One of these things is not like the others. Can you tell which one, and why?
Date Announced Crowd In-House Estimate 8/8 34,937 33,000 8/9 36,739 33,000 8/10 33,039 30,000 8/11 28,927 21,000 8/12 28,819 19,000 8/13 31,191 23,000 8/14 38,157 35,000
Obviously, I'm talking about the largest crowd of the homestand, Thursday, August 14. And why was that crowd so large? Several factors, but the biggest one, in my view, is the simple fact that it was a 1:20 day game.
The Cubs asked for, and received, approval to play more home night games this year. There were 38 such dates on the original schedule; the team is allowed a maximum of 35, with additional dates that can be asked for by national TV networks (there were three of those, one ESPN Sunday night game and two Fox-TV Saturday night games).
What the Cubs have gained by (presumably) bigger TV ratings at night, they've lost in ticket sales. There's absolutely no question in my mind that the first three games against the Brewers, all night games, would have drawn far more people had they been played in the afternoon. There's something about a midsummer day game at Wrigley Field that just draws people, and I think the Cubs have lost something by scheduling more night games. They're likely to have even smaller crowds at the 12 remaining night games (there are only 10 remaining home day games), with schools back in session and cooler weather. In my view, that's likely to be the case even with the contending Reds, Dodgers and Cardinals coming to town in September.
Not only were there many Brewers fans at the August 14 day game, but there was one of the longest streams of tour buses I've ever seen coming down Waveland, from the time the gates opened almost to game time. At one point I counted 14 buses lined up to drop off groups. Now, it's possible there were that many groups because of the smaller number of weekday games and this game was one of their few choices this year; out-of-town groups like that rarely come on nights or weekends.
With TV ratings down, the Cubs might consider not maxing out on night games in 2015, or perhaps placing them differently in the schedule.
I don't think there was much of a Javier Baez effect in selling tickets; the 34,937 sold for his first game at Wrigley might have boosted sales, but probably only by a couple of thousand. Also, the Cubs priced the August 9 game at Marquee level; had they priced that game lower, it might have sold out. Whether the extra money the Cubs pocketed for pricing the game higher made up for the 5,000 tickets they didn't sell, I'm simply not sure.
Here are the numbers for the just-completed homestand. The Cubs announced 231,809 tickets sold, or 33,115 per date. My in-house estimates totalled 194,000, or 27,714 per date, so there were an estimated 37,809 no-shows, or 5,401 per date. This is down considerably from the last homestand, likely because of the much nicer weather -- at least for the day games. The evenings were cool and there was some rain in the area August 12, probably responsible for the low in-house number that day.
For the season, the Cubs have announced 1,932,510 tickets sold, or 32,754 per date. That's up by 48 (forty-eight people) from the last Attendance Watch article. My in-house estimates now total 1,467,000 for the year, or 24,864 per date. That's up, too, but again not by much: 383 per date.
The Cubs' total attendance ranks 11th, about 100,000 behind the Rockies and 20,000 ahead of the Reds. Their average figure also ranks 11th, about 1,000 behind the Brewers and about 700 ahead of the Nationals.
It will be interesting to see how many Orioles fans come to the series at Wrigley next weekend. Beyond the fact that it's been six years since the Orioles' previous (and only) visit to Wrigley in 2008, Baltimore is in town all week -- they're at the Cell to play the White Sox Monday through Wednesday.