Fans in the right field bleachers hold a sign honoring former Chicago Cub the late Ron Santo, before the Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Santo was indutced into the Hall of Fame this year. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Hey, everybody! Tired of Ryan Dempster talk? Let's talk about attendance instead! (Because, you know, that's been a less-contentious topic around here.)
Attendance for the just-completed homestand was a little weak, given the fact that we're talking about midsummer dates, with excellent weather, and three games against the Cubs' biggest rival.
Date Announced Crowd In-House Estimate 7/27 40,778 39,000 7/28 41,276 40,000 7/29 39,534 36,000 7/30 33,337 28,000 7/31 33,158 26,000 8/1 33,014 24,000
Total tickets sold for this homestand were 221,097, an average of 36,850 per date; total crowd estimates by me were 193,000, an average of 32,167. No-shows, then, were far fewer than for previous homestands, bolstered by many red-clad Cardinals fans. Even so, those numbers were down a bit from previous midsummer St. Louis series; in past years all those games would have been complete sellouts, around 42,000 including standing-room tickets. The Pirates series crowds would actually have been smaller, except there were quite a number of yellow-clad Pirates fans in attendance, way more than usual.
For the season, the total tickets sold come to 1,898,137, an average of 37,218 per game. My estimates of actual bodies in the house total 1,504,000, an average of 29,490 per game, up slightly from the estimate the last time I wrote on this topic July 20. That's still about 8,000 no-shows per game, or about 650,000 no-shows for the season if that pattern holds.
I've talked a lot here about where I think ticket prices should go and so I'm not going to repeat myself again. There isn't any point to that; you all know how I feel, and I'd think the Cubs would rather have more bodies in the seats -- and sell some of the unsold tickets, too, as the current average is about 4,000 per game short of an everyday sellout -- than have the current situation. There are creative ways to do that, most of which revolve around giving breaks to season-ticket holders and then having true dynamic pricing, like this system used by the San Francisco Giants. That's worth looking at; you can scroll through the entire season and see how they priced each game. And the Giants, World Series winners two years ago and still contenders, sell out almost every game -- demand is very high for most.
I'm perfectly fine, believe it or not, with the Cubs' current plan for rebuilding. I've waited this long, I guess I can wait 2-3 more years, presuming that timetable works.
The fact is, however, that the Cubs are pricing major-league games at Red Sox or Yankees level, without providing a Red Sox or Yankees level product on the field. It's absolutely true that when the Cubs return to contention, these types of prices can sustain themselves, probably for several years, presuming there's a World Series title (or even appearance) somewhere in there.
Attendance over the next several weeks, as the Cubs play more and more young players, will be instructive. The Cubs have two 10-game homestands after the middle of August, when kids are back in school and colleges are back in session. How many will show up for games against non-contenders like the Rockies and Brewers (even the Milwaukee fans might stay home for that one)?