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Is The Recession Hurting Spring Attendance? - Cubs vs. Padres at Mesa Preview, Saturday 3/27, 3:05 CT

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The topic of Cubs and Cactus League attendance has been a hot topic on this site this year, in anticipation of a potential new spring complex possibly being approved for the Cubs later in 2010.

So, I thought I'd take a look at this year's attendance in comparison to past spring attendance to see what effects the recession (and other factors) are having on HoHoKam Park this year. The table below shows a game-by-game comparison between 2008 spring attendance and this year's. There are two reasons for using 2008 as a benchmark: first, 2008 was before the current economic downturn, and second, 2009 was an unusual year, having 19 home dates due to the World Baseball Classic, which tended to drive the averages down. Also, with the one rainout this year there are exactly 14 home dates in Mesa for both 2008 and 2010, providing an easy game-by-game comparison point. There have been ten home dates so far this year.

Game # 2008 Average 2010 Average
1 7533 7533 7496 7496
2 12668 10101 11775 9636
3 9977 10059 12712 10661
4 12842 10755 8475 10115
5 11240 10852 9381 9968
6 12809 11178 11285 10187
7 12837 11415 13157 10689
8 12771 11584 11642 10808
9 12772 11716 12327 10977
10 10660 11610 12211 11100
11 12885 11726 - -
12 12859 11821 - -
13 12757 11893 - -
14 12782 11957 - -

Well. There are a number of things to note here. First, the 2008 schedule included weekend dates (defined as Fri/Sat/Sun) against the Giants, Mariners, Angels and White Sox, popular opponents, as compared to zero such dates this year (the only comparable 2010 date, a Sunday vs. the Dodgers, was rained out). It's my understanding the Cubs were very unhappy with this year's spring schedule. Also, in addition to the rainout, games #4 and #5 on this year's schedule were played in unseasonably cold conditions (temperatures in the 50's -- it was warmer in Chicago those two days than in Mesa), probably holding the crowd down. In March 2008 the Phoenix-area weather was far better -- in general, warmer, with no Cubs home rainouts.

Nine of the 14 dates on the 2008 schedule could be characterized as "sellouts" (official capacity is 13,074, but anything above 12,500 is generally considered a sellout). So far this spring, there have been two such dates, with two others close. The average after 10 dates (now) is down about 4.4% from 2008; it may yet come close, but even with sellouts the rest of the way (no guarantee), 2010 average spring attendance for the Cubs will be down about 4% from 2008.

My personal feeling is that this is economy-related; ticket prices aren't that much higher than 2008, but many people I know were unable to make trips to Arizona, or had their travel dates made shorter by economic conditions. This study only considered Cubs home games and didn't compare other teams in the Cactus League; I'd be interested in seeing such a 2008/2010 comparison for them.

Food for thought. On to today's matchup.

Carlos Silva will try again. Let's hope he can go more than two innings today. He'll face former White Sox lefty Clayton Richard, who went to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today. Once again, today's game will be on WGN radio and television.

MLB.com Gameday

SB Nation game preview

As usual, the first pitch thread will post at 3 pm CDT, and the overflow thread at 4:15 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.