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2018 Cubs attendance watch: May 7-14 homestand

Attendance showed some odd patterns last week; also, a pricing update.

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the numbers for Cubs attendance during last week’s homestand:

May 7 (Marlins): 37,333
May 8 (Marlins): 40,051
May 9 (Marlins): 34,486
May 11 (White Sox): 39,585
May 12 (White Sox): 41,099
May 13 (White Sox): 40,537
May 14 (Braves): 35,946

One thing stands out: The two weekday afternoon games (May 9 and 14) did not draw well, despite both of them being on nice afternoons and with relatively low ticket prices. I’d attribute the first one (Marlins) to the fact that schools are still in session and it was against an opponent that doesn’t attract casual fans. The second (Braves) was a makeup game on a Monday afternoon. Despite schools still in session, many families with kids were there, likely because they had bought the tickets on the original date (April 15, a Sunday) and simply didn’t want to eat them.

The Cubs’ average announced attendance through May 14 (21 dates) is 36,608, which ranks sixth. The total announced attendance is 768,766, also sixth.

It should be noted that so far this year, MLB attendance is down 1,322,674 over the same period a year ago, down an average of 2,140 per game. This is not insignificant. Two factors are at work here: horrendous weather through most of the northeast and midwest so far this season, and the fact that at least five teams (Orioles, White Sox, Royals, Reds, Marlins) are off to terrible starts. The Marlins are averaging only 10,676 per game so far this year — half of what they averaged at this time a year ago. They’re on pace to draw fewer than a million fans.

As usual, I turn the rest of this post over to BCB reader Lifetime Cubs Fan, who has information and analysis on pricing trends for Cubs tickets.

With approximately 25% of home games for the 2018 season complete, the theme continues that season tickets are not the tremendous value the Cubs want you to think that they are.

Exhibit A — Tickets are at a larger discount than you might think

To date, an Upper Deck Box Infield season ticket holder has paid $1,114 for the 22 scheduled home games (though only 21 have been played). A non-season ticket holder could have purchased tickets from StubHub and attended every game this season and only paid $360 for the tickets, a 68 percent discount. Now you may think that this discount could turn into a premium as games in the summer are played in better weather. I say to you, au contraire mon frère, as the discount continues throughout the season. In fact, on May 14, 2018 (my car was getting fixed, what else was there to do), you could have purchased a ticket on StubHub in the Upper Deck Box Infield section (I excluded tickets that were in the last row of the section) for each of the remaining home games and paid $3,569 (which includes all fees). This is 18 percent cheaper than what a season ticket holder paid ($4,330) for these same games. Yes, I understand that many of the season ticket seats are better, but if you have sat in the Upper Deck Box – Infield section, with the exception of the last row (which was excluded in this exercise), there really is not a ‘bad’ seat to be had. For the season, a non-season ticket holder could have paid $3,929 for all games which would have been 28 percent cheaper than what a season ticket holder paid (and many games are still likely to decrease in price as the game approaches). Not a tremendous value in my book.

Let’s put it in a slightly different perspective. John Doe, a season ticket holder paid $5,444 for his Upper Deck Box — Infield ticket (about $67 per ticket) for the 2018 season. He goes to 10 games and pays $670 for his seat for the games he attends. He sells 30 games to friends and family at face value, once again averaging $67 a ticket ($2,010). However, for the remaining 41 games, he only sells them on average for $50 a ticket. After Stubhub’s 10 percent seller fee, he only clears $45 per game ($1,845). He lost $902 for those seats. So, one could argue, that John paid $1,572 for the 10 games he attended ($157 per ticket). At that price, one could have good Field Box – Infield / Club Box – Infield seats. That is why anything short of the Cubs making the World Series illustrates how season tickets are severely overpriced.

Though I have no intention of buying season tickets (it is a 1,700+ mile commute to Wrigley from my house), I did put my name on the season ticket waitlist a few years back. I found it ironic that I got an email from the Cubs the other day with my new place in line – about 5,000 places lower than last year. What does this mean? Here are my opinions, and hopefully someone from the Cubs is reading this:

  • If someone was >1,500-2,000 on the waitlist, they likely wondered how they got a call/email for season tickets if Cubs’ tickets “were in such high demand.” Though I do not have access to the data, I bet the percentage of people who were <1000 on the waitlist who got season tickets when asked was much higher (8-10x in my opinion) than those between 4,000 and 5,000.
  • In 2019, the Cubs will begin offering ticket packages for fewer than 81 games in all sections for potential new season ticket holders (with the exception of the luxury clubs).
  • Short of a World Series victory in 2018, ticket prices will go down in 2019 for season ticket holders in most sections.

Lastly, here are pricing updates for Upper Deck Box — Infield and Bleacher seating over the first three homestands.