Fans watch as Johan Santana of the New York Mets pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
With the Mets, no longer a big rival since they left the same division with the Cubs in 1994, and Astros, a bad team with no marquee players, in town, attendance figures dropped precipitously for the just-completed homestand.
Date Announced Crowd In-House Estimate 6/25 34,092 28,000 6/26 34,064 30,000 6/27 35,837 27,000 6/29 32,891 26,000 6/30 37,906 32,000 7/1 37,389 34,000
For the homestand, the announced attendance total was 212,179, an average of 35,363. This is way down from previous seasons; there wasn't really a comparable homestand at this time of year in 2011 (the White Sox were at Wrigley this time last year), but a comparable six-game homestand in August 2011 (Reds and Nationals) drew 233,694. The number of actual bodies in the seats is clearly down.
The total of my in-house estimates for this past week is 177,000, an average of 29,500, so there were about 6,000 no-shows per game. For the season announced attendance is 1,463,363, an average of 37,522 per date; my total estimated in the house is 1,140,000, an average of 29,231, just about the same as when I last posted on this topic on June 18.
Fair warning: if you're one of those who posts comments about why I keep writing on this topic, you might want to skip the rest of this post.
On Saturday, the Cubs charged "Marquee" prices, not just for bleacher tickets, but for the entire ballpark.
They outsmarted themselves. It was a beautiful day, if a bit warm and humid, and yet they sold 4,000 tickets under a sellout and had nearly 10,000 fewer than a full house at Wrigley. The bleachers were maybe two-thirds full.
Perhaps the 2008 Cubs, on their way to a division title, might have been worthy of an $85 bleacher ticket on a Saturday playing a bad team with no "Marquee" players. The Cubs were better and so were economic conditions.
The 2012 Cubs? Not so much. Let's say my two-thirds-full estimate is correct. If so, the Cubs sold about 3,400 bleacher tickets at $85, gross ticket revenue $289,000. But if they had priced this game at $56 -- the next-highest pricing level -- they might have sold out the bleachers Saturday (they were closer to full on Sunday, though still not sold out). 5,100 bleacher tickets at $56 comes to $285,600 -- just about the same amount of gross ticket revenue... but they'd have had 1,700 more people in the seats buying food and drink.
There are 13 games priced at this "Marquee" level in 2012. There aren't 13 games worth that price. There are maybe four (I'd say Opening Day and the Boston series would be about it).
It wasn't just the bleachers in this homestand, either; large swaths of empty seats in the corners of the lower and upper deck were evident during the Mets series, and many scattered empty seats during the Astros series.
This is only going to get worse as the season goes on; there are two 10-game homestands after the middle of August, when kids are back in school. The Cubs have been pricing games as if it's still 2007 or 2008 and demand is high and the economy is humming along fine. Neither condition is true.
Until the Cubs start winning, the team is going to have to price this product more reasonably, or risk sales plummeting.