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.
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.