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2017 Cubs Attendance Watch: May 16-25 homestand

Cubs attendance was really hurt by miserable weather this past week.

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs played nine games in 10 days concluding Thursday, with one date being rained out, and had good baseball conditions on two of them: the two Thursday afternoons. Otherwise it was either extremely windy, extremely cold, extremely rainy or a combination of the above.

This helped keep attendance down for games that otherwise might have sold out, or come close. Here are the attendance numbers for the just-completed homestand:

May 16 (Reds): 40,653
May 17 (Reds): 38,715
May 18 (Reds): 36,023
May 19 (Brewers): 36,923
May 21 (Brewers): 41,671
May 22 (Giants): 36,204
May 23 (Giants): 32,905
May 24 (Giants): 35,617
May 25 (Giants): 37,513

The crowd on May 23, a wet, miserable afternoon/evening on which the game was delayed an hour, was the smallest at Wrigley Field since 32,734 paid to see the Cubs and Brewers on April 28, 2016, which was the smallest paid crowd last year on a cold, dreary afternoon. For the May 23 game, due to the weather, maybe only half the announced 32,905 was actually in the house.

Total tickets sold through Thursday: 965,475, an average of 38,619 per game. The total ranks third in MLB (behind the Dodgers and Cardinals) and the average ranks fourth (behind the Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants).

There are two significant things about the total. First, the Cubs will almost certainly pass the one million mark at the next home game, Friday, June 2 against the Cardinals. Second, the weather-related poor attendance for the last homestand means the Cubs will almost certainly not break their all-time single-season attendance record of 3,300,200, set in 2008. They’d need to draw 2,334,726 for the remaining 56 dates, an average of 41,692 per date. That would mean selling out every single game for the rest of the season, something that’s not likely to happen.

As has been the custom for the Attendance Watch for the last year or so, I am now going to turn over the rest of this post to BCB reader Lifetime Cubs Fan, who has some data on ticket pricing.

Is the Cubs’ dynamic pricing algorithm off?

I would not be surprised if there was or will be a meeting this week where some Cubs executive proclaims: “We win the World Series for the first time in 108 years, and we only sell 32,905 tickets for a late May game against a team we beat in the 2016 playoffs!”

There are two simple reasons for this — the first is the accuracy of Tom Skilling’s forecasts. For most of this past homestand the weather was abysmal for this time of the year and it aligned to what the weathermen were predicting for weeks. Let’s face it, only a certain subset of Cubs fans like to go to a game with parkas and umbrellas. Second, and more important, we are seeing the impact of the rapid ascension of ticket prices due to dynamic pricing. As you know, in 2017, prices increased by 19 percent for season-ticket holders, which given the World Series championship was not out of line in my opinion. However, where I think the Cubs made a mistake was their immediate escalation in prices when tickets went on sale in late February. After the presale concluded, the overall average increase for tickets was greater than 50 percent from what STH paid in 2016 — and it has increased as this season has progressed. (Raise your hand if you make 50 percent more than what you did in 2016).

In my opinion, the dynamic pricing seen this year is having the following impact:

  • People who went to 3-4 games last year might only go to 1-2 games this year
  • People could be more inclined to buy games between June and August when the weather is warmer and school is out
  • People might have spent their money on Cubs gear and enjoy watching the game from home

In addition, I feel there are more speculators that bought tickets this year vs. last year based on the tickets for sale on StubHub (every game in May at some point had over 4,500 tickets for sale on StubHub). When you have elevated supply and little demand, prices will drop. How much they dropped is depicted on this chart:

For this homestand, Club Box Infield seats could have been procured at 43 percent of what season-ticket holders paid! I wonder how the ticket brokers are doing thus far this year?

Keeping with the theme of the upcoming road trip, let’s ask Ron Burgundy his thoughts on Cubs ticket prices...

Lastly, I wanted to let you know that I did watch ticket behavior the last six hours before gametime, and here are some observations:

  • Eight games saw significant reduction in ticket prices (all sections observed) as the game approached. There was some definite panic selling within the last 30-45 minutes.
  • The only game where prices increased over the last six hours was Sunday’s game
  • For Saturday’s game, prices caved about three hours before game time (Club Box Infield could have been procured for $32), but immediately increased when game was postponed/rescheduled (Club Box – Infield went to $115 per ticket within the first hour after game was called)
  • I thought bleacher seat prices would crater after the gates were opened, that was not the case (though they did decline a bit)

I will do this again for a homestand that has better weather and visualize it for you to enjoy. Until then, maybe one of you will go to a bar near Wrigley on the day of a home game and enjoy a beer while you snatch up tickets at a fraction of their face value.

Whether you’re a baseball junkie or casual fan, games are better at the ballpark. Grab seats from our partner StubHub and be part of the action at Wrigley Field. And, download the StubHub app to choose the perfect seats with 360° views from your section.