Mets, Yankees Attendance Down by Double Digits – Are the New Ballparks to Blame?

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since I’ve done a post on baseball (heck, Manny Ramirez is almost back!?), so thought I’d tackle how the new stadiums for both the Mets and Yankees are impacting overall attendance this year.

First off, the home attendance numbers:

  • The Yankees average home game attendance is down 15% from 53,069 to 45,089
  • The Mets average home game attendance is down 24% from 51,165 to 38,925

So off-hand, that looks pretty bad. New ballparks and the numbers are down year-over-year in double digits? There are a lot of mitigating factors: a) both clubs actually shrunk their capacity in the process of replacing their old parks, b) the economy is hurting attendance across the board, and c) the increase in ticket prices making a trip to these new stadiums even more expensive.

The Case of the Shrinking Stadium

  • The Yankee Stadium capacity dropped 8.9% from 56,866 to 51,800
  • CitiField is 27.3% smaller than old Shea Stadium, meaning the Mets capacity dropped from 57,534 to a cozy 41,800

Right there, you can make the case that the Mets are doing a better job at selling out the new ballpark – the park got 27% smaller, but the attendance is only down 24%. Hitting 93% of capacity (up from 89%) is pretty strong. The Yankees are seeing the opposite, going from 93% of capacity to 87%. If you expected the Yankees, everything else equal, to maintain the 93% sell-out they had in the last stadium, then you would expect this year’s attendance to be 48,175, leaving the Yankees down 3,086 in attendance per game or about 6.4%.

Of course, this all is under assumption that you wouldn’t sell out a game. Part of the theory of making smaller stadiums, is that you’d make nearly every game a sellout. I mean, if there were 53,000 Yankees fans attending a game on average, then filling the Stadium every night with 51,800 shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Wrigley Field has a capacity of 41,118 and they’re filling up 39,978 each game (97.2%). Fenway Park capacity fluctuates around 37,000 (depending on day and night games) and is 100% sold out.

So let’s look at the park-adjusted attendance shortfalls using a 97% sell-out rate:

  • Yankees home attendance should be 50,246 and at 45,089 are 10.3% short
  • Mets home attendance should be 40,546 and at 38,925 are 4% short

It’s the Economy Stupid

  • The economy has definitely beat up baseball: MLB Attendance is down 10% across the board (thru June 19th) – which would put us at the lowest level since 2003
  • Take out the Mets and Yankees figures though (plus remove the woeful Washington Nationals who are down close to 9,000 per game) and overall attendance is down 8.3%

That seems to explain away the Mets shortfall (dare I say they are doing better than the economy would expect them to and may actually be seeing some of the new ballpark effect?), but it doesn’t completely explain the Yankees adjusted 10.3% shortfall. Take out the general impact of the economy and the Yankees are about 2% short of where you’d expect them to be.

Those Tickets Cost How Much?

Yes, time to digest the much squawked about, nasty situation around ticket prices for the new ballparks: The Team Marketing Report [PDF] shows that at the start of the season:

  • the average Yankee ticket is $72.97 (up 76.3% from $41.40) – tops in baseball
  • the average Mets ticket is $36.99 (up 8.6%) – good for 4th highest overall

Now granted, the Yankees begrudgingly reduced the 146 behind-home-plate $2,500 seats to $1,250, but when you do the math, the average Yankee ticket is still a whopping $69.45 or 68% higher! No wonder 83% of fans think the ticket prices are a rip-off according to a Marist College poll in early June.

But put in perspective, the exorbitant prices appear to only be holding the Yankees back 2% of where you’d expect them to be. That’s a far cry from luxury items seeing 15% or higher declines and truthfully, even at $70 these really aren’t luxury items.

Bad PR, Nice Bottom Line

Very roughly (because I’m using the average ticket price) the Yankees are going from last season’s $2.197 million per game (53,069 at an average $41.40) to this year’s $3.131 million per game (45,089 @ $69.45) for a very sweet 42% increase in the Yankees’ bottom line. Compare that to the Mets going from $1.742 million per game (51,165 @ $34.05) to $1.440 million (38,925 @ $36.99) and the Mets look like they are going backwards. Even at capacity, the Mets would be making $200,000 less per game in ticket sales than they did during the final season at Shea Stadium.

So with that newly fattened war chest, might be a good time for the Yankees to invest in social media monitoring. We’ll take a look at just how bad the buzz is around Yankee ticket prices in the next post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *