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2019 Cubs attendance watch: Pricing and availability trends

Cubs attendance is down this year, compared to 2018. Why?

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

It’s been a while since we’ve had an update on Wrigley Field ticket pricing and attendance. Like 2018, 2019 has had its share of cold, wet days that have depressed demand for tickets, although this year has had just one postponed game. By Memorial Day 2018 the Cubs had already had four postponed games at Wrigley (and two on the road).

Through the first 28 home dates, the Cubs have announced 1,024,128 tickets sold, or 36,576 per date. The total tickets sold ranks fifth in MLB and the average ranks fourth (behind the Dodgers, Cardinals and Yankees). That’s more or less in line with where those figures ranked at this time last year.

As has been the case over the last few seasons, I turn the rest of this post over to BCB reader Lifetime Cubs Fan, who has done some analysis of ticket pricing trends.

This year, I will deviate my approach from previous years a bit due to a lot less free time to monitor pricing trends. However, I will depict the following over the course of the season:

  • How many tickets are on StubHub for each game
  • The cheapest ticket that one could obtain for a particular game (checking once or twice per week — it is very likely that many games could be purchased for less than what I will post)
  • How 2019 attendance compares to recent years

I have watched the secondary market for years. Below is my supply/demand gauge based on the number of tickets available on StubHub approximately 7-10 days out from the game. The categories below are indicative as to what most fans would pay on StubHub, knowing that there will always be listings at astronomical prices. Case in point: On StubHub currently, you can spend $50 for a bleacher seat to the June 3 makeup game or you can spend $700 for a different bleacher ticket.

Under 2,000 tickets – EXTREMELY HIGH DEMAND (and rare these days) – No cheap tickets to be had

2,000 – 2,700 tickets: HIGH DEMAND — Tickets will likely exceed price in many instances

2,700 – 3,300 tickets: Solid Demand — Many tickets between STH price and up to price

3,300 – 4,000 tickets: Average Demand — Cheaper face value tickets likely above STH price, most other tickets at/around STH price (but almost all cheaper than price)

4,000 – 5,000 tickets: Elevated Supply — Most tickets near/ slightly below STH price

5,000 - 6,000 tickets: Buyer’s Market — Good chance to have great seats at a significant discount

Over 6,000 tickets: Flooded Market — Pounce at the right moment for a great deal

Through the first 28 games, for how many of those could you have procured a ticket on StubHub (after fees) for under $15 per ticket? The answer is 15! That might not surprise some of you as the weather in April is usually less than ideal and people are willing to deep discount / eat their ticket rather than spend money at the game and be miserable in the process. How many of those 28 games could you have purchased (after fees) on for under $15? The answer to that question is a big fat zero.

Here is a chart to depict how many games were in each category 7-10 days out from the game for the first 28 games:

As you can see, plenty of tickets were made available on StubHub. Some of you may be wondering if the Cubs are behinds some of those listings. It could be possible (and my hypothesis is probable), but since you can’t choose seats to a Cubs game on their interface as you can on many other team ticket sites, it will be hard to find the smoking gun.

Note: The games that were of average demand usually were tied to a desirable promotion (May 10 against the Brewers) or Saturday games against rivals (Cardinals on May 4).

For the remaining 53 games, a vast majority are in the Average Demand category as of now. It will be interesting to monitor as they approach 7-10 days from game time.

For attendance in 2019, below is a chart comparing the moving average of attendance as games progress throughout the season. As you can see, in 2019, attendance average is already 900 below where it was in 2018, and 2,200 below where it was in 2017, the year after winning the World Series.

The Cubs are in first place, so why is this occurring? My theories are as follows:

  • The average fan is more in tune with pricing being much higher than secondary market (and the chance of buying bogus tickets on StubHub is all but gone)
  • Ticket prices are increasing faster than discretionary income. Fans who used to go to four or five games a season have toned it down to two or three. (Or those who went to one game are watching from home)
  • Demand based pricing is slightly out of line with the market. In my view, there should never be lower than 35,000 in attendance at Wrigley with this team. I still think the Cubs are close to achieving maximum revenue, but in a few cases, they leave some money (and goodwill) on the table

Until next time, Go Cubs!