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Inside The Numbers: Final 2009 MLB Regular Season Attendance PDF Print E-mail
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Ticket & Attendance Watch
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 05 October 2009 12:28

MLB Attendance SeriesNOTE: With the AL Central tiebreaker game completed in Minnesota, data within the article has been updated to reflect the additional 54,088 for the Twins, as well as adustments to total and average attendance for the league. The extra record-setting sellout game for the Twins moved them from 15th to 14th overall in attendance this year.-- Maury Brown


With Major League Baseball feeling the full weight of the recession and decreasing seating capacity in two new ballparks, the 2009 regular season ended with 73,418,529 in total attendance a decline of 6.58 percent. In terms of average attendance, over the course of 2,420 games, MLB saw an average of 30,338 compared to an average of 32,543 over 2,415 games, a decline of 6.77 percent  The decline in attendance this year is the steepest since 1952, and yet, baseball will see the fifth highest attendance figure ever.

(See the tables and charts provided for MLB total and average attendance at the bottom. Select Read More to see details for each of the 30 clubs from this year to last)

Thirteen clubs drew above the league average of 30,328, compared to 17 below the average.

Twenty-two of the 30 clubs ended the season with their average attendance lower than their 2008 figures. Average attendance is calculated by taking the total attendance divided by actual games played, which can fluctuate from club to club depending on games that were not made up due to rain outs. In terms of total attendance – the total number of tickets sold, irrespective of the number of games played, 21 teams see decreases. The difference is based on the Rockies getting a full schedule of home games in 2009 compared to 80 games last season, thus seeing 2,665,080 in total attendance compared to 2,650,218 last season, an increase of .56 percent, while seeing a .68 percent decline in average attendance (32,902 for 2009 compared to 33,127 in 2008).

While Selig and Co. were fairly close in their projections of a 6 percent decline when the season began, considering the numbers are slightly better when noting that both the Yankees and Mets opened new ballparks with much lower seating capacities than their predecessors.

Last year saw the second highest attendance figure in MLB history, drawing 78,624,324, falling just 1.14 percent below 2007’s record of 79,502,524 in paid attendance. The Yankees opened their new $1.3 billion ballpark this year with a seating capacity of 52,325 compared to 57,545 at old Yankee Stadium, a decrease 5,220 seats. The Mets, who opened the new Citi Field this year, sees a seating of 42,000 compared to the gargantuan Shea Stadium that had a seating capacity of 57,333, a difference of 15,333. So, consider… If every game in both ballparks were to have been sold out, and the levels for the other 28 ballparks remained the same as last year, there still would have been a decline of just over 700,377 (4,238,325 for the Yankees, and 3,402,000 for the Mets), a decline of 1 percent. Based upon the seating capacity decreases, MLB seemed near certain to see a decline this year, even if the economy had not tanked.

MLB Attendance - DETAILS
Select the image to view attendance for
each of the 30 clubs (PDF)

In a sign that the Yankees and Mets may have priced themselves out of robust attendance figures in their respective stadiums, the Yankees saw their new ballpark filled to only 87.8 of capacity due to the smaller seating capacity, compared to 92.3 percent of capacity in the final year of The House That Ruth Built. This year only saw two sellouts, according to New Stadium Insider. The finally tally sees the Yankees with a total attendance of 3,719,358 (down 13.48 percent from 2008). In terms of percentage of capacity, it is the “lowest” since 2004 when old Yankee Stadium was filled to 83.1 percent of being completely full. The House That George Built saw an average attendance of 47,788 and total attendance of 3,775,292 in its inaugural season. It is also the first time since ’04 that the Yankees will have attendance below 4 million, being bumped from first to a second place in attendance ranking behind the Dodgers. The last time the Yankees ranked lower than first in total attendance was 2002 when the Mariners held the #1 position. The Mets, who many analysts felt may have sized themselves down in seating capacity too far due to demand, making each game a potential sellout, saw the season end with Citi Field being it filled to 92.7 percent of capacity, an amount tied to the economy but also a season that can only be described as highly disappointing (70-92, .432, 4th in the NL East). For 2009, the Mets drew 3,154,262 over 81 games, a decline of 21.96 percent from last year based on total attendance, or a decline of 23.89 percent, based on an average attendance of 38,942 compared to 51,165 in the last year at Shea Stadium.

All told, the two New York clubs account for nearly 30 percent of the total decline in attendance across the league.

The other major decliners include the Toronto Blue Jays (down 21.82 percent), Nationals (21.68 percent), and Padres (20.8 percent). There were also the Detroit Tigers who find themselves in a one game playoff against the Twins for the AL Central crown and a trip to the playoffs and yet found themselves with an average attendance decline nearly 20 percent (-19.84%). The reason is tied most directly to the local economy where the Big 3 automakers have seen the recession take a massive chunk out of the market’s disposable income.

But, not all decliners were tied most specifically the economy. The Nationals finished in the standings with a 59-103 record (.364), the worst record in the majors. The Nats drew 1,817,280 over 80 games, for an average of 22,716, a 21.68 decline over 2008, the first year in Nationals Park. It is the lowest attendance the Nationals have had since the Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. Another sobering stat is that Nationals Park was just barely filled half full over the course of the season. Based on paid attendance, not turnstile clicks at the gate that are normally lower, Nationals Park finished the year being filled to 54.2 percent of capacity. The Nationals front office brass didn’t seem to be making excuses on the declines.

"I think it's more dependent on won-loss record, but clearly the economics have a role to play," said Nationals president Stan Kasten to The Associated Press. "I'm a believer we get the attendance we deserve."

In terms of overall attendance slides over time, the Oakland Athletics have to be concerned. Not only do they see a decline of over 16 percent in total attendance (15.35 percent decline in average attendance), they have been dropping in attendance since 2004, seeing a fall of 43.68 percent when they drew 2,216,596 in 2003 to 1,392,192 ending this season. The A’s also have the dubious distinction of bumping the Marlins out of the “worst attendance” position where they had held it since 2006. The reason? Certainly their play on the field this year didn’t help (last in the AL West), but the protracted process of trying to find a new stadium has soured the waters in Oakland where the club has said it is unlikely that they will remain.

While there were few that had increases in attendance, there were some. With a newly renovated Kauffman Stadium, the Royals see the largest jump in attendance at 1,797,887 compared to 1,578,922 last season, an increase of 13.87 percent. The total attendance figure is the highest the Royals have had over the last 9 years of our study.

The other clubs to see attendance increases in the double-digits came by way of the Texas Rangers, who had an upbeat season on the field going 87-75 (.537), placing 2nd in the AL West. The Rangers had 2,156,016 in total attendance (27,641 avg.) an increase of 10.81 by total attendance and 13.66 percent by average attendance (the Rangers played 78 games at home compared to 80 last season). It was a glimmer of hope when considering that the increase still sees the attendance total down nearly 200,000 from the average attendance of 2,351,241 over the last 9 seasons. The other notable increase was by the Florida Marlins who flirted with a Wild Card berth (again) this year, while drawing 1,464,109, an increase of 9.66 by total attendance, and 12.48 percent by average attendance (18,770 over 78 games compared to 16,688 over 80 games last year). The increase coupled with Oakland’s decline means that the Marlins can now say they only have the 29th worst attendance in the league, as opposed to worst.

While there were 9 clubs that increased attendance, the news isn’t as good as it sounds. Of those that saw increases, three of them saw increases of less than 1 percent (Dodgers, Red Sox, Rockies).

While some may look at the figures and say that it’s a black eye for the league, Commissioner Selig sees the decline as a major achievement.

"Given that we are in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression," Selig said to USA Today, "it is stunning. This year is a great testament to the huge popularity of our sport."

Given than MLB had projection models that ranged from flat, to 10 percent, and 20 percent declines, the decline of just under 7 percent has to be seen as a victory for the league.

As a sidebar, the final games of the season (minus tiebreaker game of Tues.), shows that fans, for the most part, like to get their last taste of baseball before fall and winter set in; the last day of the season offers a boost for MLB attendance.  In both 2008 and 2009, the overall numbers were around 4,000 higher than the overall average. Three non-playoff teams drew significantly higher last day numbers:  Atlanta Braves (7,091 more) Tampa Bay Rays (5,621) and Seattle Mariners (5,223). Only one team’s fans sent a negative message, the Baltimore Orioles drew 5,645 less than average. The Oakland A’s, who had the lowest MLB attendance, finished last on the final day of the season drawing under 17,000.  The Minnesota Twins, fighting for a playoff spot, drew 51,155, second highest in the league and almost twice their season average. On the final day of 2008 and 2009, 60 percent of games outdrew the home team’s average for the season.  Despite the natural boost, the overall numbers followed suit with the drop in overall 2009 attendance, MLB drew around 15,000 less on the final day than the final day of 2008.

Will 2010 See a Change?

The chances that MLB will see attendance levels back to 2008’s levels in next year seem slim to none. The economy sees nothing more than a faint glimmer that this recession may be coming to an end, and clubs seem well aware of it. Many have already announced lower ticket prices, including the Mets and Yankees (see the Ticket / Attendance Watch section), baseball is preparing itself for 2010 while the ’09 postseason prepares to get underway. What will be interesting is to see how far league revenues dropped this year. The hope that revenues could be flat for the league seem a remote chance at this stage.

Other Points of Interest

  • With old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium now history, no team drew over 4 million in attendance this year, something done by the Yankees four times (2005-08), and once by the Mets (2008) over the last 9 years.
  • Two clubs drew over 100 percent of capacity in 2009: The Philles (102.2 percent) and the Red Sox (101.5 percent), compared to one last season (Red Sox at 104 percent)
  • Glass half empty: Three clubs ended their season with less than half their seats. Baltimore (48.9%), Toronto (45.9%), and Oakland (39.8%)
  • Down in a Hole: In 2001, the Indians ranked 4th in league attendance. This year, the club just missed having its lowest attendance in 9 years, posting 1,766,242 in total attendance, a decline of 18.6 percent from last year. Where do they rank now? 26th, compared to 22nd the past two seasons.
  • Nearly bullet proof? The Angels saw a 2.89 percent decline to 3,240,386 in attendance, but actually moved from 6th to 5th in the rankings. That should be seen as impressive given that in 2001, the club just barely pulled in 2 million in attendance and ranked 20th in the league.
  • Talk about symmetry... Average attendance for the season was down 6.8 percent. What was decline for interleague this year? 6.66 percent

 

MLB Total Attendance

Total Attendance 2001-09

YEAR

GAMES

TOTAL

% (+/-)

2001

2413

72,530,213

 

2002

2412

67,858,176

-6.44%

2003

2413

67,688,994

-0.25%

2004

2402

73,022,969

7.88%

2005

2419

74,925,821

2.61%

2006

2421

76,078,766

1.54%

2007

2425

79,503,175

4.50%

2008

2415

78,591,116

-1.15%

2009

2420

73,418,529

-6.58%

 

Average Attendance

Average Attendance 2001-09

YEAR

GAMES

TOTAL

% (+/-)

2001

2413

30,058

 

2002

2412

28,134

-6.40%

2003

2413

28,052

-0.29%

2004

2402

30,401

8.37%

2005

2419

30,974

1.88%

2006

2421

31,425

1.45%

2007

2425

32,785

4.33%

2008

2415

32,543

-0.74%

2009

2420

30,338

-6.77%

 

Select Read More to see attendance details for all 30 clubs during the 2009 MLB regular season

 

Attendance Increase or Decrease from 2008 to 2009 (Total, Avg. Pct. of Capacity)

2009

 

2008

RK

TEAM

GMS

TOTAL

% +/-

AVG

% +/-

PCT

% +/-


TOTAL

AVG

PCT

1

LA Dodgers

81

3,761,669

0.83%

46,440

0.83%

82.9

0.9%

 

3,730,553

46,056

82.2

2

NY Yankees

81

3,719,358

-13.48%

45,918

-13.47%

87.8

-4.9%

 

4,298,655

53,069

92.3

3

Philadelphia

81

3,600,693

5.20%

44,453

5.20%

102.2

5.3%

 

3,422,583

42,254

97.1

4

St. Louis

81

3,343,252

-2.55%

41,274

-2.55%

88.1

-2.5%

 

3,430,660

42,353

90.4

5

LA Angels

81

3,240,386

-2.89%

40,004

-2.89%

88.8

-2.8%

 

3,336,744

41,194

91.4

6

Chicago Cubs

80

3,168,859

-3.98%

39,610

-2.78%

96.3

-2.8%

 

3,300,200

40,743

99.1

7

NY Mets

81

3,154,262

-21.96%

38,941

-23.89%

92.7

4.0%

 

4,042,047

51,165

89.1

8

Boston

81

3,062,699

0.47%

37,811

0.48%

101.5

-2.4%

 

3,048,250

37,632

104

9

Milwaukee

81

3,037,451

-1.01%

37,499

-1.01%

88.4

-1.0%

 

3,068,458

37,882

89.3

10

San Francisco

81

2,861,113

-0.10%

35,322

-0.10%

85

-0.1%

 

2,863,837

35,356

85.1

11

Colorado

81

2,665,080

0.56%

32,902

-0.68%

65.2

-0.8%

 

2,650,218

33,127

65.7

12

Detroit

81

2,567,185

-19.84%

31,693

-19.84%

79

-19.9%

 

3,202,645

39,538

98.6

13

Houston

81

2,521,076

-9.29%

31,124

-10.41%

76

-10.4%

 

2,779,287

34,741

84.8

14

Minnesota

82

2,416,237

4.94%

29,466

3.66%

60.5

3.6%

 

2,302,431

28,425

58.4

15 Atlanta 81 2,373,631 -6.29% 29,304 -6.28% 58.5 -6.3% 2,532,834 31,269 62.4

16

Chicago White Sox

81

2,284,164

-8.67%

28,199

-8.67%

69.4

-8.7%

 

2,501,103

30,877

76

17

Texas

78

2,156,016

10.81%

27,641

13.66%

56.3

13.7%

 

1,945,677

24,320

49.5

18

Seattle

81

2,195,284

-5.77%

27,102

-5.77%

56.7

-5.8%

 

2,329,702

28,761

60.2

19

Arizona

81

2,129,183

-15.17%

26,286

-15.17%

53.6

-15.2%

 

2,509,924

30,986

63.2

20

San Diego

81

1,922,603

-20.80%

23,735

-20.80%

55.8

7.5%

 

2,427,535

29,969

51.9

21

Baltimore

81

1,907,163

-2.20%

23,545

-5.82%

48.9

-30.6%

 

1,950,075

25,000

70.5

22

Toronto

81

1,876,129

-21.82%

23,162

-21.82%

45.9

-21.7%

 

2,399,786

29,626

58.6

23

Tampa Bay

81

1,874,962

5.29%

23,147

3.99%

52.9

0.2%

 

1,780,791

22,259

52.8

24

Washington

80

1,817,280

-21.68%

22,716

-21.68%

54.2

-21.7%

 

2,320,400

29,005

69.2

25

Kansas City

80

1,797,887

13.87%

22,473

12.44%

58.9

20.2%

 

1,578,922

19,986

49

26

Cleveland

79

1,766,242

-18.60%

22,357

-17.57%

51.5

-17.6%

 

2,169,760

27,122

62.5

27

Cincinnati

81

1,747,920

-15.09%

21,579

-15.09%

51.3

-15.1%

 

2,058,632

25,415

60.4

28

Pittsburgh

81

1,577,853

-1.94%

19,479

-3.15%

50.8

-3.1%

 

1,609,076

20,113

52.4

29

Florida

78

1,464,109

9.66%

18,770

12.48%

51.7

12.6%

 

1,335,075

16,688

45.9

30

Oakland

81

1,408,783

-15.40%

17,392

-15.40%

39.8

-17.6%

 

1,665,256

20,558

48.3

 

Matthew Coller contributed to this article


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