Attendance Issues

The New York Yankees continue to have “attendance issues”. Attendance for home games this year as of June 18 shows the Yankees averaging 41,606 fans per game. That looks really good until you look a bit closer and see that attendance is down 1575 fans per game as compared to last season. Moreover, the Yankees’ pattern of underselling seats to games is the most visible kind you can imagine. Those seats behind home plate – - the ones you see on every pitch – - are never full. The same goes for those other spectacularly expensive seats near the field level around the dugouts and the batting circles. I have tuned in to see parts of a lot of Yankees’ games this year because my cable system includes YES Network and because MLB Network often finds time to put the Yankees on the air. When I tune in, those premium seats are about 30% full.

Meanwhile, the “cheap seats” further back in the lower deck and upstairs usually appear to be 90% full. Is there a message here?

Yankee Stadium holds a tad over 52,000 fans – - counting standing room – - so the Yankees average about 11,000 empty spaces per game. That translates to playing only to 80% of capacity. For the Yankees? Really? Somehow, the team has decided that StubHub.com is somewhat responsible for this situation (Really?) and the team seems to be on a PR roll to try to convince fans that things are going to change next year to the benefit of the fans. Yankees’ team president, Randy Levine, has declared that the team will resolve the attendance shortfall in a “fan-friendly way” starting next season.

I do not live in NY or near NYC so I am not Randy Levine’s target audience for his “fan friendly” initiatives and solutions. Nevertheless, I can offer a couple of suggestions:

    When Yankee Stadium opened, seats near the Yankees’ dugout went for $2500 per game and seats behind home plate in the “elite seats” went for $1500 per game. I have no idea what the Yankees are willing to take for such seats these days but one good business decision that would also be “fan friendly” would be to cut some of those prices by at least 50% and probably closer to 70%.

    A friend went to a Yankees’ game earlier this year after scoring a pair of tix from a season ticket holder for some very nice seats just opposite first base. (He got the tix free but he has been to enough baseball games in enough baseball venues to be a reliable reporter as to the quality of the seats.) He raved about the seats and the game but did say that he thought that paying $35 to park was a tad over the top. I asked him what he paid for concessions and what I remember was him saying that a run-of-the-mill light beer was $10.

    I did not go to the game with my friend on that day so I never saw the tix he had but he said that the face value was $200. I have no reason to question his recollection so let us recap for a moment:

      2 tickets = $400
      Parking = $35
      4 beers – $40
      2 “food items” = $30
      2 “popcorns” = $15
      Total cost = $520 for two adults.

    If you bring kids and have to buy souvenirs on top of this, you could easily look at a group of 4 people leaving $1250 at the stadium.

I don’t know about you, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer in my family would not allow for that kind of spending on anything approaching a “regular basis”. A “fan-friendly” solution to the Yankees’ attendance issues has to include some price adjustments – - downward.

There is another sad piece of economic news that is tangentially related to the Yankees. The bar/eatery/watering hole, Mickey Mantle’s, in the Central Park South neighborhood of NYC has closed. It had been a popular and standard watering hole for fans, athletes and a few ink-stained wretches over the years. I was there once in the early 1990s; I believe Mickey Mantle was still part of the ownership of the place at the time. It was surely not the best bar/watering hole I have ever been to, but it was better than some others. Obviously, I do not have access to the books for the restaurant, but I have to assume that the failing economic conditions in the country and in NYC could only have exacerbated any other financial problems the place might have had. Sad…

The Miami Dolphins appear to be having some attendance woes themselves – - although they are probably not of the same kind as the ones the Yankees are having. The Dolphins claim that there are just too many upper deck seats in Sun Life Stadium and not enough seats in the “lower bowl.” Before anyone asks, I have not counted the seats in Miami and then compared those numbers to comparable seating in other NFL stadia – - nor do I have any intention of doing anything remotely like that. However, the Dolphins seeming solution to this problem is eerily similar to the one chosen by the Jacksonville Jaguars when they could not give away enough tickets to play in front of a packed house. The Dolphins are considering using a tarp to cover over some of those upper deck seats that they say they cannot sell.

Sun Life Stadium opened in the late 80’s – - when Dan Marino was still at QB for the Dolphins – - as Joe Robbie Stadium. I have this nagging feeling that this complaint about “too many of those seats/not enough of these seats” is the opening volley in a campaign to get a new stadium for the Dolphins in Miami. After all, the Marlins got a new place to play…

The Washington Redskins had a similar problem with their stadium a couple years ago. What the Redskins did was to take out about 10,000 seats – - with the stated intention of putting in a large bar/party area for standing room patrons who are more interested in drinking beer while watching a game on TV than they are watching the game live on the field. That full-up party experience area had not materialized as of the end of last season but the excess seats are gone without resorting to hiding them under tarps. Frankly, I think the Redskins’ approach to the problem makes a lot more sense.

Finally, Gregg Drinnan found this gem and included it in his Keeping Score column in the Kamloops Daily News:

“A tweet from Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register: ‘Scrolling, in vain attempt to find tennis, I saw Pilates With Susan Lucci. I believe she used to date Pontius.’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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Comments

  • Brian  On June 20, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Susan Lucci and Pontius Pilate.

    “What is truth?”

  • Tenacious P  On June 20, 2012 at 8:34 am

    It is sad what happened to America’s game. Who wants to shell out $250 for a baseball game? Then the team gets shelled. I guess I will be sitting in the cheap seats at the Washington Nationals stadium come July.

  • Peter  On June 20, 2012 at 9:32 am

    If you can afford $1,500 tickets to watch nine innings of regular season Major League Baseball, good on ya.

    If you think that a ticket to watch nine innings of regular season Major League Baseball is a sane and reasonable way to spend $1,500, I think you are thoroughly and completely off your nut.

    Maybe the game will run into extra innings, and/or the Red Sox will be in town, thereby ensuring a protracted affair, but still: You Paid $1,500 to Watch Nine Innings of Regular Season Major League Baseball.

    In-SANE.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

      Peter:

      You and I think alike on this issue.

      And the fact that you and I think alike on something ought to frighten you very much…

  • Ed  On June 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I beleive the Yankees halved the price on those $2500 seats about a year ago. The parking also has generated some buzz, as the state subsidized the garages and the woners fell WAY behind on rent quickly.

    Mamntle never actually owned a piece of the bar. They just used his name. I thought it funny it was about 3 blocks from the Copa… one of the local radio stations used to joke about the bar, saying they had contests like “Guess which table the morning cleanup crew finds Mickey under today!”

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 21, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Ed:

      If the Yankees are selling the tix around the Yankees’ dugout at $1250 a shot, the price is still too high because LOTS of those seats are unoccupied also.

      I could have sworn that Mantle was a part owner back at the start of that restaurant – - but that was a long time ago.

  • Rich  On June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Cashman Field, where the Las Vegas 51′s play their home Pacific Coast League games, has a fourteen dollar price for seats behind the plate, and some Thursdays, maybe all of them are ‘Dollar Beer’ nights, where a draft Bud or Bud Light are….one dollar. Let’s say that four friends go to a game for $52 for seats, plus three bucks parking…if they each have three beers, the total damage comes out to $67 by my reckoning. The PCL is a AAA league, so the quality is not Major League Baseball, but only one step shy. It is still a hitters’ league, and you can see some players who will be up in the big league later in the season. It is also a league in which you will see more errors, and fewer great pitchers, but it is also a lot of fun. We find it well worth the money, even when we pay $3.50 foe peanuts.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 22, 2012 at 6:25 am

      Rich:

      I LOVE minor league baseball. Our weekend home in Pennsylvania is close enough to the Altoona Curve (AA affiliate of the Pirates) that I get to see them several times a year. In terms of entertainment value, it is really hard to beat minor league baseball.

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