04 April 2011
UPDATE (4/5/11): The Yankees set another attendance low during their series-opening victory over the Twins on Monday night. The announced crowd of 40,311 will probably only stand as the record low for one night as there are plenty of seats available for Tuesday's game on Ticketmaster.com.
It's no secret that aside from the fanfare of opening day, Major League Baseball teams have trouble drawing fans through the gates for April baseball. Look no further than this past Sunday's embarrassing attendance of 8,726 at Cleveland's Progressive Field for proof. The weather is cold, the kids are in school and since many teams haven't yet adopted the logical concept of dynamic ticket pricing, the cost is the same as for more desirable summer games.
With a large base of season ticket holders and a perennially contending team, the New York Yankees are immune to attendance debacles like the one seen in Cleveland. They aren't immune to disappointing attendance, however. The first weekend of the 2011 season featured back to back days of record low crowds at the new Yankee Stadium - 41,462 on Saturday and 40,574 on Sunday.
All of the least attended games at the new Yankee Stadium have occurred during April or May. The Yankees set the previous low attendance mark when 41,751 bought tickets to a game against the Orioles On May 3, 2010. But this weekend's attendance "futility" could be classified as unexpected. After an unusual Friday off (a logistical necessity in case Thursday's opening day was rained out), casual fans had their first chance to catch the 2011 Yankees live for a nationally televised FOX Saturday game against the Tigers. The weather was a bit chilly, but with abundant sunshine and temperatures in the 50's, it was about as comfortable as can be expected at this time of year. The simple thought of having to endure a baseball game called by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver should have been enough to send people in droves to the Bronx.
Unfortunately, even the favorable weather conditions and weekend dates couldn't save the Yankees from early season attendance woes. The raw numbers were still some of the most impressive in Major League Baseball, but whether in the stands or watching on TV, you could tell that there were a lot of empty seats. Yankee ticket commercials have been airing during Knicks games on MSG and NCAA tournament games on TBS, season tickets are being hawked on NYC taxis and account reps are calling recently departed season ticket holders, begging for their business back. The shine has worn off of the new stadium and after a quiet offseason absent of a major player acquisition, the number of season ticket holders has clearly decreased.
We discussed it in a post back in January and Neil Best touched on the trend last week - it appears that more fans are ditching package-based season ticket licenses featuring static, per-game pricing. Pricing on the secondary market is dynamic and fans aren't forced to attend early-season games in sub-optimal viewing conditions.
This week at Yankee Stadium is highlighted by four straight weekday games against a non-rival (the Minnesota Twins). With Yankees tickets on the secondary market going for less than $1, we have to ask - how low will the paid attendance go?