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Cubs 2012 Attendance Watch, The Final Chapter

The season's over. The Cubs have had their lowest announced attendance in 10 years, and had hundreds of thousands of no-shows. What does this mean for 2013?

Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images

We've reached the end of the 2012 season, a disappointing one in just about every way. Here are the attendance numbers, both announced and my in-house estimates, for the final brief three-game homestand against the Astros:

Date Announced Crowd In-House Estimate 10/1 32,167 11,000 10/2 33,168 15,000 10/3 27,606 12,000

The tickets-sold totals for the first two games of this series surprised me a bit, given the opponent and the lateness in a lost season, but they are comparable to the Monday and Tuesday night figures from two weeks earlier against the Reds and Pirates. Tickets sold for the series were 92,941; my in-house estimates total 38,000, so there were an estimated 54,941 no-shows for the Houston series, or 18,314 per date. That isn't really surprising either, given the opponent, the Bears playing opposite the Monday night game, and coolish and occasionally drizzly weather.

For the season Cubs announced tickets sold totaled 2,882,756, or 35,590 per date. That's down 135,210 from 2011, or 1,669 per date. Put another way, it's down 4.5 percent. It's also the first time since 2003 the Cubs did not announce three million tickets sold, and it's the lowest total since 2002. The Cubs ranked 10th in overall attendance (down one place from 2011), about 50,000 ahead of the Brewers, whose attendance also dropped this year.

Before I tell you my total in-house estimates for this year, here's a little bit about how I arrive at these totals. I try to break it down by ballpark segment -- the bleachers hold about 5,100, the upper deck about 14,000, the lower deck about 22,000. That makes it easier to guess; add up the total estimates and I think I'm pretty close. I ask others in our group -- and we can see the entire ballpark from the left field corner -- to arrive at a consensus. As I've said all year, these are just guesses. But after doing it all this year and for the last third of 2011, I think I've gotten pretty good at it. I'd be surprised if I were off by more than five percent.

Anyway, the total of my in-house estimates for the season is 2,164,000. That's 26,716 per date. Thee no-show count per game is approximately 8,874, or 718,794 for the season, or 24.9 percent of the announced tickets-sold number.

That no-show count sounds high, but it's actually right in line with the estimates I made last year, even given only one-third's worth of season during which I made estimates. As I noted in that post from September 23, 2011, a no-show count of between 17 and 21 percent is considered "not abnormal". But 25 percent? Over a two-year period?

Thus, the no-show count apparently remained consistent -- and high -- for the Cubs for two seasons. However, it appears that around 20 percent of the no-shows from last year became no-buys this year, even though the Cubs got a high rate of season-ticket renewals this year, based at least in part on positive buzz from the hire of Theo Epstein. Can they expect a similar renewal rate -- or get replacements at will from the waiting list -- if they maintain the current high pricing level, which ranked third-highest in baseball in 2012, while putting what Theo has already admitted will be a non-competitive team on the field in 2013?

Some of you have said in the past that it won't matter, that the waiting list will provide enough ticket buyers to maintain the status quo no matter what ticket prices are in 2013. I respectfully disagree. Some have said this is a personal "agenda" of some kind. I assure you it is not. Sure, I'd like to pay less. Who wouldn't? But the larger point is that tens of thousands of people are paying premium prices for a non-premium product. All Cubs season-ticket holders deserve a break -- the same kind of break that virtually every other team gives its STH -- especially when within two years, all major-league teams will be getting approximately $50 million per year more than they get now as their share of the just-renewed MLB national television contracts.

We'll find out whether the Cubs are going to give their best customers a break in less than two weeks (October 16) when season-ticket holders get their invoices for 2013.