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2019 Cubs attendance watch: Wrigley Field was full over the last homestand

As the weather got better and the team played more important games, attendance went up. Will that continue?

Al Yellon

The Cubs’ last homestand featured a three-game series against the Brewers and a similar set against the Oakland Athletics, and with a divisional rival and a team that hadn’t played at Wrigley in nine years, attendance was at a high point for the season.

All six games had more than 40,000 tickets sold, and the 41,424 announced for the Friday, August 2 game vs. the Brewers was the biggest announced crowd of 2019 to date.

For the season, the Cubs have announced 2,287,373 tickets sold, or 38,123 per date. Both of these figures rank fourth in MLB behind the Dodgers, Yankees and Cardinals.

As you might have heard, overall MLB attendance is lagging last year, but as summer crowds have gotten larger, not by much. Through Sunday, the average MLB crowd is 28,426, which trails last year by 472 per date. The biggest declines from last year are by the Mariners and Blue Jays, and I think you can see why that’s happening. The Phillies and Twins are the teams up by the most, on average, and in the Twins’ case it’s their surprise first-place season. For the Phillies, they sold a lot of tickets when they announced the signing of Bryce Harper.

As per usual, I turn the rest of this post over to BCB reader Lifetime Cubs Fan, who has some information on Cubs ticket pricing trends.

With the Cubs completing the last homestand (which all games were played in ideal weather conditions, more on that later), I felt it was a great time to provide an attendance watch update. Below is a running average chart comparing 2019 attendance to years 2016-2018. As you can see, the 2019 average is 873 lower than the paid attendance per game last year.

With the Cubs constantly battling for first place over the summer months, one would think attendance in 2019 would be near or above what it has been in years past. In reality, for homes games 29-60 this year, they averaged 39,476 in attendance, while the years 2016, 2017, and 2018 all averaged above 40,000.

I can safely predict that average attendance in 2019 will be lower than last year. The narrative remains the same, it is expensive to get tickets directly from the Cubs while more cost-conscious fans can get tickets for significantly cheaper on the secondary market. Case in point, a buddy of mine was visiting Chicago to see the Cubs play the Padres on Friday, July 26. I shared with him my favorite sections to watch a game from and he was able to get great seats in the Upper Deck Box Infield for about $75 per ticket (where a season ticket holder paid approximately $100 and the price for much worse seats in that section was about $130 per ticket after all taxes and fees).

I also shared my day game parking spot secret with him (which will remain a secret, sorry).

There were many other sections for that game more than 25 percent below STH prices seven days out from the game. For the upcoming Giants series, there are numerous sections well below the price. For the August 21 game, for $50, you can procure a bleacher seat on StubHub versus the ticket price being over $70.

There is one attendance figure where 2019 is leading compared to 2016-2018 and I have a hypothesis that I would like BCB readers to confirm if it is accurate. That figure is attendance on Saturdays is higher this year 40,045 compared to recent years (all less than 39,264). See the chart below for more details:

My hypothesis is that since all games can be viewed as “expensive,” more people are willing to pay a premium to go to a Saturday game (versus taking a day off work and paying almost as much to go to a weekday game). Many working families likely spend $400-500 to experience Wrigley on a Saturday knowing it will exhaust their budget for the year (but let’s face it, there are not many better places to be than Wrigley Field on a Saturday when the weather is nice).

That segues me to my final update topic — ticket availability. I did not find it to be a coincidence at all that the last homestand had games with limited tickets on secondary market. For the August 2 game against the Brewers, there were fewer than 1,600 seats on StubHub seven to 10 days out from the game. That marked the first time that has happened all season (and to be honest, likely the first time since 2016). Let’s look at the reasons why:

  • Game against divisional rival battling with Cubs for first place in the division
  • Within close driving distance of opponent team’s location
  • Perfect weather forecast
  • Friday afternoon game (cut out of work early)
  • Kids are still home from school
  • Desirable fan giveaway (pajama pants)

For the year, here is the classification of ticket availability for the 60 games completed thus far. As you can see, many seats have been available for most games.

For the rest of the year, here is the current view (as of today, August 12) of ticket availability for the remaining 21 games:

Personally, I think there are some good value opportunities for games against the Giants, Mariners, and Reds. With the division being as tight as it is now, I do not see the Cubs clinching a playoff berth at home, but every game from here on out will be a meaningful game.

Until next time, Go Cubs!