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2017 Cubs attendance watch: Season in review and postseason pricing

A wrap of the season and a look at how playoff tickets are priced on the secondary market.

Al Yellon

The Cubs sold 3,199,562 tickets for the 81 home games in 2017. That’s the fourth-highest total in franchise history, but is down slightly (32,858, or 406 per date) from the 3,232,420 who watched the 2016 World Series champions during the regular season.

On the face of it, that doesn’t make sense. Quite a number of teams wind up setting an attendance record after they win the World Series. Doing that, though, would have been nearly impossible for the Cubs. The Cubs’ season attendance record, set in 2008, is 3,300,200. That’s 40,743 per date, or 1,242 more tickets sold for each of the 81 games than happened in 2017. To break the record would essentially mean the Cubs would have to sell out every single date all season. With iffy weather and kids in school in April and May, that’s not likely going to happen. This year’s average (39,501) was more than 2,000 per game lower than the record.

The Cubs, though, are likely not unhappy with the 2017 attendance total, because ticket prices went up — a lot. Season-ticket holders paid an average of about 20 percent more in 2017, and single-game prices were even higher than that. Without access to any specific figures, I think it’s a certainty that the Cubs made more money in 2017 even selling fewer tickets — and probably a significant amount more.

What they missed, I think, was the sale of perhaps 50,000 to 75,000 tickets they could have sold if they had lowered box-office prices on certain dates; some games were sold for much less on StubHub than at the box office. The prices for (for example) the Yankees series in May and the Cardinals series in September were far higher at the box office than demand might have called for.

While the Cubs left some money on the table from ticket sales, they also left ancillary spending on food and concessions that those people might have made if they were actually in the ballpark.

Nevertheless, the Cubs likely have to be happy with their ticket sales revenue from 2017.

I’m turning over the rest of this post to BCB reader Lifetime Cubs Fan, who has some information on postseason ticket pricing, with comparisons to the same in 2016.

If you have read the attendance posts this year, you are aware of the common theme that even though ticket prices were raised for season-ticket holders and at for most every game this year, you could have purchased tickets cheaper on the secondary market vs what STH paid for approximately 80 to 90 percent of the games at Wrigley Field this year.

Now, the bad news. For all playoff games, you will very likely pay more on the secondary market than what STH paid. However, the good news (which might lead to some very interesting discussions amongst spouses in the coming days and weeks) is this: tickets on the secondary market, though still expensive, are a lot cheaper than they were at the same point last year.

One of the benefits of cobbling all the pricing information over the past few years is I can provide a fact-based perspective on what prices are doing year-over-year very easily. I collect the data and analyze it so you don’t have to!

The three charts below depict Postseason prices as of a few days prior to the first NLDS game for the NLDS, NLCS and World Series in 2017 and 2016 respectively. As you will clearly see, prices are universally down for all sections. In some cases, the drop is greater than 50 percent.

Please note: Standing Room Only tickets are not included in the ‘Cheapest Ticket’ price in the charts below.

Here is where the news gets better. As each game approaches, I predict ticket prices will likely gradually, but steadily decrease (20-45 percent in total) until approximately 4 to 6 hours before game time when “bottom feeders” will snatch up the cheapest seats and drive prices up just a bit.

There is one exception to the pricing trend highlighted above. If the Cubs make the World Series and have a chance to clinch the title at Wrigley Field, I predict prices will escalate rapidly leading up to that game as that is the Holy Grail of games to be witnessed in person by a Cubs fan (since it has never happened).

Be patient, yet vigilant in your secondary market purchase endeavors — you just might get tickets to a Cubs playoff game much cheaper than going to see “Hamilton”!

One last reminder, purchasing tickets on StubHub is a safe transaction. Purchasing a “print at home” ticket outside the stadium on the day of the game from a scalper: not so much.

I will have one more installment this year that will coincide with the 2018 ticket invoices being sent out (let’s hope it is in November, after a parade, if you catch my drift). If you have season tickets or if you are on the season-ticket waitlist and expecting your number to be called, you will want to read that update.