve P

    Standing Room Only is the biggest rip-off in sports. I buy a ticket to go sit at a game, not stand all day. I live in Boston and it’s a travesty up in Fenway because they try to milk so much money out of it. I though the Yankees would be better than that.

    I’ve always wondered why they reduced the number of seats. Who’s idea was it? There’s so much demand in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area that you can sell out. Why not go back to the days of 60,000 seats and provide plenty of cheap seats. They can make up a substantial amount of income in concession sales, I bet. People will always pay to see a winner and to see the Yankees. They just won’t pay that much.

    • Will

      How can SRO be a rip-off if you know what you are getting before you pay the price? If you want to sit, don’t buy SRO.

      The reason the team scaled down the seating was probably to (1) reduce constructions costs; (2) enhance design; and mostly (3) control supply to drive up demand. While certain premium games would support a 60K capacity, a great majority would not…and that doesn’t even take into account what would happen if the team was bad. By limiting supply somewhat, the Yankees are able to protect themselves against drops in demand.

  • HC

    Steve P, milk? You must be a Liberal hooked on Michael Moore movies. Nobody forces you to buy the ticket- I have season ticket plan upstairs yet I still spent over half of each game walking around, watching the game from different locations. If I’m a college kid I pay $10 just to get in and enjoy walking around watching a game drinking some Buds, and eating some cheesesteaks.

    • yankeegirl49

      Well put. I had a couple of games where I had the $5 obstructed view bleacher seats. I knew what I was buying before I bought them. I sat there for exactly 1 inning and spent the rest of the game downstairs, standing by 1st base. Is it ideal? Of course not, but for $5 I was there, saw a good game and had a good time.

  • http://W Nikhil R.

    Who else has Game 2 ALDS tickets? I’m going to be in section 308 row 3.