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2021 Cubs attendance watch: Ticket pricing update

Notes on attendance since full capacity and a look at prices going forward.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs are a very different team now than they were at the beginning of the 2021 season. This, you already know.

As a result, what has happened to attendance and ticket pricing? This article will take a look at both.

First, it’s my view that we haven’t seen the full effect of the selloff on attendance — not yet, anyway. There have been just seven home games since the selloff. Three were against the White Sox, and many White Sox fans bought tickets, bumping up the attendance count. The other four were against the Brewers, and while those numbers were down a bit from a typical Brewers series at Wrigley in recent years, that week had lousy weather, potentially affecting ticket sales.

Here are the numbers for the 28 games this year since Wrigley Field returned to full capacity in mid-June, broken down by opponent and in order of average announced attendance:

Cubs 2021 attendance since full capacity

Team Games Total attendance Average attendance
Team Games Total attendance Average attendance
White Sox 3 119,028 39,676
Cardinals 5 184,992 36,998
Marlins 3 105,509 35,170
Diamondbacks 3 103,851 34,617
Cleveland 2 68,427 34,214
Phillies 4 126,847 31,712
Reds 4 120,295 30,074
Brewers 4 119,826 29,957
TOTAL 28 948,775 33,885

Those numbers actually seem pretty good — for now. As noted above, only seven of those 28 games have been since the selloff, and five of the other 21 were against the Cardinals, who always draw good crowds to Wrigley Field.

Total announced attendance for the Cubs this year, including the pandemic-restricted games in April, May and early June, is 1,349,432, or 22,872 per date. The overall average for 59 dates is actually pretty good — it ranks sixth in MLB, behind the Dodgers, Braves, Rangers, Astros and Padres. If the Cubs could maintain their current full-capacity average of 33,885, that would be 745,740 more tickets sold, for a season total of 2,094,902. But given the selloff and the fact that 12 of the 22 remaining games are against sub-.500 teams (Royals, Rockies, Pirates, Twins), that current average seems likely to drop.

I’d guess the three games against the Giants September 10-11-12 will draw well as fans come out to see the return of Kris Bryant.

For pricing analysis (with charts!), as always I turn the rest of this post over to BCB reader Lifetime Cubs Fan.

Fire Sale!!!! Get your Cubs tickets cheap!!!

Last month, I wrote analysis here indicating that both attendance and secondary pricing were trending down primarily due to the Cubs quickly falling out of first place, combined with expensive tickets and still some hesitation from certain fans to gather in large crowds. I am here to tell you that trend is continuing, and prices for remaining games are falling fast and are now well below what season ticket holders paid. At this rate, there will be a chance to remain socially distant while watching a Cubs game at Wrigley in September because many fans will stop showing up. I also think from this point forward, the White Sox will have a higher average paid attendance than the Cubs will have for the rest of this year.

This following statement may be the canary in the coal mine that there is a greatly reduced interest from fans purchasing tickets to see the Cubs play at Wrigley. During the last homestand, there were three games against the first-place Brewers that had attendance under 30,000. Before that, the last time the Cubs had three games in August with attendance under 30,000 was 1999. (And we have an entire August homestand left to complete!)

Here is a secondary market ticket purchase story that illustrates the drop in prices.

A friend of mine approached me in late July, indicating she wanted to take her son on his birthday to the Cubs/White Sox game on Sunday, August 8 and sit in the bleachers. She wanted some assistance on the best strategy to purchase tickets on the secondary market as bleacher seats were sold out on Little did she know that she shared her request with the right person as I have years of observations and data to support the best approach. I informed her, if the weather forecast was decent (which it was), she should wait until just a day or two before the game to purchase her seats. I also stated that since the Cubs were likely to be sellers at the trade deadline, that would also work in her favor.

Below is the chart of secondary market pricing behavior for bleacher seats for that August 8 game. I am happy to report, she purchased tickets on Friday, August 6, just a few dollars from the lowest price observed (she paid less than a STH did for that game).

For this “high demand” game, secondary market prices dropped about 50 percent from the mid-June timeframe. It’s also amazing how far and how quickly prices dropped after the onslaught of trades at the end of July.

Let’s bring last week’s Field of Dreams game played last week into this discussion. Now, someone in the Cubs front office might have recently said to management, “The last time the Cubs and White Sox were both the home team on the same day, the Cubs sold over four times as many tickets as the Sox.” This statement is absolutely true! It describes attendance figures on August 12, which for the Cubs was 32,502, and for the White Sox was 7,832. However, when you bring into context that capacity at the Field of Dreams in Iowa was 7,832 (and sold out) vs. the capacity of Wrigley (41,649), that statement loses a lot of its luster.

Here is another observation indicative as to the lack of interest in the Cubs at the moment:

On August 11, two bleacher tickets to all of the remaining 23 home games at that time (46 tickets in all, with all fees for $1,264) could have been purchased on StubHub for LESS than one ticket to the Field of Dreams game ($1,300 after fees).

For the 22 games now remaining at Wrigley Field, here is a chart comparing the average price of a bleacher ticket on StubHub (with fees) as of June 12, July 12, August 11 and August 17:

As of August 17, two days ago, one could buy a ticket to all remaining games in the bleachers for 43 percent less than what a Season Ticket holder paid. I think this frustrates many season ticket holders immensely. Also, from June 12 until August 17, prices for these tickets dropped 56 percent! And they will continue to drop!

For those of you interested, below is the cost of the cheapest seat you can procure for each game on StubHub (with fees, as of August 17). As you can see, there are 11 games at the StubHub floor price ($6 plus fees, about $9 total), I imagine this will happen to more games as time progresses. Who here remembers things around 10 years ago, when some Cubs tickets were being listed on StubHub for $0.19? The StubHub floor price of $6 was implemented after that season. My advice for those who want to entertain clients: You should be able to procure tickets in all-inclusive seating areas for prices well below face value. Make your clients happy while keeping your boss happy with a manageable expense report!

I will have an update here next month as to what actions I believe the Cubs need to take to retain as many STH as possible (as many will not renew). In my opinion (assuming there are no pandemic restrictions on attendance in 2022), there is significant risk the Cubs’ paid attendance average will fall below 30,000 per game next year.

Lastly, I will leave you with some initial pricing thoughts on the Cubs playing in next year’s Field of Dreams game against the Reds. If you want to go to that game, start saving for it NOW. In my opinion, the cheapest tickets for that game on the secondary market will be more expensive compared to the cheapest tickets for when the Cubs played at Wrigley in the 2016 World Series. Some of it is due to simple supply and demand, some of it due to being played at a beautiful venue, but what might be underappreciated is the fact that for many of us, myself included, we would pay just about anything to have a catch with their father or their son on the Field of Dreams, immediately followed by watching the Cubs play a game – now THAT is heaven!!

As always, I am interested to hear your thoughts and comments!