Last season, whether you believe you expected it or not, the Chicago Cubs were a surprisingly good ball club. And with that surprisingly good play, came surprisingly good home attendance (despite the challenges presented by the renovation).
As I’m sure you’re sick of hearing, good attendance figures are important to the long-term performance of the organization, because more money in, means more money out (theoretically, anyway).
Indeed, owner Tom Ricketts has said for years that the money the Cubs rake in will be turned around right back into the team (be it through baseball operations, business operations, stadium renovations, or most visibly, the payroll). As we’ve seen over the past two offseasons alone, Ricketts has kept that promise.
So, then, you should be pleased to hear that, after a great season in 2015 and a hot start this year, the Chicago Cubs have jumped into the top five (fifth to be exact) for MLB attendance in 2016. Maybe you’d already noticed that The Friendly Confines were pretty packed already this year, especially for April and May?
In an article at FanGraphs, Craig Edwards calculates the early season attendance figures, calling out the Chicago Cubs in particular for their strong early season showing. So far, the Cubs have been fifth in attendance, just behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (warm weather, good team), St. Louis Cardinals (always drawing big), San Francisco Giants (3 World Series in 5 seasons) and New York Yankees (New York Yankees).
What’s more interesting about these early season returns, though, are that cold weather teams (like the Cubs) tend to perform quite a bit worse early in the season than they do later in the season, which can be an even better sign for the Cubs. For example, from mid-May 2015 to the end of the season, the Cubs had the fourth highest average attendance rise per game of any team in baseball. Certainly some of that was due to the wave of young players and increasingly good play, but at that point the Cubs were just four games over .500 and it was 52 degrees in Chicago. If they can see a similar relative rise in attendance as the season goes on this year, they’ll be sitting pretty – especially because their overall attendance this year has increased a lot when compared to the 2015 version of the Chicago Cubs.
When comparing the current attendance of every team in baseball up to this point last year, the Chicago Cubs have seen the second highest increase of any team in baseball (behind only the Toronto Blue Jays). According to Edwards, the team is looking at an increase of roughly 2,000-3,000 fans per game. That is an enormous and significant bump.
If the Cubs can continue to draw as well as they have been and follow a similar growth rate as the season progresses, they’ll certainly pulling it far more revenue than they had in the past (and that’s aside from the increase in ticket prices this year (and it’s aside-aside from renovation-related revenue increases and added ballpark signage (and it’s aside-aside-aside from the potential impact of increased revenue on a future TV mega deal))).
So, basically, all’s well in Chicago and baseball is alive.