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Rain + Losing = Poor Attendance for Johnson's 300th Win PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 05 June 2009 11:23

Johnson 300 game winner

Chances are less than 7,000 fans witnessed history
when Randy Johnson got his 300th win at Nationals
Park (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

When it comes to the Washington Nationals this year, the saying, “When it rains, it pours” takes on multiple meanings. There’s the losing (now 17 of their last 20 and a league worst .269 winning percentage), but there’s also the rain – that ever-so wet stuff that can be the bane of any owner with an open-air stadium.

The Nationals have had 3 games postponed due to rain this season, and it seems like rain delays are a near weekly affair for the club. Throw the losing and the bad weather together and you get this:

For those that saw the highlights of Randy Johnson’s 300th win at Nationals Park yesterday, you had to remark at how sparse the stands were for the historic event. With the game being a make-up for Weds. rainout, the Nationals played a traditional day/night double-header.

Attendance for the traditional games – games in which there is a short delay between Games 1 and 2 and fans are allowed to stay inside the ballpark for both – is counted as one figure. So, in the schedule, Game 1’s attendance appears as N/A while the total figure for both games are provided for Game 2.

The Nationals had a paid attendance of 16,787 for both games (including Johnson’s historic win). Factoring in that there was a short rain delay for yesterday’s Game 1 (this after the washout the night before), and the fact that it was a weekday day game, we can do some adjusting to get estimated attendance for Johnson’s 300th win game:

Half of 16,787 is 8,394. Factoring in the day game and more rain, we can lop off another 20 percent and you get 6,715. That seems about right as the Washington Post reported, “As closer Brian Wilson recorded the final out, about 5,000 fans -- all standing, crowded in the first rows -- chanted, ‘Randy, Randy.’”

In a case of six degrees of Randy Johnson, 64 of the 70 worst attended games since 2001 came by way of the Montreal Expos, the team that Johnson started his career with. The Expos became the Nationals and began play in Washington, D.C. in 2005.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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Inside MLB Attendance - Part I - Looking at Early '08 to '09 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown & Mike Moore   
Sunday, 24 May 2009 03:13

MLB AttendanceThe following is the first of several articles that will be looking at MLB attendance by Maury Brown and the latest staff member of the Business of Sports Network, Mike Moore. The following looks at attendance leading up to interleague play from this year to last to see how the economy is impacting matters at the gate. We have also added some interesting tidbits from our attendance data set that runs back to 2001. – Maury Brown and Mike Moore

With interleague now underway, we can take a look at MLB attendance leading up to the NL/AL games, and ponder whether the economy has taken a ding out the gate, or whether the Commissioner’s fan initiative is pulling fans through the gate.

As reported, the league average is down 6.4 percent as of 5/21 based on league averages of 30,582 in 2008 and 28,602 in 2009 -- far batter than the league expected.

(See attendance details in the chart below by selecting Read More)

Eighteen of the 30 clubs are seeing declines compared to the same period last season, with 9 of the 18 seeing double digit declines. Leading the way is the Washington Nationals, who, in their second season at Nationals Park are seeing a 30.12 percent decline from last season (averaging 19,930 compared to 28,520 over the same period last season). The other big decliner is the Detroit Tigers who are seeing how the heavy hits to the auto sector are trickling down to those looking to attend Tigers games, along with the bubble burst in '08 when off-season acquisitions Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera did not translate into a winning season. Detroit is seeing a decline in attendance over the one year period of 27.72 percent from an average of 37,407 in 2008 to 27,036 in 2009.

An artificial decline comes by way of the Mets and Yankees who opened new stadiums this year with decidedly lower seating capacities. While the Yankees still lead the league in attendance to date (averaging 44,323), they have declined 12.82 percent in attendance over last year.

Many will be saying, “Yes, but new Yankee Stadium has a smaller seating capacity.” That’s true. From old to new, seating capacity went from 56,936 in 2008 to 52,325 this season. However, when you look at how fans are filling the seats, the picture is somewhat different. Currently, Yankee Stadium is running at 84.9 percent of capacity compared to 89.30 percent of capacity last year (average of 50,843 to May 21 of 2008). The Mets, by comparison, are running at 91.9 percent of capacity of the new Citi Field (seating capacity 42,000) compared to 86.56 percent of Shea Stadium, which had a seating capacity of 57,333 – a sign that the Mets may have sold themselves short by creating a stadium with such low seating capacity in a strong market.

On the flip side, of the 30 clubs, 11 are seeing average attendance above the league average. Significant increases have come to Rays (up 29.54 percent from an average of 18,446 to 23,895), the Dodgers (up 21.94 percent from an average of 34,836 to 42,479) and the Phillies (up 10.76 percent from an average of 43,109 from an average of 38,954 last season).

But the biggest increase has come to the Florida Marlins, who came out of the gate in 2009 white hot. That has allowed the Marlins to post a 46.06 percent increase over the same period last year. The problem? Even with the increase, the Marlins are only averaging 19,856, third worst in the league ahead of only OaklandPittsburgh (averaging 15,668) (averaging 18,030) and

In the case of the Rays and the Phillies, the reason for the increases are obvious: Both teams made it to the World Series last season, with the Rays breaking from an incredible futility slump over the life of the club’s history. For the Dodgers, it has been tied to both winning, and the increased interest of Manny Ramirez. For those wondering whether the suspension of Ramirez has hurt attendance for the Dodgers, in the six games that have been played at Dodger Stadium since the May 8 suspension, the average has been 42,653. The average for the 14 games played at Dodger Stadium before the suspension? 42,405.

Here are some other attendance tidbits:

  • The Pirates are an interesting case to look at. In 2008, up to May 21, six of 21 games at PNC Park (they had one rainout on 5/12) saw attendance below 10,000 (9,735 on 4/9 and 9,798 on 4/10 against the Cubs, 8,444 on 4/21 against the Marlins, 9,544 on 4/24 against the Cardinals, 9,788 on 5/7 against the Giants, and 8,805 on 5/21 against the Brewers). In 2009, they see four games with attendance below 10,000 (8,790 on 4/20 and 9,917 on 4/21 against the Marlins; and 8,482 on 5/4 and 9,775 on 5/5 against the Brewers). However, attendance is pretty much flat compared to last season (down 0.28 percent compared to last season), which sadly means with Florida and Tampa Bay increasing attendance, the Pirates are sitting deep in the attendance cellar.
  • Highest attended game of the season: Opening Day at Dodger Stadium against the Giants (4/13 with Randy Johnson in a losing effort) at 57,099
  • Lowest attended game of the season: Monday 5/4 Brewers at Pittsburgh with attendance at 8,482

Stat to Whet Your Appetite for the Next Attendance Article

This makes any diehard baseball fan a bit sad: Of the 70 lowest attended games going back to through the 2001 season, 64 of them belong the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium, with the lowest attended game being (drum roll, please) 2,018 on Friday June 21, 2002 against the Indians in interleague. Who owns the other six lowest attended games? The Florida Marlins with (you guessed it) the Montreal Expos playing in three of them (the worst being 4,003 on 9/13/2004)

By selecting Read More, the table below shows average attendance for the 2008 and 2009 seasons up to May 21. To show just how much fans miss baseball when it is in its off-season slumber, we are providing the 2009 Opening Day attendance figure for each of the 30 clubs, along with the Opening Day league average.

Read more...
 
Dodgers Will Only Save $2.73M This Year Due to Ramirez Suspension PDF Print E-mail
Ticket & Attendance Watch
Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 09 May 2009 14:35

Manny RamirezSince Manny Ramirez was suspended earlier this week, there have been reports that the Dodgers stood to save approx. $7.7 million in payroll flexibility this year due to Ramirez being unpaid during his 50 game suspension penalty. But, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the total is closer to $6.8 million, and that’s over several years, not just this season. As reported by Rosenthal:

Ramirez's $25 million salary for 2009 is being paid in four installments — $10 million this season, then $5 million without interest in each of the following three years.

He will be docked in each installment. The Dodgers' savings will amount to about $2.73 million this season and about $1.37 million in each of the following three years.

The difference is immense — the Dodgers will have about $5 million less available for '09 than initially reported. They likely will spend the extra $2.73 million on pitching, if they spend it at all, sources say. Any hitter the Dodgers might acquire would become superfluous once Ramirez returned in early July.

Rosenthal attributes the adjustment downward from $7.7 million to $6.8 million due to the fact that players are not paid by the total number of games played (162), but rather ML service time which is calculated in days which comes to a total of 183.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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Inside the Numbers - Repricing of Yankee Stadium Tickets PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 11:27

Yankee StadiumWith the Yankees restructuring prices for the Legends Suite premium seating at new Yankee Stadium, many have asked how the changes impact other ticket prices, those that already purchased tickets, and how the overall total seat count is structured in the new ballpark.

Based upon a statement from the Yankees, along with data provided by The Associated Press, the following outlines the repricing structure for the remainder of the 2009 season at Yankee Stadium.

Statement by the New York Yankees Regarding Ticket Prices

“A few weeks ago I indicated that in light of the economy we would review the pricing of a small number of our premium locations at Yankee Stadium; specifically, our Suite Seats. I mentioned a small number of locations because in excess of 3.4 million seats, including 37,000 full season equivalents as well as approximately 85% of all our premium locations have already been sold. Yet, there are a few hundred Suite Seats in our premium locations that have not been sold on a full season basis. As a result, and for many of our fans who have already purchased full season Suite Seats in such premium locations, the Yankees are announcing today a program that adjusts certain prices and benefits affecting such Suite Seats,” said Hal Steinbrenner, Managing General Partner of the New York Yankees.

For the 2009 regular season only, the following price adjustments and benefits are being adopted effective immediately for a few hundred Legends Suite and Delta Sky 360 Suite Licensees.

  • A. The full season Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses in the first row in Sections 15A, 15B, 24B and 25 will be reduced from $2,500 to $1,250 per regular season game. All fans who have purchased such full season Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive, at their choice, a refund or a credit.
  • B. The full season Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses in the first row in Sections 11, 12, 13, 27B, 28 and 29 will be reduced from $1,000 to $650 per regular season game. All fans who have purchased such full season Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive, at their choice, a refund or a credit.
  • C. All fans who purchased full season $2,500 Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses in the first row, in Sections 16 – 24A, will receive an equal number of complimentary Legends Suite Seats in the first row in Sections 16 - 24A for each of the remaining regular season games during the 2009 regular season.
  • D. All fans who purchased full season $1,250 Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive an equal number of complimentary Legends Suite Seats in the $1,250 Legends Suite price category for 24 games during the 2009 regular season, as selected by the Yankees.
  • E. All fans who purchased full season $850 Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive an equal number of complimentary Legends Suite Seats in the $850 Legends Suite price category for 8 games and in the $500 Legends Suite price category for 4 games during the 2009 regular season, as selected by the Yankees.
  • F. All fans who purchased full season $600 Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive an equal number of complimentary Legends Suite Seats in the $500 Legends Suite price category for 10 games during the 2009 regular season, as selected by the Yankees.
  • G. All fans who purchased full season $500 Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive an equal number of complimentary Legends Suite Seats in the $500 Legends Suite price category for 8 games during the 2009 regular season, as selected by the Yankees.
  • H. Future 2009 regular season sales of full season $1,250, $850, $600 and $500 Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses, will receive comparable (dependent upon the price of the Legends Suite and Ticket License) benefits during the 2009 regular season, subject to availability.
  • I. The Delta SKY 360 Suite and Ticket Licenses in the first row in Sections 218A – 222 will be reduced from $750 to $550 for each regular season game. All fans who have purchased such full season Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive, at their choice, a refund or a credit.

In addition, for 2009, so as to encourage fans to purchase full season ticket plans in the Field Level Sections 115 – 125, the Yankees are also adopting a program affecting a few hundred seats. And, for our fans who have already purchased, on a full season basis such Field Level seating priced at $325 Sections 115 – 125, the following program is being adopted effective immediately:

  • A. Going forward all fans when purchasing, on a full season basis, three (3) full regular season ticket plans priced at $325 per regular season game in Sections 115 – 125 will receive a fourth full regular season ticket at no additional cost.
  • B. All fans who have purchased full season plans priced at $325 per regular season game will receive complimentary regular season tickets within Sections 115 – 125 for remaining regular season games during the 2009 regular season as follows:
    • 1. If you purchased two (2) or three (3) full season tickets you will receive two (2) tickets for every other regular season game, commencing with either the Thursday evening game on April 30, 2009 or the Friday evening game on May 1, 2009 and alternating for the remainder of the season.
    • 2. If you purchased four (4) or five (5) full season tickets you will receive two (2) tickets for every regular season game during the balance of the 2009 regular season, commencing with the Thursday evening game on April 30, 2009.
    • 3. If you purchased six (6) or seven (7) full season tickets you will receive three (3) tickets for every regular season game during the balance of the 2009 regular season, commencing with the Thursday evening game on April 30, 2009.
    • 4. If you purchased eight (8) full season tickets you will receive four (4) tickets for every regular season game during the balance of the 2009 regular season, commencing with the Thursday evening game on April 30, 2009

 Select Read More to see total seat count atYankee Stadium, along with prices

Read more...
 
Yankees Cut Prices on Most Expensive Seats PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 18:34

Empty Seats at Yankee StadiumAfter six games of seeing their most expensive seats sitting empty, the New York Yankees have lowered prices significantly, compared to their original pricing structure. According to The Associated Press:

The team on Tuesday slashed the price of 48 first-row Legends Suite season seats on the outer half of the dugouts and photo cages from $2,500 to $1,250, and 68 others in the final three sections down each foul line from $1,000 to $650.

"There are a few hundred suite seats in our premium locations that have not been sold on a full season basis," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "As a result, and for many of our fans who have already purchased full season suite seats in such premium locations, the Yankees are announcing today a program that adjusts certain prices and benefits."

Based upon the price reductions, the Yankees lose $60,000 in potential revenue per game for the most expensive seats, and $23,800 for the seats in the final sections down the dugout lines. With six games having been played in the new ballpark, and factoring in no loss of games over the course of the season due to weather, the Yankees will play 75 more games this season in the new stadium. Based upon that home game count, the total potential revenue loss due to the cuts is $4,500,000 for the Legends Suite seats, and $1,785,000 for the sections down the foul pole lines. Total potential loss? $6,285,000 in premium ticket revenues.

Of course, the key phrase here is “potential loss.” The lost revenue assumes that the seats are filled, which of course, they have not been. Whether cutting prices in half is enough for the Legends Suite section to fill up is a looming question. Is it that someone is now saying, “Gee, $1,250 per game is such a fantastic deal! I can’t pass this up.”? Chances are that a larger majority of the seats will now have fans sitting within them, but as to whether all of them are filled… time will tell.

Fans should not get used to such “cuts” in prices. The Yankees have said that the cuts will be for this season, only.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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How Many Actual Luxury Seats Are in Yankee Stadium? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 25 April 2009 10:57

Empty Seats at Yankee StadiumYankees president Randy Levine has quit talking about the empty luxury seats in new Yankee Stadium, but that doesn’t mean we can’t. And, to a larger extent, this little ditty you’re about to read is really about how attendance is calculated at ballparks across the league.

Showing just how diligent The Associated Press can be (this effort took 2 hours), Ronald Blum reported the following regarding the seat counts on Weds.:

A count by The Associated Press totaled 1,895 seats in the Legends Suite, of which 146 were in the front row from dugout to dugout, costing $2,500 as season tickets and $2,625 individually.

- On Tuesday night, only 64 of the 146 seats at the top price level were occupied in the bottom of the second inning. The outermost Legends Suite sections, which each contain 90 seats, were entirely empty until two fans finally emerged to sit in them during the late innings.

- On Wednesday, in the third inning, just 37 of the highest-priced, front-row seats were occupied, although it was impossible to know if some fans had taken shelter in stadium restaurants.

Hmmm...

The Yankees announced last year that there were 1,800 seats in the Legends Suite. Those 146 in the front row that run dugout-to-dugout and are the priciest (the $2,500 season ticket seats, $2,625 individually)? The Yankees announced last year that the count for these seats were 122 and 128 at different times.

So, why the discrepancy?

While the club has not commented yet, at least part of these seats are sure to be comps. Remember, there was a public dust-up in January regarding a 12-seat luxury box that the Bloomberg administration had fought to gain for free. Instead, the city decided to relinquish use of the 12-seat box in exchange for whatever revenue the Yankees generate by selling the seats, minus the cost of marketing them.

There are, no doubt, other VIP seats for dignitaries. But, nearly 100 of them? If so, then this accounts for some (certainly not all) of the empty pricy seats at The House That George Built.

FOR MORE ON THE EMPTY PREMIUM SEATS AT YANKEE STADIUM:


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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Yankees Official Gets Tixed Off at MLS PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 24 April 2009 23:54

Randy Levine

Yankees President Randy Levine doesn't
want you commenting about all those
empty seats at Yankee Stadium, even if
you are the commissioner of MLS.

After a week of stories regarding the highest priced seats in Yankee Stadium going empty, Randy Levine is stressed. The president of the Yankees, one simply not used to anyone questioning how the Yankees conduct business, has instead been playing damage control.

Friday, it seemed to finally hit his breaking point.

On Thursday, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors and said the following about the high-priced seats going empty at Yankee Stadium.

"It's incomprehensible that you watch a game, and there will be front-row seats empty," Garber said.

Levine came back at Garber with a line shot up the middle on Friday, responding through The AP.

"Don Garber discussing Yankee attendance must be a joke," Levine said Friday. "We draw more people in a year than his entire league does in a year. If he ever gets Major League Soccer into the same time zone as the Yankees, we might take him seriously.

"Hey Don, worry about Beckham, not the Yankees. Even he wants out of your league," he said.

Garber responded evenly to Levine's outburst.

"When I mentioned the New York Yankees yesterday, my comments were part of a larger assertion that all businesses -- even the most successful sports entities -- are experiencing some impact from the economic downturn," Garber said through a league spokesman.

"The Yankees are one of the world's strongest sports brands and the context of my comments about a few empty seats at Yankee Stadium was to illustrate the economic challenges we are all facing," he said.

And, Garber’s right. Levine, of course, is coming from a place where the Yankee brand is impervious to such economic tidal forces. To have one question the Yankees, why… How dare you? You get the feeling that Levine thinks soccer players look like a bunch of deer running around after being shot in the rear with a pellet gun. He's not known for being a very jocular kind of guy.

Finally, as part of a larger conversation, America doesn’t get soccer, but that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t. Here’s the Top 10 worldwide brands:

  1. Manchester United ($351 million)
  2. Real Madrid ($288 million)
  3. Bayern Munich ($255 million)
  4. New York Yankees ($217 million)
  5. Arsenal ($185 million)
  6. AC Milan ($184 million)
  7. Dallas Cowboys ($175 million)
  8. Barcelona ($130 million)
  9. Boston Red Sox ($125 million)
  10. Washington Redskins ($120 million)

Source: Forbes – World Top Sports Brands


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.

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How Low Can You Go? Washington Nationals Attendance PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 20 April 2009 11:46
Nationals Park
Nationals Park, sparsely attended last season

Even with a $611 million public investment, back in 2004-2005 there was a lot of talk by baseball boosters in the D.C. area that droves of fans coming from northern Virginia would spend their discretionary income in and around the new ballpark for the Washington Nationals, thus off-setting the public outlay.

The problem is, you have to have fans come to the games for that model to work.

And while the lack of development around the ballpark is not entirely the Nationals’ fault, the development of the team (or lack, thereof) has created a losing effort that makes anything MLB or Jeffery Loria put together in Montreal look like the 2000-era Yankees.

After coming off a league worst 59-102 (.366) record last season, the team has come out of the gate in 2009 with all the electricity of a 5-watt bulb, amassing a 1-10 (.091) record.

Not that it needed further prodding after last season, but attendance watching for the Nationals is going to be a regular affair if the bleeding in the standings doesn’t stop.

Take yesterday’s game against the Marlins, for example. The team from Florida, with the league’s lowest Opening Day payroll at $36,834,000, are off to a torrid start at 11-1. And yet on a Sunday, attendance at Nationals Park was below 17,000 (16,974, to be exact).

Mind you, this wasn’t the lowest attended game of the day (that dubious distinction goes to the Pirates’ PNC Park at 14,776 against the Braves), but apparently, the honeymoon period on the brand new Nationals Park that opened last year went from newlyweds with the fans, straight to estranged.

As Nationals president, Stan Kasten said last week, he understands that the abysmal play on the field is directly tied to how much interest fans in D.C. will have in his team.

“As you all know, I’m philosophical about attendance,” Kasten said. “We get the attendance we deserve. Until we get the product to be where we want it to be, we are not going to be selling out every night. If we give the fans a reason to support us, they will be here in droves.”

That’s why today’s signing of Ryan Zimmerman to a long-term contract is a step in the right direction. Is it the deciding step? Certainly not, but it is at least a step.

Sunday’s attendance figure is simply a warning of worse to come given that it fell on a weekend. Attendance for the Nationals was 29,005 (ranked 19th out of 30) for last season, meaning that unless magic lands on Acta and Kasten’s doorstep and they start winning with any regularity, the Nationals will assuredly be below an average of 29,000. It’s early in the season, but for 5 games at Nationals Park, the Nats are drawing an average of 23,348, or 26th out of the 30 clubs. If the losing continues, averaging 26,000 for the season may be a reach.

Much of this is a byproduct of former GM’s Jim Bowden’s handiwork. But, Kasten being an apologist for the fans in D.C. removes that fact that, supposedly, the large market and years of pining for a club to fill the vacuum that the Senators (Take 2) left when they sauntered off to Arlington, would mean a dedicated fan base, regardless of how poorly the team played. At least from an attendance perspective, there’s little difference from how the Expos drew in Montreal. Except for the fact that based on league average, the Expos drew better in Jarry Park their first two seasons (1969-'70) than the Nationals will have done in Nationals Park over the same two-year period.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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Redefining "Commitment" When It Comes to Ticket Prices PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 13 April 2009 14:17

MLBThis past off-season, much was made about Commissioner Selig telling clubs not to get too “cocky” on ticket prices. And, for the most part, the owners listened. On top of this, the league has been working on discounts across the league (see the PDF at this link).  If not for the Yankees jacking the average cost of a ticket at new Yankee Stadium up a staggering 76.3 percent from last year, the league average would be up less than one percent from last season. Instead, it’s up just under 5 percent.

And, that 5 percent increase is just about average.

Looking back over the last decade, the average cost of a ticket to a ballgame in MLB has risen 5.7 percent. The league has seen one decline in the average cost (2002 when the cost declined by 3.71 percent), but that came after the league saw the highest increase in ticket price average in the last decade, a 12.32 percent increase from 2000 to 2001.

I mention all of this as there has been much made by the Dodgers this past week regarding the cost of attending games.

"Many families are dealing with the question, 'What's valuable to us? What matters?' We want to make the game more accessible and more affordable," said Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt in a press release last week. "We value their devotion to the game and hope to offer the kinds of ticket and event packages that will make baseball a memorable, meaningful and affordable piece of their summer of 2009. This is more than an initiative; it is a commitment."

In a vacuum, these comments McCourt appear to show an organization that is in touch with the issues facing fans during these recessionary times in the Los Angeles area. The club locked in ticket prices from last season, and lowered concession costs, a sign, says the Dodgers, that they are doing their part to make going to a game at Dodger Stadium affordable.

But, when looking at the price of attending a game at Chavez Ravine over the last decade, the Dodgers have escalated the ticket prices at a rate far beyond the league average.

While the cost of an average ticket in MLB has increased an average of 5.7 percent over the last decade, the Dodgers have increased the average ticket price over 9 percent over the same period.

Part of this is due to the Dodgers adding more premium seating to Dodger Stadium. Still, the Dodgers now see the average cost of a ticket more than $3 over the league average.

Maybe the Dodgers are truly sincere in their efforts. As McCourt said, “This is more than an initiative; it is a commitment.” When you use the word “commitment” one thinks of a relationship. Solid relationships – commitments – come over time. One wonders, based upon the escalating cost that has occurred during good times, whether this cost correction is simply a by-product of the recession kicking the league, and the Dodgers, in the teeth. The true test of this “commitment” by Jamie McCourt and the Dodgers will be when the economy starts to pull out of its tailspin. Will the Dodgers then over-correct, and implement a large increase in prices to offset the declines? Or, will the Dodgers work toward getting their price increases more inline with the league average?

As the table and chart below shows, there was a commitment by the Dodgers from 2000-2006 to make going to games affordable; the price was below the league average. But, what is interesting to note is that from the time the McCourts purchased the Dodgers, the average cost increased at a rate higher than years prior when News Corp. owned the club, culminating in the massive spike from 2006 to 2007 that now sees the Dodgers ranked 8th in the league, based on average ticket price. Let’s see what the Dodgers are “committed” to next season at this time, should the economy get turned around. Is this a real marriage with the fans, or is “commitment” just a one-year fling for the Dodgers?

Select Read More to see MLB and Dodgers average ticket price over the last decade, the percentage of decrease or increase, and a chart with trendline showing where prices could continue next season

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