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For those of you who fall into the “stop showing up at Wrigley Field so the Ricketts Family will make some changes camp,” you’ll be happy to know that attendance at Chicago Cubs games continues to slide.

From the Wall Street Journal:

[T]he club is on pace to sell fewer than three million seats for the first time in eight years. Compared with its last playoff season, in 2008, the Cubs so far have sold about 4,115 fewer seats per game this year, or 10% of Wrigley. The team is off 2,066 tickets per game from last year, another losing season.

Actual attendance is even lower than the depressed ticket sales suggest. Ticket brokers, whose bulk purchases inflate the club’s sales figures, said they had been burned this season.

“Some games in April, I had 300 to 400 unsold seats,” said Max Waisvisz, a prominent Chicago ticket broker. Before a recent weeknight game, he told his employees to take what they could get and had already listed the next day’s tickets online for less than half their face value. This season is “the worst I’ve ever seen,” the 18-year veteran said. “I count the days till it’s over.”

But ticket sales are down baseball-wide, right? The economy’s in the tank – who can afford to go to a baseball game right now? And there was that horrible April weather. Surely those are the reasons for the decline.

Not so:

Brokers point to the Cubs’ ticket prices, third-highest in the league, at an average of $46.90 apiece. Add to that $11 or $12 to settle in with a hot dog and a beer, and a fan these days can be put off.

Major League Baseball’s 30 teams have sold about 135 fewer tickets per game this year than in the same period last season, according to baseball-reference.com. That is far better than the Cubs’ decline of 2,066….

That’s a startling decline, even when painted with the rosiest of brushes. The Ricketts Family, undoubtedly, is taking note.

And Cubs President Crane Kenney, believing that he was defending the Cubs, actually confirmed that it is the product on the field that is causing the decline in attendance.

“I take issue with the idea that it never mattered whether the team was performing or not,” Kenney said, indicating that if the Cubs were playing better, attendance would not have fallen. That quote should be like music to some of your ears.

I’m still not sure I fall on that side of the divide, however. Yes, I want the Ricketts Family to spend on the Cubs. And yes, I understand the argument that, if they see their revenue stream falling, they’ll spend more to drive that revenue back up.

But I fear that it is just as likely that they’ll reduce spending commensurate with the reduced revenue, thus beginning a deadly feedback loop – revenue is down, so spending is down, so revenue goes down further, so spending goes down further, and so on. If the Cubs were raking in cash hand over fist, I take Tom Ricketts at his word that the money would go right back into the organization. The family is not in it to make money, they’ve said. So, the more money coming in, the more gets spent on the product. That means higher attendance is a good thing.

I recognize, however, that there’s no turning the attendance around this year, and I don’t really have a beef with that. The fans are voting with their wallets, and the ball will be in the Ricketts Family’s court in the offseason.

 

  • Jeremy

    If the Ricketts are as big of Cubs fans as they let on (and I believe they are), they know that if you put a quality product on the field the stands will be packed. Previous years and ticket prices prove this as fact.

    Here’s hoping they do what’s necessary to get baseball back on track on the North Side!

  • http://wrigleybeerman.tumblr.com Wrigley Beer Man

    I’m a long-time Wrigley vender (and long-suffering Cubs fan). Check out the blog for my take: wrigleybeerman.tumblr.com. Also, check me out here: http://www.beachwoodreporter.com/people_places_things/i_am_a_wrigley_beer_vendor.php

    Sorry for the self-serving post, but I thought y’all might be interested…

    -WrigleyBeerMan

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for sharing that – good luck to you.

  • 1060Ivy

    Enduring one of the wettest and coldest springs in Chicago history did not help attendance in April and May.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That was true throughout the Midwest. And, yet, relative to the rest of baseball, the Cubs are much more down this year.

      • 1060Ivy

        Having attended over 20 games in April and May, the Cubs had rain in well over half of those dates.

        Yes, this spring was cold and wet over most of the midwest and east but it seemed to rain more frequently while the Cubs were at home.

        • Cheryl

          Maybe even the clouds are crying because of this team.

  • die hard

    Rumor with legs?… Ricketts to rebate 15% to all seasons ticket holders for this years tkts if sign up next year at same price as this yr….

  • Joe

    So…. How does kenney’s comment defend the cubs?

    “Oh my God, they killed Kenney!”
    “You glorious bastards!”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I guess it would have been more accurate to say he thought he was defending Cubs fans (that they care about the outcome of games).

  • miggy80

    Of course I was one of the dummy’s who over paid on stub hub in March for two games in May. DOH!

  • auggie1955

    Watching the last game of the Marlin’s series on Sunday I noticed a large portion of the RF bleachers were totally empty. I also noticed that WGN was doing the best it could not to show too many shots of empty seats. I enjoy hearing about all no shows and about ticket brokers taking a bath. These people are getting just what they deserve.

    • Ron

      So you are saying there were more people in Bleacher Nation than in the Bleachers?

  • RDF

    Two of my college buddies and I went to to Chicago this past weekend for the Marlins series. I had heard the rumors about down attendance and seen glimpses of it via WGN, but was still shocked to see entire sections empty for both games on what was two beautiful sunny days. I pre-bought Stub Hub bleacher seats for Saturday and decided to wing it Friday. We end up paying $55 to a scalper for seats in section 222 right behind home plate. Sad to see for sure. Combination of the rough economy and team playing with very little heart.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Hope it was still a fun time.

  • RY34

    Crane Kenney is definitely no genious! I agree with Auggie with regards to the ticket brokers! What is the over/under on total runs scored in this series by the cubs. I would put it at 5 and take the under.

  • Brian Myers

    I love the Cubs, but for the past few years this team just hasn’t been “lovable” losers. So for me attendance is about the value of the experience.

    I remember the days of Sandberg and Dawson and Sutcliffe… the teams were sometimes awful, but there were reasons to go to the park. Today I’d pay to see Castro and Marmol (if he would get in the game) who can both be electrifying… but spend $60 a person to see them? Not today. I like Dempster, Ramirez , Byrd and Soto… but I’m not passionate enough about them to want to pay $250 for myself and 3 kids to see them… at least not on a regular basis.

    So for me it’s $250 for a guarantee to see Wrigley Field and Castro… and that’s just too much. Add a couple more guys I can get behind (sorry, Rodrigo Lopez, Ramon Ortiz, Doug Davis , Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper and Dave Bush don’t quite cut it) and you’ll see more people coming to the park to enjoy a game and chear for a favorite player.

  • chris margetis

    The Cubs (and fans) unfortunately are all too capable of remembering the days when the experience was a great atmosphere and a REALLY good chance of seeing Sammy hit an HR. Say what you want about him and the era but he was partly responsible for saving baseball from itself and he helped the Cubs build an experience where winning wasn’t the most important thing and the seats were full. That shifted when late in his Cub career, they actually got pretty good and then made significant attempts, albeit some futile, to stay good. No marquis superstar, a lot of guys who are paid like one, and a marginal product, combined with lack of disposable income for the fans and very high ticket prices, and it makes just heading out for the experience a tough call for most. In addition, the Cub organization has rested on the laurels of brokers gobbling up tickets, instead of real fans, which has given them a false sence of where their actual gate is. Another year like this and they will be in for a very rude awakening. Just ask the brokers.

    • http://www.bobbyfunzone.com bobbyd

      I know you meant “marquee” superstar but the thought of “Marquis” (e.g. Jason) and “superstar” in the same sentence is pretty funny. :-)

  • chris margetis

    Sorry, I’d like to say that was a Freudian slip. Is there a term that implied said slip but as an opposite??

  • RDF

    We had a blast because there is not better place to watch baseball in the world than Wrigley. Just wish the quality of said baseball was a little better, specifically Saturday.

  • ken

    Why pay $50 to go watch these guys when my local high school team only charges $5. Similar product.

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      Beer?

  • jstraw

    Ricketts needs this bucket of ice cold water thrown in his face.

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