With Major League Baseball preparing to be the first Big-4 pro sports league to feel the full weight of the recession entering the 2009 season, the Commissioner’s Office has warned owners to expect three possible attendance scenarios: the same as 2008, a 10 percent, or 20 percent decrease from last season. According to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times, the comments regarding the economic state of the game came as Commissioner Selig attended a Cactus League game this week between the Angels and Cubs. According to Shaikin:
Selig declined to discuss internal attendance projections. Major League Baseball clubs sold 79.5 million tickets in 2007 and 78.6 million in 2008, the two highest totals in league history.
"Every other phase of the economy has been touched, including other sports," Selig said. "I'll just have to watch it."
Selig has backed off from the stance that baseball might be impervious to the economic slide.
"I used to think we were recession-proof. I really did," Selig said. "This is different. Some economists are saying it's the worst downturn since the Great Depression."
To be exact, paid attendance in MLB last season was 78,624,324, or 1.14 percent below 2007’s record attendance figure of 79,502,524. Based upon last year’s attendance figures, a 10 percent decline would be 70,761,892 while a 20 percent decline would be 62,899,459.
It should be noted that even if MLB were to have seen interest as high as it was last year, there would still be a decline in attendance based upon the opening of new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field for the Mets. Both have lower seating capacities. New Yankee Stadium will have 51,800 compared to 57,545 in The House That Ruth Built, or a 10 percent decline, while Citi Field will see a significant drop from 57,333 in Shea Stadium to 45,000 in Citi Field or a decrease of 22 percent. Last season Yankee Stadium averaged 53,069, or 92.3 percent of capacity while Shea saw an average of 51,165 or 89.1 percent of capacity.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.
Subscribe to The Biz of Baseball