On opening day of this season the White Sox attracted a crowd of 37,422 in a win over the Minnesota Twins. In much contrast to their sell out crowd on opening day, their 2nd and 3rd home games drew much less people. The White Sox reported that their 2nd home game of the year was attended by 10,625 people however, there appeared to be much less people in the park then the club reported. You can decide for yourself, but there are clearly less than 10,000 people at this game and the attendance figure was probably closer to 1,000. The Sox saw very similar attendance in their 3rd home game of the season as well. These numbers are pathetic but people might argue it’s because the team is in a rebuilding stage and fans have no expectations for their team this year.
That might be part of the issue but the amount of people that have attended their games so far is embarrassing to the organization. Also, in White Sox history when the team is contending for a playoff spot they have always struggled to sell to tickets to very important games. A prime example of their woeful attendance when they are in contention was on September 25, 2012. The White Sox were tied atop the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers. With 8 games remaining in the season, the Sox were facing the Cleveland Indians in a crucial home game. Almost any other big league team would get a sell out crowd but the Sox only attracted 13,797 people which filled about a third of their stadium. These attendance figures should be very alarming to the Sox organization and show that changes of some type are needed.
Another interesting part of the Sox’s attendance problems is that offseason signee Jose Abreu isn’t helping draw crowds at all. Typically if a big name player, is debuting for a team, fans will come out to see them play. Abreu, had tons of hype surrounding him as he had shown elite power and the ability to hit for average in the Cuban league. The signing of Abreu is obviously not a publicity stunt, and is a move to improve the quality of the team. fans however, have shown no interest is seeing their potential all-star 1st baseman play. The fact that this young, exciting player is a negligible factor in whether or not fans will attend games is problematic to the franchise.
Another problem with the White Sox is that the games are fun to go to, yet people still don’t go. From first hand experience going to White Sox games, I actually really enjoy the environment there. As an fan who will go to US Cellular Field not to root for a particular team but just to watch baseball, I have always enjoyed my experiences there. The park is in very good condition and the food is unique and pretty good. The firework shows at the end of night games I have always found to be very cool and have been known to attract people to games who aren’t necessarily big baseball fans but just want to have a good time. Ticket prices aren’t unreasonably high as the average ticket cost $29 as of 2012. Going to White Sox games are an enjoyable and affordable experience yet nobody goes.
Not attracting crowds when in contention, when having high profile players, and having a quality stadium suggests that people in Chicago flat out do not care about the team at all. The organization might need to do something drastic to attract more fans. An option for the Sox that might help the organization is relocation. There are many cities that would love to have and MLB franchise and I think that Portland, Oregon would be an excellent option for the White Sox.
Portland is a city populated with just over 600,000 people similar to Seattle and Denver. Portland only has one major sports team (Portland Trail Blazers, NBA) and has shown in their attendance figures that they love and will support their team (5th in the NBA in attendance). Another notable piece of information is that the Portland Timbers the Major League Soccer franchise based out of Portland sells out every single game and attracts over 20,000 people for home games. In a very low market sport that is in the shadow of the major four sports in the USA, Portland has supported their MLS team. If Portland were to receive the Chicago White Sox, attendance figures would skyrocket and the team would be a much more relevant part of the city. The change from Chicago to Portland might be a problem with the fact that the Sox are in the AL central and Portland is dead west, but the MLB could easily realign to make things more easier in terms of travel.
Another problem people might point out is that Portland is a much smaller market than Chicago and the franchise might not make enough money. However, around the MLB the White Sox are widely considered a smaller market team as they are in the shadows of the Cubs who have a much larger fan base and is the more prominent team in Chicago. A move to Portland would allow the team to receive much more attention, and would help the organization sell more tickets. This is why Portland would be an excellent fit for the Sox and would drastically improve the state of the franchise.