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2016 Cubs Attendance Watch: September 15-25 Homestand

The Cubs wrapped the Wrigley regular season with mostly full houses.

The setting sun shines on Wrigley fans down the third-base line Saturday, September 17
Al Yellon

As we wait for the postseason and undoubtedly full houses at Wrigley Field, let’s take a look at attendance for the final homestand, and for the regular season.

Date Announced Estimate
9/15 41,362 41,000
9/16 40,823 40,000
9/17 40,956 41,000
9/18 41,286 41,000
9/19 39,251 35,000
9/20 40,586
9/21 40,434
9/23 40,791
9/24 40,785
9/25 40,859

For the homestand, the Cubs announced 407,133 tickets sold, or 40,713 per date. My in-house estimates for the 10 games were 388,000, or 38,800 per date. That’s an estimated no-show count of 19,133, or 1,913 per date, a very low figure. It could have been higher except for some bad weather forecasts and weeknight games against a team no one really cared to see (the Reds).

For the season, the Cubs sold 3,232,420 tickets, or 39,906 per date. That’s third in franchise history, behind 2007 and 2008. If the Cubs had sold 20,043 more tickets they would have wound up second, and 67,781 more tickets would have broken the franchise record. That’s a possibility for 2017. Realistically, the most the Cubs can sell is about 3.3 million — that would be 41,000 per date. Some seats are going to be added in 2017 when the bullpens are moved beneath the bleachers; this will push the overall possible figure up, but not by much. Tom Ricketts’ statement when he was trying to get his family to buy the team: “They sell out every day, win or lose!” is pretty much reality now. But winning has obviously brought more fans to the park. And winning’s better, I’m sure you’ll agree.

For the season, my in-house estimates totaled 3,011,000, so by my estimates the average in-house count for the year was 37,173. That means there were only an estimated 221,420 no-shows for the year, most of those in April and May when there was bad weather. That’s only an estimated 2,734 per game, a remarkably low number.

Though the Cubs’ home regular season is complete, obviously some teams have home games remaining. Through Monday the Cubs’ season total ranked third, just ahead of the Cardinals and Giants, who both have home games left. That means the Cubs’ total will likely finish fifth. The per-game average also ranks fifth (behind the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Giants) and will likely stay there.

As I have been doing throughout the season, I turn the rest of this post over to BCB reader Lifetime Cubs Fan, who’s been doing extensive research into ticket pricing.

This update is the culmination of my efforts in 2016. I apologize that it is a little verbose, but based on feedback you have provided, many of you like it that way.

Before we get into the details, charts, and predictions, I want to pause for a moment and give myself a little pat on the back. Last year, shortly after the 2015 season ended, I sent Al an estimate that the Cubs total attendance in 2016 would be 3,223,800. The final season attendance was 3,232,420. How good is that estimate, you ask? It depends on your perspective. If I were playing the Price is Right and I was bidding on a $50,000 Showcase, my bid would have been approximately $34 below, and good enough to win both showcases. If I were in charge of navigation for landing a probe on Mars, I miss the planet by roughly 85,000 miles... I’ll go with the Price is Right analogy.

A few weeks back I showed how prices spiked for the 9/15 game against the Brewers in the days leading up to the game when it became possible that the game could be a clincher for the Cubs winning the Central Division. (Unfortunately, that was not to be.)

The chart below is the last three hours prior to the Stubhub cutoff of secondary market pricing behavior for that game. I have highlighted in green the area that I refer to as the “panic selling period” as those with existing listings, who can’t make the game and likely don’t live in Chicago area, reduce prices significantly to ensure they get sold (vs. eating the tickets).

The area in red is the “Panic buying period” as people interested in the game buy tickets before Stubhub listings cease (six hours before the game) and drive up the prices a bit. I have seen similar behavior for games that I have bought tickets for in the past and happy to bestow this information on you (because it might become valuable for you come playoff games as surely some people from around the country only bought the tickets to make a buck).

Now to season-ending summaries:

Though the last homestand did not change any of the season-long trends previously shared, it did confirm that the Bleachers and Club Box seats were able to weather the largest increases in demand based pricing.

How well did the Cubs categorize (Bronze, Silver, etc.) the games this season you say? The below chart helps depict, in my opinion, that they did fairly well, but one could argue some of the ‘Gold’ games could have started off as ‘’Platinum’

To help illustrate that point further, you’ll notice the average final demand base price for ‘Gold’ games was $84.60 which is only approximately 8% less than the final demand base price for ‘Platinum’ at $92.64.

Wonder how much the day of the week factors into the price of the game? Not surprisingly, Saturday was the most expensive (and also has the highest secondary market demand).

So based on all this analysis, what will 2017 hold? Below I make 10 predictions for what I see unfolding in 2017. I will reiterate that I do not work for the Cubs nor have any inside information. These predictions are solely my opinion based on observations and information I have gathered.

Prediction #1

There will still be five categories of games, but the allocation will slightly shift more toward Marquee/Platinum/Gold games in 2017. In 2016, in the bowl seating, there were 14 Platinum, 14 Marquee, 31 Gold, 14 Silver, and 8 Bronze. In 2017, based on the preliminary schedule, I see 16 Marquee, 15 Platinum, 34 Gold, 10 Silver, 6 Bronze (the April series against the Brewers and three Night games against Phillies in early May being the Bronze games).

Prediction #2

Price Increases will be nominal for Bronze Category games in the cheaper sections. Since there are likely to be fewer Bronze games in 2017, the Cubs will likely keep some seats under $10 in the Upper Deck Outfield Reserve for PR purposes.

Prediction # 3

Club Box - Infield will be split into 2 or 3 sections in 2017. Almost every other team has multiple sections in the footprint equivalent to Wrigley’s Club Box - Infield section. Plus, I have observed the secondary market behavior in this section has a broad range (and I assure you, the Cubs see it too). In addition, this may define which seats are aligned to the Premier Club that opens in 2018.

Prediction #4

This new, most ‘premier’ section of the Club Box - Infield will see the largest increase in ticket prices in 2017. How much? Brace yourself, it could easily double. Seats that averaged $118 per ticket in 2016 will likely average between $225 and $250 in 2017. What will keep people in these seats from revolting? Check out the next prediction….

Prediction #5

The ‘Premier’ Club Box Infield, Dugout Box, and Bullpen Box will have ‘All You Can Eat’ (AYCE) and other minor amenities (e.g. free program) included in the price of the ticket. I do not think the Cubs will attempt to have food/drinks delivered to seats any differently than what is available today. I also do not think there will be unlimited alcohol included in the price (if it is, add $50-$75 to the price mentioned above).

Prediction #6

Upper Deck Box - Infield and Upper Deck Reserved Infield will be broken into multiple sections (e.g. Upper Deck Box Infield – Preferred). Many of you know that the STH price for the first row of Upper Deck Reserved - Infield is always less than half the STH price of row 10 of Upper Deck Box - Infield. That likely won’t be the case in 2017.

Prediction #7

The two sections with the smallest percentage increase in STH invoice will be the Upper Deck Box - Infield (last 4 rows) and Terrace Box Corner. All season long I observed the demand base price fluctuated slightly for these sections, and the secondary market pricing in many cases ended up below what STH paid.

Prediction #8

The STH cost for a bleacher seat will be near $4000 (1 ticket for all 81 games). If I were asked to come up with an exact guess, it would be $3,997.28 (which is an increase of $4 per ticket for each game category and then leveraging my allocation of games per category above). $4,000 would represent a 17.8 percent increase from 2016 which will be not well-received by many STH’s in the bleachers.

Prediction #9

Since people are now accustomed to the behaviors of demand-based pricing, over a third of the games in 2017 will be sold out before the season starts. This is still significantly less than 2004, but tickets were a LOT cheaper back then. Somewhat related to this, I think the dreaded virtual waiting room on the day of the Mastercard 15 percent Premium Presale will be hours long (where it was a matter of minutes in 2016).

Prediction #10

I apologize if this is slightly Tim “Master of the Obvious” McCarver-esque to say (and it is not that the Cubs are going to outdraw the White Sox in 2017, that would be just mean) but there is no way we will know if any of these predictions are correct before the Cubs playoff run ends. I hope, as I am sure most of you do too, that it is some point in November when we find out.

In closing, even though my data gathering / pricing observations efforts took much more time that I originally anticipated, I enjoyed doing it (and more importantly, I hope you enjoyed reading it). I have mentioned to Al that I will continue with insights and write-ups in 2017, though it will be with less frequency. (But look on the bright side, I’ll be able to add Year-over-Year comparisons to my arsenal.)

Until then, here’s to hoping we see games at Wrigley in 2016 with the ivy a lovely shade of red.