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Cubs 2012 Attendance Watch

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No one in this photo paid to get into Wrigley Field. Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza watches as a flock of seagulls land in the outfield at Wrigley Field. Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
No one in this photo paid to get into Wrigley Field. Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza watches as a flock of seagulls land in the outfield at Wrigley Field. Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

The homestand just ended was a short one, just three games. As you might expect with three weekday games -- even with one being a holiday -- crowds were a bit on the small side.

Date Announced Crowd In-House Estimate 5/28 38,452 32,000 5/29 35,219 24,000 5/30 38,516 23,000

The house was pretty full on Monday; there were a lot of no-shows on Tuesday, with the smallest crowd of the series; and even more no-shows on Wednesday, with the weather being cooler and no bobblehead being given away. For this series, announced tickets sold were 112,287 (37,396 per date); my estimates total 79,000, for an average of 26,333 per date -- an average of more than 11,000 no-shows per game.

The Cubs passed the million mark in announced home attendance Wednesday in their 27th date. That puts them on pace for three million, with a total announced of 1,007,032, which is an average of 37,297. The estimates above combined with my previous estimates in this series of posts comes to 731,000, an average of 27,074 per date. Extrapolated to a full season, that would mean about 2.2 million actually at the games and almost 800,000 no-shows.

Some of you are tired of hearing me write about season ticket prices, so let me take a somewhat different angle this time, which might help you understand two things: first, why I will continue to renew my tickets, and second, what other teams do for their season-ticket holders which makes doing that really feel like you are being a team's best customer. At the end of this post there's a poll; please answer as best you can.

Beyond loving the Cubs and baseball, through more than 30 years of sitting in the bleachers, I have made many lifelong friends. In some ways, it's like family out there. Since the Cubs have not won the World Series in all that time, we have had to find other things to enjoy about the game. It's worth it to me. Those of you who have sat with my group in the left-field corner, I think, understand a bit about what this means. If you never have, and you have a chance to be in the bleachers sometime this season -- while there's plenty of space out there most days -- I'd like to invite you to join us.

Now, about season tickets. Until this year, the Cubs had never discounted a season ticket (with the exception of 2007, when they did so by accident; season ticket invoices went out before single-game prices were set, and we wound up getting a savings of $2 per game). This year, bleacher STH got about four percent off single-game prices.

That's a start, but it's not nearly as much as some teams give their STH, and Cubs STH in other parts of Wrigley Field got no discounts at all.

Here's what I found in my research into what other teams give their STH. It's not exactly the perfect time to do this, one-third of the way through the season, but many teams are still offering season tickets for the balance of 2012.

The Tigers, Red Sox, Brewers, Giants and Phillies currently do not have season tickets available. The Phillies and Giants are offering a place on their season-ticket wait list... for $500 (the Giants also offer one 2012 playoff game and "front of the line" for available STH in 2013 if you pay that). I've often felt the Cubs should charge a small fee to stay on the wait list, with a perk or two given (a presale, or some memorabilia, or both)... this would weed out people who signed up as a lark, or years ago and no longer really want season tickets.

For the Rays, Blue Jays, Mariners, Twins, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Reds and Padres, I could not find definitive information on their websites about season ticket purchases. Many of these teams have true dynamic pricing systems for single-game tickets -- that vary depending on things like weather, team record and pitching matchup -- unlike the Cubs' "dynamic" system, which appears to mean "price the tickets at 2008 broker level until game day".

That leaves 14 other teams who offer season tickets, even at this late date.

Every single one of them offers discounts for people who buy full-season tickets -- and some offer discounts for partial-season tickets (even the Yankees do the latter). Teams offer discounts on parking (White Sox), a free group outing (Astros), free stadium club memberships (Indians), buy-two-get-two-free in some areas (Angels).

The rest of the teams -- some of whom also use a dynamic system for pricing -- offer discounts that range from $2 per ticket at the lowest price levels (Angels, Royals, Pirates) to $50 off higher-priced tickets (Orioles, Royals). On a percentage basis these average out somewhere around 20 to 25 percent. The Dodgers advertise "30 to 60 percent off" of "advance prices".

Now, I know what you're going to say. The Cubs are a unique fanbase. Even after going through about 10,000 names on the waiting list last offseason, over 100,000 remain. Up to now, they haven't had to offer these sorts of discounts, because people are lined up to buy the tickets. I understand that, and that teams like the Astros, Royals and Pirates probably do have to offer these sorts of enticements.

Nothing lasts forever. Even with most people here understanding that Theo & Co. might take several years to right the ship and produce a perennial contender, a lot of the casual fanbase doesn't. They see a losing team sold at Red Sox or Yankees prices. That simply does not compute. Anecdotally, I have heard of a number of people who are season-ticket holders NOT in the bleachers that they are going to give up their tickets after this year unless there are significant price reductions.

What "significant" means is, of course, up to the individual looking at the price and what he or she can afford.

I made this suggestion the other day, and though it got laughed at, I'll make it again. When Arte Moreno bought the Angels, he reduced beer prices. When the new owners of the Dodgers took over, they cut parking prices by a third. These aren't huge reductions, but they sent a clear message: "We are going to be fan-friendly." The Cubs talk a fan-friendly game, but with very high ticket prices -- and food prices that were jacked up this year significantly -- their actions do not match their words.

If the Cubs want to dynamically price tickets -- and they probably should float all of them, not just bleachers -- they should do it like this (Cardinals) or like this (Giants) -- true dynamic systems that fluctuate, not the Cubs' system where for the Red Sox game on June 17, bleacher tickets are priced at nearly double what you can buy them for on StubHub.

Every Cubs season-ticket holder -- not just bleachers -- should get discounts. They should be commensurate with the rest of the industry, perhaps on the order of 15 to 20 percent off what single-game buyers would pay until Opening Day. After that, ticket prices could float dynamically, and if they wound up lower than single-game prices, the season-ticket holder would still be getting good value.

It's time for the Cubs to start treating season-ticket holders as exactly what they are -- the team's best customers.

Please vote in the poll below. I'll be very interested to see how it turns out.