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A Quick Look At MLB Attendance

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Spurred by a Twitter conversation with Cork Gaines from @RaysIndex, I wanted to take a look at early season attendance figures.  Using ESPN's handy attendance data, I compared 2008 and early 2009 attendance numbers.  Now, early season attendance usually isn't as high as it is later in the season (weather and pennant races being two larger issues) and the new Yankee and Mets ballparks skew the data significantly (smaller capacities, but higher ticket prices).  That being said, the relative rankings of the attendance changes can still be useful.

On average, attendance is down about 10% per team, and 5,000 fans per home game.  Again, much of that is due to New York's new stadium models.  The chart below is sorted initially by absolute change in per-game attendance from last year, but you can click the column headers to re-sort by percent change.

% Change TEAM   Abs Change TEAM
12.4% Florida 2,075 Florida
10.0% Kansas City 1,997 Kansas City
7.3% Tampa Bay 1,635 Tampa Bay
6.2% Texas 1,506 Texas
2.2% Philadelphia 910 Philadelphia
0.5% Boston 170 Boston
-1.3% LA Angels -539 LA Angels
-3.2% Chicago Cubs -1,293 Chicago Cubs
-3.8% San Francisco -1,336 San Francisco
-4.0% Milwaukee -1,523 Milwaukee
-5.3% Seattle -1,527 Seattle
-4.6% St. Louis -1,932 St. Louis
-4.3% LA Dodgers -1,967 LA Dodgers
-8.6% Minnesota -2,445 Minnesota
-12.6% Cincinnati -3,200 Cincinnati
-15.6% Oakland -3,216 Oakland
-14.1% Baltimore -3,528 Baltimore
-12.6% Arizona -3,894 Arizona
-13.3% San Diego -3,980 San Diego
-22.1% Pittsburgh -4,445 Pittsburgh
-13.7% Houston -4,772 Houston
-17.3% Chicago Sox -5,348 Chicago Sox
-16.4% Colorado -5,429 Colorado
-10.1% AVERAGE -5,183 AVERAGE
-22.9% Cleveland -6,220 Cleveland
-23.4% Atlanta -7,305 Atlanta
-25.3% Toronto -7,484 Toronto
-27.5% Washington -7,968 Washington
-15.9% NY Yankees -8,434 NY Yankees
-29.5% Detroit -11,648 Detroit
-24.3% NY Mets -12,421 NY Mets


Based on percent change, there are four teams with significant attendance increases: the Marlins, Royals, Rays, and Rangers.  The Rays' explanation is obvious, and the other three teams have played surprisingly well so far this year, although I didn't know attendance increases were often seen this quickly based on performance.

Philadelphia's also seen a significant increase in absolute fans, but because they were already seeing a high level of attendance anyways, aren't getting a huge percentage increase from their World Series victory.

At the bottom of the list, Detroit, Washington, Toronto, Atlanta, and Cleveland all saw larger than average decreases in attendance.  Most of those can be explained by disappointing 2008 seasons and perhaps a loss of season tickets.  Toronto confuses me a bit -- are we seeing some sort of Canadian economic influence?

Anything else that sticks out to you?  Do you have anything to add about why we're seeing some of the changes that we are for certain teams?  Have you seen any studies weighting the trade-offs between fewer seats in the new New York stadiums versus the increased revenue per ticket sold?