There are just six home games remaining for the Cubs, and the final season attendance number will be the lowest since 2002 -- and unless the six games draw really well, an unlikely thing, it could be the lowest since 1998.
Let's go inside the numbers from the just-completed homestand against the Phillies, Marlins and Brewers.
Date Announced Crowd In-House Estimate 8/30 27,763 18,000 8/31 36,410 30,000 9/1 31,859 22,000 9/2 26,978 18,000 9/3 30,024 27,000 9/4 20,696 9,000 9/6 25,351 15,000 9/7 34,929 29,000 9/8 27,802 15,000
As you can see, ticket sales fell off dramatically with kids back in school, summer vacations over, the NFL starting and one team (the Marlins) being pretty much a zero in terms of drawing its own fans to Wrigley. Just three of the nine games broke the 30,000 mark and the 20,696 for the day game September 4 was the smallest in 11 years. The estimated 9,000 in the house that day made the ballpark look like it did in the mid-1970s.
The total number of tickets sold for the nine games was 261,812, an average of 29,090, considerably lower than the overall season average, which currently stands at 32,739. The estimated number of people who actually showed up at the nine games was 183,000, an average of 20,333 per date. That makes the average no-show count for the homestand 8,757, about the same as it was in the last post in this series (8,767). That's boosted by the two Saturday dates and 9/3, all of which had quite good turnouts. The rest of the homestand featured many thousands of empty seats, particularly the September 4 date against the Marlins; the photo at the top of this post is from that game.
As noted above, the season tickets-sold average for the 75 dates played is 32,739; the season total is 2,455,418. The total of my in-house estimates for this season is 1,712,000, an average of 22,827. That's down slightly from the average in the last post in this series (22,875). Presuming that stays pretty close for the remaining six dates, the Cubs will fall well short of having two million actually come into the park; they'll be somewhere around 1.85 million if that happens -- and it might not, because the remaining dates aren't likely to draw that well except for the Saturday game against the Braves.
To elaborate further, if the Cubs were to announce their current season average (32,739) for the remaining six dates, that would be a total of 196,434, and a final season attendance total of 2,651,852. It seems unlikely they'll announce that many, given the time of year and that four of the dates are weekdays/weeknights. If they were to average the number of tickets sold during the just-completed homestand, for the next one, that would be 174,540 tickets sold, leading to a final season total of 2,629,958. Even that might be optimistic. It's going to be pretty close on "lowest since".
The two most recent "lowest" season announced attendance figures are 2,693,096 (2002) and 2,623,194 (1998). It's possible the total for this year could be below both of those; if so, this year would represent the lowest number of tickets sold since 1997 (2,190,308). I think you likely know the reasons for the large increase from 1997 to 1998. However -- and I should point out, I have no specific figures, only personal recollections -- it seems to me that there were far fewer no-shows in any of those years than there were this year. 2013 could denote the smallest number of people who actually attended games at Wrigley Field in a non-strike year since 1986 (1,859,102). Remember that through 1992, attendance figures were actual turnstile counts; the National League switched to tickets-sold in 1993 (the American League had done so in 1985).
The Cubs' total season attendance currently ranks 11th in the major leagues, behind the Rockies and ahead of the Nationals; the average ranks 12th, below both of those teams and about 600 per game ahead of the Blue Jays.