Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Major League Baseball – 2006 Attendance Trends II

Major League Baseball established a single season attendance record for the third consecutive season, more than 76 million attended MLB games for the first time in Major League Baseball history. The first part of SBN’s look at attendance trends (focusing on the 2006 season, while at the same time looking back at the last five seasons for each respective franchise), looked at the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This is the second of a three part Insider series.

Saturday was a great day to be a Detroit Tigers fans. Long suffering Tigers fans experienced the joy of having their team win their American League Divisional Series against the New York Yankees. For the Tigers, winning on the field in 2006 resulted in a great deal of success at the box office. The Tigers sold 2,595,937 tickets at Comerica Park, an average of 32,048 fans per game or 79.9 percent of capacity this year. The Tigers won 95 games, claiming the AL Wild Card playoff spot. The Tigers winning season was the teams’ first in 13 seasons. Since the 1992 season, the Tigers finished third three times, fourth five times, fifth five times and sixth once.

Winning and losing has had a tremendous impact on the Tigers box office – a great example of how important winning is to selling tickets. The Tigers moved from Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park at the start of the 2000 season. The Tigers sold 2,533,753 tickets, an average of 31, 280 fans per game in Comerica’s first season. The Tigers won 79 games that year, won 66 games in 2001. The Tigers experienced a significant drop in attendance in 2001, selling 1,921,305 tickets, an average of 24,016 fans per game or 60.0 percent capacity. The one year drop in attendance – 612, 448. A year later the Pirates won only 55 games in 2002 selling 1,503,623 tickets an average of 18,795 fans per game 47.0 percent capacity. The Tigers on-field performance hit rock bottom in 2003. The once proud franchise won a major league low 43 games, selling 1,368,245 tickets, an average of fans per game of 17,103 or 42.6 percent capacity. In the four years that Comerica Park was open, attendance had fallen by 1,165,508, an astronomical drop by anyone’s standards. The Tigers won 72 games in 2004 an improvement of 29 wins over 2003. Winning 29 paid off at the box office – selling 1,917,004 tickets, averaging 23,962 fans per game or filling 59.7 percent of Comerica’s seats. The Tigers won 71 games last year and had a better year at the box office (compared to 2004) selling 2,024,505 tickets, averaging 25,306 fans per game or 63.1 percent capacity. Bottom line, in Motown the Tigers winning means more tickets will be sold.

Billy Ball has driven the Oakland A’s to winning records, and home field advantage as long as the A’s stay alive in their drive to win the 2006 World Series. The A’s have had a winning record since the 1999 season, winning the 2002, 2003 and 2006 American League West titles. Over the last eight seasons the A’s have averaged 93 wins per season. The A’s sold 1,976,625 tickets in 2006, an average of 24,402 fans per game. Over the last eight seasons, the A’s have averaged 1,996,330 fans per season.

The A’s announced prior to the start of the 2006 season they would cover McAfee Coliseum’s upper deck for the teams’ entire home schedule, decreasing the stadiums capacity by more than 10,000 seats, to 34,077 seats. The seats have remained covered with huge tarps with the team's logos. For the A’s the rationale was simple, the law of supply and demand. Decrease the capacity, regardless of who the A’s where playing and drive demand. The A’s where steadfast throughout the regular season and have kept the policy in place for the ALDS games against the Minnesota Twins.

The A’s could have sold those tickets for Friday’s ALDS clinching game against the Twins but choose to follow their policy, turning away 10,000 potential ticket buyers. A’s managing partner managing partner Lewis Wolff has announced the policy will remain in affect for the American League Championship series. If the A’s win the American League pennant MLB is expected to insist the A’s open the upper deck. World Series revenue is shared and helps determine players’ playoff and World Series shares. Giving away the revenues from 10,000 seats isn’t a good business decision.

The A’s 2006 opening day payroll -- $62,243,079 (21st overall). The A’s 2005 payroll -- $ 55,425,762 (25th overall). The A’s 2004 payroll -- $ 59,425,667. The A’s 2003 payroll -- $ 50,260,834 . The A’s 2002 payroll -- $ 40,004,167. The A’s 2001 payroll -- $ 33,810,750.

Billy Beane has spent a shade over $301 million on the A’s payroll over the last six seasons, an average annual payroll of $50.2 million. The A’s have averaged 96 wins each of the last six seasons. Compare what Billy Beane has accomplished to what Brian Cashman’s Yankees have done on an off the field. Cashman has spent $975 million over the last six seasons on the Yankees payroll, an average annual payroll of $162 million (and that does not include the tens of millions of dollars in luxury tax the Yankees have paid above and beyond the teams’ payroll). The Yankees have averaged 98 wins each of the last six seasons.

The A’s Bay City brothers, the San Francisco Giants have consistently better attendance numbers since they moved into Pac Bell Park at the start of the 2000 season. The Giants ballpark has undergone one other name change, SBC Park before it was rechristened AT&T Park before the start of the 2006 season. In 2006 the Giants sold 3,130,304 tickets, averaging 38,645 fans per game or 93.0 percent capacity. The Giants won the National League pennant in 2002, losing the World Series to the Los Angeles Angels. In the six years the Giants have played at their new ballpark, the team has averaged 3.2 million fans per game, selling close to 95 of their available ticket inventory. Winning and Barry Bonds have been the driving forces. It remains to be seen if the Giants will sign Bonds for what is expected to be his final MLB season. The Giants paid Bonds $18 million for the 2006 season. Bonds is 21 home runs away from setting a new career homerun record, Barry Bonds is worth at least $10 million to the Giants in ticket sales for the 2007 season.

The St. Louis Cardinals moved into Busch Stadium III this year, selling 3,407,104 tickets, averaging 42,588 fans per game or 99 percent capacity (does not include standing room). The Cardinals actually sold more tickets last year 3,491,837, averaging 43,647, but less of their ticket inventory 86.7 percent at Busch Stadium II. The key to the Cardinals – the teams’ average ticket price went up 12.1 percent to $29.78, giving it the third highest average price in the majors, behind the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals increase in their ticket prices was far smaller than the 50 percent average increase seen in the last ten teams to move into new homes since 2000. The Cardinals, another great example of the law of supply and demand. Create the demand by decreasing the capacity. In the Cardinals case Busch Stadium III’s capacity is 43,975 seats/46,861 with standing room. The Cardinals sold of their available seats for the 2006 season. Busch Stadium II’s seating capacity was 49,676. The Cardinals new ballpark has 5,701 fewer seats, but with higher ticket prices the Cardinals are generating more revenue from ticket sales.

Major League Baseball’s two New York franchises sold 7.6 million tickets, the two Los Angeles teams’ 7.1 million tickets. The Chicago Cubs sold 3,123,215 tickets, averaging 39,040 at Wrigley Field or 94.9 percent capacity. The Chicago White Sox sold 2,957,414 tickets, averaging 36,511 fans per game or 89.9 percent capacity. Windy City baseball fans sold 6.08 million tickets in 2006, not quite as impressive as the numbers from Los Angeles and New York but the highest Chicago totals in years. In 2005 the Cubs and White Sox sold 5.4 million tickets, 5.1 million tickets in 2004, 4.89 million in 2003, 4.36 million in 2002 and 4.55 million in 2001. The Cubs made the playoffs in 2003 (the year of the Bartman ball) and the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. It will be interesting to follow the Cubs and White Sox attendance numbers in 2007.

Wrigley Field, which cost $250,000 to build in 1914, has a capacity of 41,118. That number allows the Cubs to keep their average ticket price second only to the Boston Red Sox in terms of average ticket price. Again, a classic example of the law of supply and demand.

U.S. Cellular Field a.k.a. "The Cell" (formerly Comiskey Park II), has a capacity of 40,615. The White Sox moved into their current ballpark before the 1991 season. It was the last stadium to be built before the Baltimore Orioles opened Camden Yards a year later, featuring the ‘back to the future’ retro look. Before the start of the 2004 season, the White Sox removed eight rows and 6,600 seats from the top of ballpark's upper deck.

In the coming days SBN will conclude its look at how each MLB team faired at the box office in 2006 and trends for each teams attendance in the last five years.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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