What Do We Really Know About Attendance?

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Saber Seminar in Boston, an event put on by Chuck Korb and Dan Brooks to help raise money for The Jimmy Fund, and the event was wildly successful in that regard, raising close to $20,000 for cancer research and care.

The event was also successful from a baseball perspective, as there were a number of interesting presentations and discussions. I was asked to be part of the final panel on Sunday, and was tasked with talking about something relating to “The Future of Sabermetrics”. While most panels on this topic at various conferences over the last few years have focused on things like Field F/x and ball/player tracking technology that may never become public, I decided to talk about an area where I think those of us who are interested in researching the game have not put enough effort into understanding – the driving factors behind changes in attendance.

We have a general understanding of a relationship between wins and fans showing up at the ballpark. Good teams draw, bad teams don’t. It’s not hard and fast, but it’s a truth that holds in most cases. However, there are a multitude of factors beyond that wins=fans relationship that we don’t understand, and this year’s attendance figures actually highlight just how far we have to go in being able to accurately project attendance gains and losses based on the factors that are usually considered.

For instance, let’s look at the Anaheim Angels. In 2002, they won the World Series, and they built an organization that would go on to win five of six division titles between 2004 and 2009. By any measure, the last decade has been a very successful one for the Angels, and they play in one of the most densely populated geographical areas in the country. Here is their attendance on an annual basis since 2002, the year they won the World Series.

Year Attendance Per Game % Above Average
2002 2,305,565 28,464 4%
2003 3,061,094 37,791 40%
2004 3,375,677 41,675 44%
2005 3,404,686 42,033 44%
2006 3,406,790 42,059 39%
2007 3,365,632 41,551 33%
2008 3,336,744 41,194 35%
2009 3,240,386 40,005 41%
2010 3,250,814 40,134 42%
2011 3,166,321 39,090 36%

As we can see, the Angels got a huge boost from the World Series title, and this aligns with what we’ve seen from other franchises. Throwing a parade in your home town creates new interest in the franchise that is seen for years to come. The Angels added over 9,000 fans per game from 2002 to 2003 even though that 2003 team wasn’t particularly good, finishing 77-85 and out of the race in the AL West. They added another 4,000 fans per game in 2004, however, when they won the AL West, so they were seemingly able to wipe out any negative effect from one down season by bouncing right back and putting a quality product on the field. Attendance then hovered in the 40,000 to 42,000 mark for the next six years before declining slightly last year. That decline seems like it was probably the result of the 80-82 record in 2010, which brought their string of three straight playoff appearances to an end.

Heading into this year, though, the Angels were determined to right the ship. They were the big players in free agency over the winter, signing both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to bolster their roster and give the team an increased chance of running down the Rangers in the AL West. They are also featuring the nightly exploits of Mike Trout — arguably baseball’s most exciting player — on a nightly basis, and watched as Mark Trumbo went from being an interesting rookie into a devastating slugger. The Angels seemingly checked every box on the fan interest checklist since last season ended: import premier player, field competitive team, add home grown young superstar, hit lots of home runs. Their home town ace even threw a no-hitter at home this year. Outside of having a “throw things at the Kardashians” promotion, I don’t know what else the Angels could have done to generate increased interest in coming to the park to watch a game.

The final result? The Angels attendance is down to 37,525 fans per game, a 1,500 person drop from last year’s total. The only teams experiencing larger drops are the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and Colorado Rockies, three of the worst teams in baseball.

When I presented that information at the conference yesterday, not a single person in the audience correctly identified the Angels as one of the largest attendance decliners in the sport. The Angels shedding fans this year just doesn’t really fit into our understanding of what kinds of factors drive attendance.

One attendee suggested that perhaps the team’s slow start, coupled by the Rangers blistering performance in April, caused fan interest to drop quickly after the season began as the team found themselves far behind the division leader just a few weeks into the year. In looking at the Angels game by game attendance figures, however, those numbers have been trending up as the season has gone on. While attendance across the sport is always higher in the summer than in the spring, weather is not as large of a factor in California as it is in other cities, and this doesn’t support the idea of interested fans coming to the park early, getting disappointed in all the losses, and not returning due to despair about the Rangers early lead.

I am as baffled by this as everyone else, and talked about this subject not to offer any answers, but to hopefully inspire a room full of very smart people to start asking questions about this side of the sport. We have a lot of work to do before we really understand the factors that drive attendance and revenue, and the assumptions that we make now are not applicable to many situations.

This is simply an area of ignorance for most of us, but it’s one that has a pretty significant impact on a teams ability to put a winning roster on the field. If we can begin to understand what factors actually drive changes in fan interest, perhaps we can put those findings to use to bring up the revenues of some of the clubs who are winning but not reaping the rewards of that success, and help level the playing field in the sport through revenue increase rather than focusing solely on finding quality on-field performance at a low price. Statistical analysts have done a fantastic job of finding inefficiencies in the market for baseball players, so maybe it’s time that we start putting some efforts towards solving some of the questions relating to revenue generation rather than only focusing on cost reduction.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

96 Responses to “What Do We Really Know About Attendance?”

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  1. Jonathan says:

    I’m sorry but what is the percent above average measure? Also do you have monthly attendance figures, that probably would help your argument further. The yearly measure is just a big pile of mud, and hard to discern what is going on in. You should use the monthly measures for more variation.

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    • Richie says:

      Yes, we need more numbers here. In particular, how have the Angels’ monthly attendance numbers compared to other warm-weather markets in terms of increasing as the season went along? School getting out is a big factor there, too.

      My own pet hypothesis: The Dodgers’ sale combined with their own fast start has sent some fans returning up the road from Anaheim back to Chavez Ravine.

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      • Pete says:

        While I have little respect for LA and the famous late arrival fans in Chavez, it is quite unfair to think that Angels fans are jumping ship and changing their hats from Red to Blue.

        I live in a two market metro area and while A’s fans are not making it to games. I do not know of any who are trading in their Green and Gold for Orange and Black.

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      • Jason says:

        I don’t live in a two market town, so there’s some dynamics there that I don’t really fully grasp… but isn’t it as likely that there’s a large number of more casual “baseball fans” that simply pick the closest team that they’re most interested in if they want to go watch a game? And thus, the Dodgers really could have had an impact on Angels attendance?

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  2. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    I interpreted the “people are avoiding the park because they were bad early” differently – that is, people saw they were losing, avoided the park, and attendance is steadily rising because the team is winning again. I don’t think an early losing streak could destroy attendance for an entire season, especially for a team this good.

    So the suggested slow-start theory still has legs.

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  3. Xavier says:

    I don’t think you can discuss this without considering regional economics. A huge factor is the amount of disposable income fans have, regardless of how the team is doing.

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    • Herbstr8t says:

      Agreed, key factors that come to mind right away:
      - ticket prices
      - regional economy
      - transportation costs
      - other entertainment options

      Maybe the Angels raised ticket prices so they’re actually making higher revenue on less attendance? I dunno, but would be worth looking into.

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    • Urban Shocker says:

      Yes, absolutely. Although I quickly checked the BLS site, and the highest unemployment in the Anaheim metro division took place in 2010.

      But from a regional economic impact perspective, it would seem likely there is some type of substitution effect taking place with the Dodgers, whose Avg. attendance is up 4,613 a game this year.

      Finally, if the question proposed is ‘What can a baseball team do to enhance attendance’, the Angels in particular highlight how broad the analysis might be: while their AVG attendance is down, I think it’s likely that the off-season signings, success etc., have likely lead to increased TV ratings, and thus their significant new TV contract.

      We are certainly long past the point of attendance being the major revenue generator of any major sports franchise.

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      • Joe says:

        Unless you take a helicopter, it’s pretty unfeasible to go to Anaheim (occupied California Angels) games if you live in range of Chavez Ravine and vice versa. It’s a really, really horrible drive on the 405. I’d say the steep decline in the Orange County economy over the past 3 years is sufficient to account for a significant drop in attendance.

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  4. Zach says:

    Could there be some element of fan fatigue in the numbers? Yes, the Angels have been consistently competitive pretty much since 2002, but they haven’t won another World Series (or even reached one). Maybe winning a World Series basically maxes out your fan base (or at least winning a WS and then remaining competitive), but over time you need to continue to win titles to keep it up.

    Additionally, it would be interesting to chart ticket prices along with attendance. Teams that win regularly also often raise prices regularly, so this maybe a case where the Angels have priced some portion of their fanbase out of regular attendance.

    My other question is, how important a factor is ticket sales in a team’s overall financial health? Have we reached a point where media contracts have more to do with a team’s ability to spend than attendance?

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    • bstar says:

      Good point, Zach. You can see a similar effect happening in Atlanta. Fans got so bored with the team winning the division and then losing in the playoffs that they’ve become a little numb to everything.

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    • Sam says:

      Re the comment about fan fatigue – I see the same pattern in White Sox attendance. Jumped to 3 million in 2006 and has eroded 200k each year since, seeing only 1 playoff appearance in a bad division.

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  5. Mike F says:

    Did ticket prices go up this year? That would (help) explain a drop in attendance, and would make sense given the Angels spending in the offseason.

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    • Marver says:

      Yes, as an Angels frequenter, I can say that ticket prices were considerably raised.

      This is a pretty poorly done article, as what matters isn’t the number of people who attend, but the amount of money made off attendees.

      I’m sure the Angels haven’t lost more money this year because they have ~5% less fans, when the ticket prices have gone up more than 20%, and they’ve sold basically a trillion Mike Trout jerseys (including one to this Padres fan).

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      • TKDC says:

        Angels get 1/30th of the profits on every Trout Jersey, just like the Padres and every other team.

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      • Marver says:

        I don’t think that’s true, TKDC. Jerseys sold at the stadium, I believe, are split differently than jerseys not sold at the stadium.

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      • Rob Moore says:

        I have two friends that were Angel season ticket holders that gave up their seats in the last two years because of price. Both of them are wealthy but were put off by the increases.

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  6. Michael says:

    Do you know if the Angels increased ticket prices significantly in the off-season? It wouldn’t surprise me based on all the money they spent between Pujols and Wilson. I’m not sure what the elasticity is for ticket prices in general (although its probably different by region), but that might be a good place to look.

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  7. Colin says:

    How much of an impact can one or a few games have?

    I don’t know if this is true, but my perception is that attendance figures are probably largely driven by a small percentage of the 81 home games, specifically the games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you get a poor weekend in terms of weather or start times or other local events, could that feasibly have a big impact?

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    • Colin says:

      Actually thinking about it now this really isn’t feasible to explain that large a difference. It would have to be several very poor showings for entire weekends.

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  8. Al says:

    Were the Dodgers among the franchises with the greatest increase in attendance? I wonder if their change in ownership coupled with their on-field success might have dug into the Angels attendance.

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  9. chuckb says:

    It would seem to me that attendance is driven largely by expectations. As you noted, attendance went up after winning the World Series and went down this year after a (relatively) disappointing season in 2011. I wonder what % of a team’s attendance results from season ticket sales but it seems to me that fans expect a winning team following winning seasons, thus they sell a lot of season tickets. Season ticket sales in Anaheim (or Rancho Cucamonga or wherever the hell they are) are probably down this year due to the season they had last year. Though fans are returning to the stands due to the success the team’s having, it’s not enough to make up for the loss of attendance resulting from last season’s poor record.

    If the Angels make the playoffs this year and have a strong playoff run, I would expect attendance to rise pretty dramatically next year even if they begin next year pretty poorly.

    In other words, it would seem to me that attendance one year is largely driven by results in the previous year, and probably the previous 3-5 years in decreasing significance. Fans, before they spend a lot of money to take their families to baseball games, need to see it first in order to believe it. Though the Angels signed Pujols and Wilson, fans still remember the team losing more than it won last year. Success this year will bring fans to the park next year.

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    • Diamondhacks says:

      This is exactly right. Within any given market, past performance (seasonally weighted, as described) influences ticket demand more than the present.

      The past defined as the previous season, but also the sustained record prior to that. This dual “past” helps explain why teams like Anaheim and Arizona experienced some of their lowest annual draws when they actually won the World Series.

      I think LAA’s recent dip in draw is also driven by the short and intermediate term past. Between 2004-09, the Angels established themselves as a playoff fixture by winning the west five times in six seasons. That helped drive a high, perhaps unsustainably high, level of local annual attendance, lagging thru 2010 and maybe even a little last year. But they’ve missed postseason in consecutive campaigns now, and current attendance is reflecting that new, less stellar history in a more pronounced way – as the sustained playoff run of the “old” past diminishes in fans’ eyes.

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  10. Andrew T says:

    just a few thoughts:

    The LA Dogers had a hot start to the season, their attendance is up ~5,000 as compared to their 2011 (their worst attendance draw since 2000). Perhaps this increase in attendance for the Dodgers has come a bit at the expense of the Angels.

    On top of some natural decline in interest for the Angels because of the Angel Stadium. It isn’t nearly the draw it was in 2004, combined with mediocrity of the 2010-2011 teams I guess attendance is expected to decline some.

    Also It appears attendance for the Angels was weaker early in the season. In April the Angels drew <30000 fans 4 times, May 2 times, June and July 0 times. 30,000 is an arbitrary number and there could be some bias in that but it looks as though the Angels are recovering from a slow start.

    As fans realized that their team was good, perhaps they started going to the stadium more. Trout is arguably the most exciting player in baseball and should be a big attraction for LA.

    Maybe we are just looking at this too early, it looks like the Angels are trending upwards in terms of attendance and in team performance. Give the Angels the last 2 months of the season, it is still VERY possible that the Angels increase upon 2011's Attendance.

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  11. California Angel says:

    Maybe people get confused and drive to Los Angeles instead of Anaheim.

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  12. Max K says:

    Ticket Prices. Plain and simple. $50 for upper deck tickets? Absurd

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  13. MustBunique says:

    Saw “What do we really know about attendance?” and thought this article was going to be about the Red Sox buying their own tickets to extend the sellout streak.

    After reading the article and comments, I find myself leaning towards the Angels’ stumble out of the gate combined with ticket price increases (going by Michael’s post) are two good reasons to see a lag in attendance.

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  14. JF145 says:

    I’m not sure we can trust these numbers, I mean, the Boston media keeps telling me that the Red Sox are just lying about their attendance and they really only draw like 500 people per game.

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  15. TonyMo says:

    If expectations mattered, then the Cubs would not be outdrawing the White Sox in attendance this year. There is something about a two-team city that affects attendance. In many fans’ minds, the White Sox will not be the Cubs. The Angels will not be the Dodgers. The A’s will not be the Giants. The Mets will not be the Yankees. Some teams are deeply ingrained in a city’s heart and some teams are not as beloved.

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    • Mike F says:

      To be fair, there were almost zero expectation for this White Sox team coming into this year (coming from a White Sox fan in Chicago).

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    • Paulie L. says:

      “If expectations mattered, then the Cubs would not be outdrawing the White Sox in attendance this year.”

      Cubs attendance is completely irrelevent to the discussion. Last time I checked Wrigley Field was the second most popular tourist destination in Illinois behind only Navy Pier. This leads to the Cubs having the highest percentage of out-of-towners to attend games in MLB, around 30%. I recall reading this in the Chicago Tribune sometime in the last year.

      The Cubs also have a healthy season ticket base. In recent years, season ticket renewals were about 99%, this dropped to about 90% last year according to Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. I do not know what it was this year or how many of the season tickets are held by corporations.

      Of course all of this changed in the early 80′s when the neighborhood around Wrigley went through gentrification and the TribCo. started marketing the park, sunshine, beer and Harry Caray. The increase in attendance over the last 30 years has had very little to do with the product on the field or expectations.

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    • chuckb says:

      Your theory might explain the difference between the Angels’ and the Dodgers’ attendance. It says nothing, however, about the change in the Angels’ attendance from year to year.

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    • Diamondhacks says:

      “Some teams are deeply ingrained in a city’s heart and some teams are not as beloved.”

      That’s true, but those relatively fixed demand inequities (like market, venue utility, team history and affinity) tend to mask shorter term, more adjustable attendance drivers, like ticket pricing, real time economy, and year to year on field performance / fan expectations.

      It doesnt mean those short term variables dont exist – they’re just easier to infer if you’re looking at one franchise year to year rather than comparing one franchise with another – and introducing all those inherent inequities.

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  16. JF145 says:

    “Saw “What do we really know about attendance?” and thought this article was going to be about the Red Sox buying their own tickets to extend the sellout streak. ”

    Oh please. This is a phony controversy drummed up by the local moron mainstream media. The whole “team is doing poorly the last couple years, people aren’t coming to the ballpark!” narrative that they all predicted is obviously not coming to fruition, so they’re harping on this nonsense out of frustration instead.

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  17. Tim says:

    The improvement of television has definitely had an impact as well. With high definition being so refined, and massive LED/Plasma/3D tvs having such a clear picture, consuming a sporting event on TV is awesome. The saying “the best seat to a sporting event is on your couch” really is true in 2012.

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    • DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

      When you can only listen to 3 innings of Vin Scully on the radio, i will have to agree. But then again cable is an even bigger ripoff than the tickets…

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  18. MrKnowNothing says:

    Angels attendance goes down by roughly the same amount that Dodgers goes up. Seems to imply that there are roughly 3-6K fans who will go to the hotter team at the moment and that’s what happened.

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    • cs3 says:

      yes, the same 3-6K fans show up every day at whichever location has the hotter team.

      do you see how absurd that is?

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      • Bhaakon says:

        Core Angels fans aren’t driving up to Chavez Ravine, but core Angels fans aren’t the only ones going to games. A large number of tickets are bought by brokers and businesses with little or no rooting interest beyond making the most on resale or providing the most entertaining experience for clients. It’s also easy to imagine that businesses which might have bought season tickets to both teams a few years ago have since cut back their investment to a single franchise.

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      • The Real Neal says:

        Ok, Cs3 make it 100K fans who show up occasionally to whichever team is doing better. The point still holds. It’s not like the LA basin is known for it’s die hard sports fans.

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  19. CRD says:

    The Angels had a pretty high no-show rate before (something like 18%), so it’s very possible they have more people coming through the gates than last year. That, and they sold many more season and partial packages and more luxury licenses this year, which come with much higher percap revenues.

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  20. pft says:

    As a Red Sox fan we know that attendance figures have nothing to do with how many tickets are sold or how many fans attend the games, they are simply what the Red Sox call distributions (sold+giveaways). In the Red Sox case if they have X amount of unsold tickets which they can’t giveaway, they may simply distribute the unsold tickets to JWH’s other pocket and he pays a buck and they call them sold to maintain the streak. LOL.

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  21. phattonez says:

    Basketball really curtails attendance at the end of the season. Also, the LA area is not affected by football later in the season. What makes the Dodgers and Angels different this year is that the Dodgers got off to a hot start and the Angels a poor one. Additionally, the Dodgers presumably got a big boost from having new ownership while the Angels don’t get that boost. So I’d expect more of an upswing at the end of the year for the Angels which should boost attendance numbers right to where they were last year. LA is a unique market in that it follows basketball like crazy and has no NFL. And even then this is a unique year for LA sports.

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  22. Grumbles says:

    Isn’t the easiest explanation simply that there are two baseball teams in the area. One started strongly, the other poorly. The one that started strongly has increased attendance by over 5,000 a game this year on last year, whilst the team taht started weakly dropped 1,500.

    Family A has wife an Angels fan and hunsband a Dodgers fan. They like going to the baseball, early in the season they pick more Dodgers than Angels games due to performance. Or maybe some families whose alegiances were Dodger “adopted” the Angels for a few years when McCourt was owning the team, and since dropped off with the blistering start the Dodgers have.

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    • chuckb says:

      There have been 2 baseball teams in the area for the entire duration of time addressed in this article. Therefore, the fact that the Dodgers are nearby tells us nothing about why the Angels’ attendance went up in 2003 and has decreased this year. It’s not like the Dodgers are a new expansion team.

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  23. Baltar says:

    Dave’s point was not so much specifically about the Angels, who were used as an example, but that we don’t know much about what drives attendance.
    The variety of responses and the range from pure speculation to possible factors that can’t be proved punctuates, rather than detracts, from his point.

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    • Baltar says:

      One thing is certain. The main defense of the far too expensive contract the Angels gave to Pujols in this blog at the time was that his signing would result in a vast increase in attendance.
      That, at least, has been proven wrong.

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      • chuckb says:

        I can say for certain that Dave never argued that the Pujols signing would lead to higher ticket sales. He has steadfastly maintained, for years, that player acquisitions do not drive ticket sales. Wins do. It is possible that he defended the signing by saying that if Pujols helps bring a championship to LA then that, the championship, would lead to increased revenue. But he certainly did not defend the signing by saying that italone would generate increased revenue.

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      • CRD says:

        but attendance doesn’t exactly correlate to stadium revenues.

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      • Simon says:

        I thought it was that it gave them a very good first baseman, and they had billions of dollars of TV money so it didn’t really matter anyway.

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    • Phil says:

      Trying to create a model on only 30 teams, where each area has its own dynamics – ie some areas have two teams and multiple sports, some have the baseball team as the only big sport team in the city, some have aging populations (Tampa), others have a unique and storied history (Cards) etc is just crazy anyway. Ofcourse there will be conjecture as you are trying to put a model on something where each team or area has unique conditions. It is not something you are going to get a large sample size for – lol, and the reason there is conjecture is because every situation is unique – and hence unable to use a mathematical model to predict.

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      • Paul says:

        I do not agree with this at all. It’s a fair point that there are 30 different and unique markets, but we have tons of economic data for each of those markets and their surrounding areas to draw from. Sure, you might need to aggregate data from several different metrics instead of just picking something like employment rate, but it could definitely be done.

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      • Phil says:

        Sure, however it is not really just economic data, and there is simply too many variables. For example an increase in health care may mean some older people can no longer attend, so therefore a drop if the community has a larger than a certain percentage of elderly. Maybe a tech boom or bust in an area causes some areas to reduce corporate spendingand hence a percentage of ticket prices drop, or the finding of new mineral deposits in another causes some mining companies to rise and hence increase spending. You would also have to to factor in things like tradition – is the area a strong bball area where the father to son follow the team, or is it more tranisient population that back a winner. Is the population expanding through immigration (without the bball traditional upbringing – so sports like soccer are followed) and hence a cap on how many people would attend in a season. It is the sheer amount of variables, which is probably close to limitless, that would have to be defined.

        In every study, you will have people say “but you didnt take into account they had the World Science Expo that year and attendance was astronomical during that 3 week period” (see another local variable for a particular year). And when you get to that amount of variables between the few samples, it makes it too hard to precisely quantify what has what affect

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  24. Cheapskate says:

    Would love to see attendance vs. NERD… are the most statistically interesting games the most attended?

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  25. Dave Cameron says:

    Just a quick response to the idea of fans defecting to LAD (as suggested by Rob Neyer) – I’m not sure that’s it.

    In 2010, the year before the McCourt scandal became so ridiculous that it started driving fans away from Dodger Stadium, LAD averaged 44,000 fans per game. That crashed to 36,000 last year thanks to the bad publicity around the team, so their bounce this year looks more like a rebound towards previously established levels of support than stealing fans from the Angels.

    In 2010, the Angels and Dodgers combined to draw 84,000 fans per game. This year, it’s at 79,000. There are just fewer people in LA going to baseball games this year than two years ago. Do specific socio-economic factors play into it? Absolutely, which is part of why I’m encouraging people to do more research into this subject. Why is attendance in the greater LA area down when it’s up for MLB overall? Has LA had a stronger negative economic shock? Is this affecting other entertainment entities in the area? Should the Angels and Dodgers be spending lavishly if their specific regional geography is showing signs of economic weakness?

    I don’t have the answer to these questions. I just think we need to ask them.

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    • Marver says:

      Or, you need to better establish whether a dip in attendance means anything at all — ie. is the team earning more or less on ticket sales / concessions than they were before the increase/decrease in attendance?

      The idea isn’t to get people in the seats, but to make money off them. If the Angels can increase the average ticket price by 8%, and the suites by 25%, while only losing 5% in attendance…aren’t they better off from a revenue standpoint?

      You yourself said: “We have a lot of work to do before we really understand the factors that drive attendance and revenue”. Yes, and the way you’d go about that is by examining…revenue.

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    • Matt says:

      Besides price, the biggest deterrent of fans going to games in LA and Orange County is traffic caused by urban sprawl. If you work in Irvine and live in Huntington Beach, it would take you atleast 2 hours to leave work, pick up the wife and kids, then go to the game. Most people would rather watch the game on TV instead driving through the traffic.

      It would be interesting to look into the addresses of where the tickets are sold. I would imagine that urban cities with better mass transit (e.g. New york, San Francisco, etc.) can sell tickets to people who further from the stadium than large suburban metros (e.g. Orange County, Tampa, etc.).

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    • Agree that these questions need to be answered.

      Regarding Angel’s, been awhile since I read this article and the comments, but in case nobody noted, the Angel’s new(-ish) owner’s tactics regarding attendance has been to make it as easy as possible to draw in fans, resulting in a large drop in ticket prices when he took over, and I believe that their prices are still among the lowest in the majors.

      Someone could track attendance and pricing for the Angels (BB-Ref and Forbes for each) and see what the trends there have been relative to the Dodgers, and to the MLB in general. Perhaps it would be better to track the attendance trend by removing all the teams that are at or near sold-out stadiums most of the time (like SF), to get a truer view as to variations in ticket demand.

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  26. Section314 says:

    Everything we know about attendance was answered over 50 years ago when Yogi noted “If the fans don’t want to come to the game, there is nothing you can do to stop them”.

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  27. Patrick says:

    I am about as big of a baseball fan as it gets. That being said, I go to the same number of games regardless of my team winning/losing/acquiring players/new rookies etc. It is ALWAYS based on available time and how often I can afford $9 domestic light n’ colds.

    My friends, some of whom barely know what baseball is, go to games purely for socializing and don’t even watch the little white uniforms moving around. How do they determine how often they go? Purely based on invitations from their baseball fan friends.

    Are there in betweeners? Is Facebook replacing face to face interaction? Is it possible to really measure all the social factors impacting game attendance?

    I think the bigger take home is: 37,000 fans is a fantastic number. 21,000 fans is a mediocre/poor number. Fantastic vs. poor is as simple as winning in my opinion.

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  28. Michael Scarn says:

    I think the division a team plays in makes a difference. Tampa routinely gets 10,000 extra people when the Red Sox or Yankees are in town, so that shows that people are considering the quality of opponent. Many people might go out to the ballpark to see the Red Sox, Yankees, or Rays, or in the NL East the Braves, Nats, or Phillies (historically), but if you’re the Cardinals or Reds and the teams consistently in your city are the Astros, Pirates, Brewers, and Cubs, you might not be so lucky.

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    • chuckb says:

      Tampa is unique, however, due to the fact that there are so many transplanted living in the area. Many of these are fans of other teamsgoing to see their team play, not Rays fans who go to the games against the better teams. I’d guess that fans in most cities are fans of that city’s team and that’s just a lot lesstrue in Tampa.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        It’s not necessarily the quality of opponent. Today, I’m a Braves fan in Springfield, MO. I met a Rangers fan, a Yankees fan, and a Dodgers fan. I think it’s brand recognition.

        Quality does help. However, if you’re a fan of the home team and they suck, I doubt you want to go see them get destroyed by a team you don’t like.

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    • Along this line of thinking, the Giants have been, from what I recall, among the teams with the best road attendance.

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  29. Snowblind says:

    Way too many variables here to get a good read on this at all. How do you identify which fans are attending because:

    - they’re diehard Angels fans
    - they’re sports fans
    - they’re tourists
    - they’re fans of the opposing team
    - they’re doing family outings / one-off events
    - they’re casual fans with a lot of disposable income
    - they have a corporate suite / corporate clients

    And that’s just the reasons I could think of off the top of my head. The fans who attend a game in person are not 35000+ people all thinking exactly the same and all enjoying the same things in the game (or even in the ballpark experience overall). Hard to find a collection of factors that can influence revenue when fan experiences and fan reasons to attend vary so widely.

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  30. Jason says:

    Has anyone just interviewed the marketing and sales guys in the front office and asked them what drives attendence in their market? Sometimes the easiest method of discovery is also the best.

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    • Aaron W. says:

      Along similar lines, does the MLB (or the Angels) do market research, ie talking to current and/or former fans to determine their attitudes? Not that that’s always reliable, but it would be approaching the problem from the other end, rather than trying to read their minds from afar.
      And if we can confirm that ticket prices are higher this year, that would seem to be the most likely culprit.
      Plus, it’s possible that a team that consistently wins but never makes the World Series (10 years now) could lead to burnout, as fans’ expectations are consistently not met. The Braves could be a parallel there, albeit an extreme one.

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  31. MrKnowNothing says:

    maybe wait until the season is over to determine if the attendance is really down yet. perhaps the angels started the year playing an inordinately number of “unpopular” teams and will finish the year the opposite (i have literally zero clue if this is true). if you spent the first half of the season playing the twins and Ms and the 2nd half playing the Yankees and BoSox, you’d exepect to draw more fans in the 2nd half than in the first. by the end of the year, it evens out, but looked at in a half season increment it seems like they “did something” to increase the attendance when they really didn’t.

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  32. Reggie Smith says:

    The Angels are abandoning their base, with the attempt to re brand themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Orange County is a market that sees itself as distinct from L.A.

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    • KDL says:

      Grumbling about the name change seems like the kind of thing more people are apt to grandstand about in parties at the yacht club, or troll about on the internet…than significantly change their game-attending habits. Sure there are a couple curmudgeons with integrity…but I think most of time this kind of talk comes from blowhards. Take for example Monday Night Football. I remember about 102% of football fans claiming that the canning of Hank Jr. meant they’d never watch again. Viewership remained about the same for the rest of the year.

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  33. Joebrady says:

    I’d say it is as simple as the Angels playing kind of mediocre BB. The last 3 years-


    I think attendance is a trailing indicator. It doesn’t show up right away. The fans don’t change their lifestyles because of a few wins and losses. The 1,500 people that they lost was probably 2-3 years in the making. Signing a new 1B won’t alter that.

    And the bigger issue is the resale market. Nobody in MLB will admit this, but it looks to me like they are dumping tickets on Stubhub using non-team names. They look like scalpers, but there are thousands of tickets on sale.

    What they don’t seem to understand is that the resale market is the lifeblood of the season ticket holder. The rule for eons is that you buy season tickets with the intent that you probably sell half of them, probably more. I split NYY ST’s with friends. I don’t mind losing a few bucks here and there, but now the aftermarket is absolutely flooded. The next NYY game has 6,000 tickets on Stubhub. My $28 tickets can be had for $15. There are 52 tickets available in my section. 181 tickets if you include one section on either side. 376 tickets including the same sections facing the other way.

    Once the teams decided to go into business against their own ST holders, they destroyed any motivation to own ST’s. Why would I want to pay $28 for my seats when I can pay someone else $15?

    Even past the NYY, the NYMs were giving away 1000s of tickets each game last year, for free.

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  34. Choo says:

    It starts with the variables that dictate disposable income levels in a local economy. A good marketing company should be able to answer most of these questions with the flick of a spreadsheet.

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  35. RollTribe says:

    watching a game on tv and enjoying the luxuries of home is better than sitting in the nose bleeds.

    therefore, I pay at least $35 for a ticket
    , $10 for parking, $10 for a beer, and $6.50 for a hot dog. and then I have to watch the indians struggle to score 2 runs.

    for that much money and time I can buy a nice dinner and then watch storage wars and catch the game during commercials

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  36. Patrick G says:

    I think people are attributing too much weight to the Dodgers’ attendance, at least in terms of how it affects Angels attendance. As a one-time L.A. resident, I can tell you that Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium are very far apart. This isn’t like New York where you can easily take the Subway to one of two parks. It would take most L.A. residents over an hour to get to an Angels game. Angels attendance by and large is going to be made up of Orange County residents, not Los Angelinos.

    Now TV ratings might be a different story — I can see how the Angels’ success may have bit into Dodgers TV viewing. I’d like to see research done on the fluctuations in TV ratings and accompanying attendance figures.

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  37. Evan says:

    LA is a crowded market, and one that is hit particularly hard by the depressed economy. Also, alot of people in LA will tell you the Dodgers are the real golden child, there just hasnt been recent enthusiasm. That has changed with the new ownership. Declining fans makes some logical sense, despite how good the team is.

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  38. Tom says:

    Is there any possibility that L.A. basketball and hockey also contributed to this? I don’t believe there are too many recent years where both Los Angeles basketball teams made the playoffs as well as a one of the Hockey teams. L.A. can be very casual at times and coupled with a slow start interest could have been drawn elsewhere in the early season.

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    • Breadbaker says:

      Tom, I think you hit the nail on the head. The Kings won the Stanley Cup. A lot of sports fans in LA who might have had a choice between a walk-up Angels game and watching the Kings surprising Stanley Cup success, or the Clippers or Lakers, might well have either gone to those games or stayed home to watch them on TV. I remember during the trial over the Sonics leaving Seattle that the experts from both sides were pretty adamant that the sports entertainment market is not limited to a particular sport, but that different sports compete for the same dollars. Until the Stanley Cup playoffs were over and the LA NBA teams eliminated, the Angels were competing with them for both dollars and attention. The uptick in attendance matches this, and the fact that the Angels were playing better then means that the attention easily returned to the team; if they had continued in last place, it might have gotten worse rather than better but we’ll never know.

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    • Jason says:

      I think that is it exactly. I was in LA in May and the Dodgers, Kings, Clippers, and Lakers were on everyone’s minds. The Angels? Not a word. Even the Dodgers game I went to was pretty underpopulated for what was then the hottest team in baseball. Combine it with an area that has been hit economically, it was a perfect storm.

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  39. Mitch says:

    In my observation, teams have shifted tremendously toward revenue maximization in their ticketing policies over the last five years or so. Prime/non-prime designations, dynamic pricing, day-of-game surcharges, super-segmented seating layouts, etc. are not designed to leave money on the table; selling 39,000 tickets at $50/pop is equivalent to selling 42,000 tickets at $46.43. While $4/game per ticket may not sound like much, it has meant that I’ve attended about 20% fewer games this year (from 10 to 8) despite the Orioles shocking success.

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  40. Dan says:

    I wou say that every team has a baseline attendance rate. This baseline varies wildly depending on several factors including local economy, size of metro area, other sporting events/entertanment options etc.

    Then we see increases/decreases to this baseline based on several other factors. Expectations, actual performance, marketing etc.

    I would go about this in the way that marketing mix analysts go about determining the ROIs from different marketing campaigns.

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  41. Millsy says:


    There is still a lot of work to do, but much of this has been done to death in the Sports Econ/Sport Management academic literature (in some cases rather well, not so well in others). I think a good paper to start is Meehan, Nelson & Richardson (2007, Journal of Sports Econ) and MC Davis (2009, Journal of Sports Econ). There’s some pretty solid recent work reworking the traditional thoughts about competitive balance variables and how they affect attendance (for example, probability of playoff appearance at each point in the season): Tainsky & Winfree (2010, Review of Industrial Organization).

    If you are interested in the articles, I am happy to email them your way. Just shoot me a request (you can find my email at my website linked in my name above).

    One thing that one also needs to be careful about is understanding the fans=wins causal relationship in addition to the wins=fans causal relationship.

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  42. Antonio Bananas says:

    Everything is a variable. Weather (too hot), other sports (Kings, Clippers, Lakers), other events (donno, surely something was going on, it’s LAish), direct competition (Dodgers), quality of the team (slow start). All of that (including what was in parenthesis) contributes.

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  43. Ryan says:

    Just to stick for the people bashing LA fans, if it took you a few hours in traffic to get to a game, you’d show up late too…

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