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  1. I think the move toward dynamic pricing and a rather dizzying array of tiered pricing has had a pretty major impact on team revenues and attendance. I definitely do not think teams are pricing for maximum attendance; they are pricing for maximum revenue. Think about his in terms of the best seats. Let’s say a team has 5,000 premium seats. At $75 per ticket they can sell all 5,000 tickets, good for revenue of $375k per game. Now, suppose the team notices that a significant number of those tickets go for $100+ on the secondary market and decides to raise ticket prices to $100 per game. Rather obviously, they’ll sell fewer tickets (get out your supply and demand graphs). But that’s ok! How many tickets do they need to sell to breakeven? 3,750 per game. That’s a 33% rise in ticket prices, a 25% decline in attendance and no net change in revenues. PLUS, the team has 1,250 seats (on average) of excess capacity, giving them the ability to sell more tickets for truly premium games (perhaps at an additional premium price) or offer creative incentives to fill them on other days (group sales, sponsorship promotions, etc). That seems like a great way to raise revenue, but it probably means more empty seats in the stands. Throw in that the people who would fill those empty seats probably end up watching from home (thus raising TV ratings), and it seems like an even bigger win for the club.

    Comment by Mitch — August 28, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  2. Very thoughful and well written. The attendance shaming of White Sox fans without any analysis has become very tiring, indeed.

    Comment by Jack M — August 28, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

  3. I myself as a Sox fan hear about the attendance problems just about every year at one point another, however I find it difficult to put blame on the fans. IMO I believe the problem lies in two areas; ticket pricing and the consistency of the team on a year to year basis.

    According to the Team Marketing Report, the Sox rank 5th in AL in ticket pricing, which I believe is too much for the issue I’m about to address.

    Overall the product the Sox have put on the field has bee above average cumulatively, however on a year to year basis this isn’t the case. Outside the big success the Sox had in 2005 and 2006, they haven’t been able to replicate back to back winning seasons, which I believe is a big reason to why fans don’t come out the way they “should”. I believe it’s difficult for a fan base to come out with the prices their at without a stretch of consistency at least in Chicago area market.

    All other AL teams above the Sox in average ticket price have put together some sort of stretch of winning for a handful of seasons. And I believe that’s the heart of the problem that gets very much overlooked.

    Comment by AJP — August 28, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  4. Bad teams don’t play in completely empty stadiums, so we shouldn’t expect winning ones to pack ‘em in.

    Comment by Jason — August 28, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  5. I’m not sure its fair to give the A’s credit for ranking 22nd in percent, because they have inflated that number by just not offering seats for sale. In 2005, they had a capacity (for baseball) of 43,662 (good for twelfth), which has since been decreased to 35,067 (only larger than the similarly deceptive Tropicana). The stadium, including Mount Davis, which has never been included in baseball attendance figures, is 60,000+. While it isn’t reasonable to assume anyone baseball team to fill up 60,000 seats, as the Dodgers are the only team within 10,000 of that capacity, it is also unreasonable to somehow ‘reward’ teams for simply shutting down part of their stadium. If the Rockies were to decrease their massive capacity artificially to 35,000, they would rank 4th by percent rather than 18th, by simply tarping the upper decks.

    Understanding a teams market is a poor way to justify the failure of Oakland (or Tampa and Miami or Kansas City) to put fans in the seats.

    Comment by Jack — August 28, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

  6. The closest White Sox fans will get to the playoffs this year is watching them play on TV against Detroit this weekend. Insult turns to injury when said TV fans have to suffer hawk, or pigeon, or whatever the hell his name is. Detroit swept them last series, and Detroit will take this series, in bombastic fashion none-the-less.

    Comment by beelzabub — August 28, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  7. The A’s ownership bought the team with one goal in mind: Develop a new stadium. In order to convince locals in Oakland to build a new park the A’s ownership spent years publicly trashing the Coliseum and making the case that the ballpark was unsuitable for the fans. It’s not surprising the A’s have an attendance problem when the owners are telling the fans not to come to the ballpark!

    If the ownership group had engaged in a campaign to improve the park, like the Red Sox did with Fenway, the attendance would be much better. Will the A’s ever have the same revenue as the Red Sox while in the Colisuem? Of course not. But the singular focus on a new park has led to the deterioration of the A’s fan base in Oakland.

    Comment by Krog — August 28, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  8. Wait a minute, they haven’t been able to “replicate back to back winning seasons?” Since 1991 when new Comiskey Park/US Cellular opened, they’ve had a total of 6 losing seasons, and haven’t had back-to-back LOSING seasons since 1998/1999. In fact in that timeframe, only the Yankees and Red Sox have had a better winning %.

    There’s a lot of dynamics at play with the Sox and the attendance issue, and I hear every excuse on the radio and in the stands from people on why the can’t go to more games. I do believe the pricing structure is out of whack to a large degree, but even if they scaled the prices back on the tickets the average idiot Sox fan will come up with a new excuse. I hate to say it, but it’s not going to chance any time soon.

    Comment by sox2727 — August 28, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

  9. Be prepared to eat some crown come Monday…

    Comment by sox2727 — August 28, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

  10. ^crow

    Comment by sox2727 — August 28, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

  11. There is never just one reason for poor attendance but one thing I haven’t seen written about in regards to the White Sox is the size of the season ticket base. Coming off a disappointing 2011, they dumped fan favorite Mark Buehrle and looked to be planning to dump Peavy, Pierzynski, Thornton, Floyd, Crain and anybody else they could. They looked to be rebuilding, but that process was likely to be hampered by big money owed to Konerko and especially Dunn and Rios who looked like not just dead money, but dead ballplayers. Also, the farm system was (still is) awful. A season ticket holder could easily decide to give up his seats with plans to come back in a couple of years, not having missed much. I wouldn’t be surprised if the season ticket base is much smaller this year than last and if that is the case, it becomes much harder to fill the stadium. Selling 25,000 individual tickets to each game is much harder than selling 15,000

    Comment by MikeS — August 28, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  12. That would be a good analysis if tickets were the only thing being bought. People also buy merchandise and parking. The theory would be that any excess money people feel they have, they’ll spend on parking and/or merchandise.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — August 28, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  13. Not really. In Miami they don’t expect a winner. Tickets sold aren’t the output of some nice equation like “wins/games=X, whatever % X is of .600=% of capacity”. It’d be nice, but that’s not how it works.

    There hasn’t been much expectation in Kansas City. The expectation is that as soon as Hosmer, Moustakas, and Myers get better, they’ll be traded away. I’m sure the same thing is going on in Miami. In Tampa Bay, I hear that problem is mostly the drive. When old people can watch the game more comfortably in their homes, why get out the van and wheel chair? That last bit might have been a bit dramatic and rude, but it gets the point across.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — August 28, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

  14. I think this basically nails it… combined with the roster churn of the Kenny Willams era, it’s hard to develop any connection with the players when you know they might be gone at any moment. The only guys that stick around are the guys who are playing so poorly or are so overpaid that they can’t be moved. Reinsdorf is relatively unlikeable, so there’s some solace in the fact that a low attendance and high payroll cuts into his profit.

    The loss of Buerhle (combined with the extension of Danks) is maddening, and it will only get worse as the need for a starter is further exacerbated.

    Comment by James — August 28, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  15. The gate receipts pale in comparison to the TV money. While a night at the park is still a necessary part of life. It’s far more comfortable and stress free to view the game from your living room!

    Comment by capnsparrow — August 28, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

  16. Nice article, Wendy. Thank you.

    Has there ever been a study of 2-team cities, why one team seems to dominate attendance-wise over the long haul? Why in the end the Phillies/Cards won and the A’s/Browns lost? And so on?

    Comment by Richie — August 28, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  17. Perhaps that came off the wrong way, SINCE 2005-2006 the Sox haven’t been able to replicate back to back winning seasons. They’ve come close and had a few seasons around .500, but none back to back surpassing the .500 watermark.

    Comment by AJP — August 28, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  18. Remember that time the A’s had a deal with the Coliseum Authority to improve the Coliseum into a baseball facility ala Angel Stadium? How’d that end up? Oh yea, the Raiders decided they wanted to come back and the Authority bailed on the agreement. To add insult to injury, they built that monstrosity in the outfield, making it a worse place to watch baseball.

    Comment by LoneStranger — August 28, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

  19. My point was that judging by percent capacity is a poor way to judge things when Oakland is putting a tarp over half their seats. I don’t care why people aren’t going, but to use percents artificially inflates Tampa and Oakland’s respective attendances because they just aren’t offering 10,000 seats for sale. They exist and were planned to be used. Its akin to taking a multiple choice test, not answering 20 questions and then saying you got an A- because you got 90% of the ones you answered right, instead of the C- you actually got. I’m not too knowledgeable about Kauffman Stadium (and know nothing about the Marlins new ‘stadium’ except that they have that travesty of a Home Run Display.) but I do know that the Coliseum and Tropicana are much bigger than is reported in the MLB attendance records.

    Comment by Jack — August 28, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  20. They renovated in 1996 with that plan in the works prior to the raiders return. Mt. Davis ruins the wind patterns view of the hills, and overall feel of the park. I think Wolfe gets knocked for being a Kerrmudgeny kind of guy, and I can’t really say I’m a huge fan of his, but they tried with Oakland. The city has stonewalled them for years with either no interest or the desire to “trade rape” the Athletics contributing no money and overcharging on everything. 27mm to buy the land for the park in SJ 300mm to Oakland for the land use to be part of a new sports complex. The city of Oakland is a nightmare to work with, Fremont was a work within the territory rights plan like 8 years ago that fell apart, and then theirs San Jose looking to throw the team a great deal for the long term economic stimulus it will bring to the area. I get why they are the way they are towards Oakland, and the Giant’s(we gave you the rights free in the first place, and every other 2 team region in baseball has 1 large shared territory except this one, no line splits LA or NY, Selig the ass that he is just needs to standardize rights for all 2 team regions, and tell the Giants to suck a lemon.) the team really has no outs that are appealing, and 1000+ days and counting on Seligs stupid useless committee.

    Comment by Tim A — August 28, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

  21. I don’t agree with much of that. Turnover is universal in sports. We all route for laundry these days.

    As for Reinsdorf, most owners are not well liked by substantial portions of their fanbase. And why should he be hated. Teams owned by Reinsdorf have won 7 championships. In the last 50 years teams not owned by Jerry Reinsdorf (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey (NHL and AHL), Soccer and Arena Football) have won the same number and 2 of those were AHL hockey, one was MLS soccer and one was arena league football which hardly count. Bill Veeck was a great guy to root for, but I’ll take Reinsdorf.

    Comment by MikeS — August 28, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  22. I agree with that. Likewise, it dispoportionately awards Boston and the Chicago Cubs with their tiny ballparks.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — August 28, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

  23. Winning. The Browns were notorious losers and the Cards were notorious winners. Not as familiar with the situation in Philly.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — August 28, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

  24. You are totally right in the ticket analysis. On a side note, I’d like to say that my season ticket prices in Oakland went down this year as compared to last year. A’s also offer a ton of deals, like free parking on Tuesdays and BART $2 Wednesdays. I honestly feel that Lew is trying to bring fans to the ballpark, but I can understand why fans won’t support him.

    Comment by Josh — August 28, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

  25. That’s probably true to a degree, but it was also about over-saturated markets and the ability to move to under-saturated markets. Take St Louis, it has always been significantly smaller in population than other 2 city markets. When the relocation era of the 50s got underway the Browns jumped at the opportunity to move to slightly larger sized Baltimore and be the only team in town (yes there was a team in DC but remember this was before television markets so teams relied mostly on attendance from a relatively compact central city and a few streetcar suburbs, cars were still relatively rare and expressways to get between the cities even rarer).

    So the under-performer moved but not necessarily because they were the loser, but because the opportunity to profit was greater elsewhere. The only real mystery is why the Browns/As/Braves didn’t relocate earlier. I suspect it had to do with difficulty of overnight train travel between the smaller cities they would relocate to, but I’m no expert (at least about the baseball part, about both the demographics and the train travel, I would probably be considered an expert). It certainly wasn’t for a lack of cities, even in the 20s Baltimore, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities were larger than Cincinnati and DC that supported teams and there were another half dozen not much smaller.

    Comment by Ralph — August 29, 2012 @ 1:37 am

  26. I wouldn’t ding the A’s quite so much for putting a tarp over those seats to reduce capacity. Keep in mind that the Coliseum is the only multi-purpose stadium still in use: a lot of those covered seats were really meant for the Raiders so while they can be used for A’s games because they exist, those seats are only there because a football team plays 8 games a year on the same field. If the only times you’re ever filling seat # 58,639 are on opening night, fireworks night, and in the playoffs, then that seat hardly represents true capacity. Look at the A’s attendance numbers over the years and you’ll see that the capacity with the tarps is in line with what they tend to draw.

    Comment by David Z. — August 29, 2012 @ 4:56 am

  27. St. Louis was widely regarded as too small to support two teams even a century ago. When the Federal League collapsed in 1916, there was a serious negotiation by the Baltimore Fed owner to buy the Cardinals (at that time the weakest franchise in all of baseball) and move them to Md. The Cards were also the subject of a potential move to Detroit (!) in the 1930s. In both cases the economic rivalry between the AL and NL helped St. Louis retain its two teams.

    Comment by Candlestick Parker — August 29, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

  28. The Phillies did not dominate the A’s. Both teams struggled financially for decades, though the Phillies had a mild resurgence to respectability with the Whiz Kids in the early 1950s. But what doomed the A’s in Philly in the Fifties was bad luck — the team was up for sale, and a Yankee fan swooped in and relocated it to Kansas City — one of the stupidest business decisions in the history of baseball.

    Comment by Candlestick Parker — August 29, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

  29. The problem the A’s face is market share, and it isn’t really clear that a new ballpark will fix that, whether it’s in SJ or Oakland. If the Cubs/White Sox split of their market is 70/30, what is the Bay Area split? 85/15?

    Part of the A’s problem is AT&T Park and the Giants winning. But not all of it. Judging by broadcast ratings and sponsorships, the Giants dominated the Bay Area baseball market even in the Candlestick days, going all the way back to the economically disastrous Charlie Finley regime.

    I’d like to see the A’s do well, but honestly don’t know what they can do. When the Giants won the World Series 1 million people showed up for the parade and it was like some crazy religious experience all over Northern California. If the A’s won it all this year, outside of their 10-20,00 hardcore fans would anyone even care?

    Comment by Candlestick Parker — August 29, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

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