Indians attendance numbers hit new lows with lack of support
Could the box office be to blame for lack of attendance in a playoff race?
By Jim Berdysz
September 14, 2013
A crowd of 34,494 were on hand at Progressive Field to watch the Tribe battle the Kansas City Royals this past homestand.
There’s just one problem.
That was the total combined attendance for the entire three-game series.
But wait, isn’t this a Tribe Town? Nick Swisher said it himself numerous times for the last six months, both in the clubhouse and on commercials all around the state of “Brohio.”
Wake up Indians fans! It’s mid-September and your team is less than two games out of the wild card in the middle of a playoff push. Where are you? It’s time you stop sleeping in the past and notice there is meaningful baseball still being played at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
“We would like to be supported a little bit more if we could,” Tribe center fielder Michael Bourn said. “We’re at most two games out and trying for a second wild card. It’s been a long time since the team has been in the wild card here.”
Getting fans to the ballpark was never an issue or even a slight thought for this same organization in the mid-90s. The team had a new stadium, names like Thome, Ramirez, Vizquel and Alomar in the lineup and won five straight Central Division titles.
Fast forward some 15 years later and it’s become a hot topic, even for a team smack in the middle of a pennant race.
There’s the idea that centers on the whole rebuilding process which has left a general hatred of some toward the front office. Seriously though, are we still talking about something that happened more than four years ago?
Unlike previous years, the front office led by President Mark Shapiro and General Manager Chris Antonetti shocked all fans by spending in the free agent market this past offseason. The Indians in total spent a franchise record $117 million on free agents like Swisher, Bourn and Mark Reynolds, not to mention bringing in two-time World Series Champion Terry Francona to lead the team.
Still, there’s another notion that fans have watched this team collapse for two consecutive years and they’re simply waiting for the other shoe to fall.
While this idea is reasonable, the 2013 Indians have proved this to be entirely wrong. Yes, they have certainly had their ups and downs, but they are still here in mid-September.
“I don’t see no reason why they shouldn’t believe in us,” Bourn said. “It’s a totally different team, totally different atmosphere in the clubhouse. We fought till this point and I think we deserve it. I think we deserve it until that last day is over.”
Despite all the offseason spending and adding a new manager and new players, the team still ranks 28th out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball in total attendance. Through 74 home games, the Tribe has drawn 1,438,205 to the ballpark. That’s 60,000 less than it was at this point last season for a team that lost 94 games.
“We’re not asking for too much, we’re just asking for them to come out and support us, that’s it,” Bourn said. “We’ll try and give them a good show every time they come out. We’re still going to play no doubt about it, but we want that atmosphere rocking like they had in the 90s."
Long gone are the days of the record 455 sellout streak. As much as Swisher and the Indians want Cleveland to be a Tribe Town, it truly never will be.
The Browns have had a losing season 12 of the last 14 years since coming back in 1999, and they have no problem drawing fans year after year. Let’s be honest though, if Progressive Field hosted just eight games a year, the place would sellout all eight games too.
“We know the Browns play on Sundays, we’ll give them their time Sunday mornings and let them go to the game then and we understand that,” Bourn said. "All the other days, they’re at practice. Come on out and watch us play, that’s all we want and all we’re asking for.”
But Sundays or even weekday games in September shouldn’t stop fans from missing out on a team that could be destined for October.
“Everybody would love to play in front of a packed house,” Francona said. “My view of it is that we have a responsibility to play as well as we can, and hope that the people that come enjoy it and are proud of us. I think that’s the best we can do.”
The best the team has done has been competing for a spot in the playoffs all season long. For a team that finished 26 games below .500 in 2012, they have been as high as just five games below the mark which came back on April 28.
It’s easy to get caught up in consecutive second half collapses over the past two years, but for a club that lacks in overall star power, Francona and the Indians have certainly held their own for the entire regular season journey. The Tribe has spent 112 days in second place, having been within a few games of a wild card spot since August 1.
Whether you believe or not, the Tribe absolutely deserves the support of this city.
“Of course we notice it,” Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez said. “It’s definitely not the same when you have a big crowd that gets you going a little more. There’s nothing we can do. We’re in the playoff chase. We have to go out there and compete in front of whoever is there for us.”
Excuses aside, a defense could be made for fans as well. Where maybe the problem isn’t on the field, but rather at the box office itself.
This season the Indians adopted a new dynamic pricing system that allows fans to buy early and save online. Excluding the back half of the bleachers, the team also raised all ticket prices from one season ago.
Not the smartest idea for a team that hasn’t finished with a record above .500 since 2007.
Are you one of those fans looking to catch a ballgame on a whim one summer night? Well, you my friend are going to have to dig deeper in your pockets for a ticket, as prices increase if you buy on game day.
Remember when walkup crowds of upwards of 7,000-8,000 stormed the ballpark looking to catch a game on a Friday or Saturday night a couple years ago?
Not anymore, and the pricing increase for tickets on game days is solely the reason why.
How about buying tickets for a game against Central Division rival Detroit or Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees? Well, that will cost you more too, as those are marked as “premium games” at the ticket window.
On the weekend, going up to the box office and seeing the bleachers have sold out is like seeing a dead end sign flash before your eyes. With the left field bleachers filled, this means the next cheapest ticket to get into the stadium is now $24 in the upper deck.
And tell me why the upper reserve sections out in right field are closed? For fans looking to save money, the seats in this section should absolutely be open for purchase. Two years ago, that same seat in right field cost just $8.
Nothing beats the sights and sounds of being at a baseball game, but for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs for six years, the prices to take in a game have become costly.
Taking a family of four to the ballpark on a summer night could mean a couple trips to the ATM, as four tickets, parking and food could easily exceed $150. Date night at the ball yard has also become an expensive commodity, which could leave you stuck in the batter’s box without even reaching first base.
If there’s one thing that gets fans into the ballpark the most, it’s promotional nights.
Think about this, the Indians have had at least 25,000 fans in attendance for 13 games this season. All 13 games featured either fireworks or other promotional giveaways. It even goes beyond that into last year, where there were 20 games with at least 25,000 in the stands. And just like in 2013, all 20 games in 2012 featured a giveaway or promotional event on the schedule.
So what does this mean? The team needs even more promotional nights? Well it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The team may be averaging 19,435 fans per game, but Fox SportsTime Ohio TV ratings have gone through the roof up 34 percent from last season. That means you are watching, but just not making your presence known in the stands.
The bottom line is this, while the organization was wrong in bumping up prices, it still shouldn’t stop you from finding alternate ways to get inside Progressive Field.
Websites like StubHub, eBay, Craiglist, or even ticket scalpers all have affordable ticket prices that can let you beat the box office. Yes, some things have to change at the gate, but can you really put a price on a successful Cleveland sports team?
Whether they are lucky to play in October or not, this team deserves your attention and full support at the ballpark.
We live in a city where the word “playoffs” has seemed to vanished from our vocabulary over the years, even in a town that bleeds optimism always in hopes that next year is our year.
Opportunities around here only come around so often, so take advantage of it.
With 15 games left on the schedule, it’s make or break time both for the Indians and their fans. If the team can take over the final wild card spot on this seven-game road trip before returning home, I honestly believe we see this town really turn into a Tribe Town.
Then like James Earl Jones said in the classic baseball film Field of Dreams, “People will come."
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, I am not looking for $10 tickets, have my season tickets..
But most casual fans are not going to search ticket brokers online to find a $10 ticket.. So Dennis, indicating the fans should fill the place because the tickets are $10 is not accurate..
A) Not many tickets are $10.. (Just some from possibly questionable brokers)
B) Most fans are going to shop at indians.com or at the ticket window
Second I was not indicating the Indians should sell the tickets for $.50...
The point I wanted to make was that I feel the Tribe PR likes to the hype a low average price by including in the calculation tickets that they normally do not offer to sell..
I believe that on a standard weekday evening, the average ticket price of a ticket you can purchase at Indians.com is probably $30+
I basically think Steve is correct.. Want more tickets sold. Lower the price.. Or offer 2 for 1 specials etc..
But the dynamic pricing the Indians use appears designed to maximize return per seat sold, not fill seats.
I just counted tickets being sold for the game and I can find only 4583 tickets being listed as being available or already sold for under $20.
Therefore claims of an average ticket price of $19.49 is a bit of BS to me ..
And of the few tickets under $20 on Ticketmaster, only 611 of the cheapest seat, the bleacher tickets, are still available for $12 ( plus fees )
Only other tickets under $19.49 that are available are $16.25 for upper deck..
If nobody is buying.. your price is too high...
If the Front Office really wants to make fans look bad, they just need to list the 10,000 upper deck tickets they do not sell as $0.50, that way they can claim the fans are cheap and will not pay for an average ticket of $10.. the fact that average ticket does not exist does not matter..
If nobody is buying.. your price is too high...
Transportation is a problem, but by chartering buses and selling harder in Col's, an impact could be made.
This farm system is loaded with high-potential athletes.
Teams are losing due to a conscious decision to play younger players in tougher competition.
A losing team with four dynamic players and 20 non-prospects might lose most of the time to teams with 24 non-prospects who are better and older than ours.
The goal is to produce big-leaguers not winning farm teams.
When the teams starts to regularly make the playoffs, fans will return.
Blah blah blah.. it's this fault and that fault..
For those who haven't gone to a game, the remaining games are $ 10 a ticket.. Hope they sell out.. hope whoever buys the seats doesn't sit in my seat..
For what it's worth... STO & WTAM are THRILLED with the attention the Indians are getting..HUGE numbers.. and they continue to climb..so, people are watching..and, at the end of the day.. that really what matters..
btw..the media isn't and won't be who leads this team to prominence.. The PD/ABJ/News Herald.. are too busy scraping egg off their faces over the Browns utter collapse last week to put any focus on the Indians.. Tomorrow's game in Baltimore..should be more of the same.. 0-2
So the extraordinarily low attendance lately has mystified me. I don't get it. Yes almost all the games are on TV but that's the case all around MLB and it's been the case everywhere for years. Yes, times are rough but not as rough as in Detroit.
It has to somehow turn around but I'm at a loss to how to do that and I'm sure it's vexing the Indians front office no end.
I will say that I am pleased with the accomplishment of the team this year and if they could add a big bat this offseason that could put them over the top. I, and every other Indians fan fully expect that not to happen due to the limited budget and that is why fans choose to stay home.
I am like most clevelanders and only have a certain amount of money to spend on Indians games for the year.
So instead of going to twenty games a year and getting a seat for $10, I go to about ten games and get a seat for for $25.
I have no problem with prices going up but not 150% in one season.
Lets face it if a movie ticket went from $8 to $20 the following year, the theaters would be dark just as Progressive field stands are empty.
I think what the Dolans should have done is put a winner on the field first and let the fans fall in love with winning again before raising ticket prices at all.
I think the Dolans owe the fans that much for years of below average play on the field.
LOWER TICKET PRICES AND THEY WILL COME!!
The economics are there to support a club, look at the attendance in places like Detroit or St Louis.
The fans need a consistent club, this one looks like a good building block.
Really? What is your idea of a family outing? Window shopping at the mall?
What is the highest in attendance during the Dolans 12 years of ownership? 21st? 25th? It's only gotten worse from when they were ONE GAME away from making the World Series in '07. Nobody showed up then either.
There won't be a switch flipped if they win the wild card in the final home games.
They have taken losses at the gate for the entirety of their tenure and your logic says - they have to practically give away the product at the gate to 'woo' back a fan base?
Sorry Jim, but that makes zero sense.
The excuse for years has been if they put out a good product people will come. Now you extend that excuse because 2nd half collapses the past two seasons are keeping people away.
No. Baseball fans in Cleveland are content to watch on TV.
The team isn't doing anything wrong. Not pricing, not development, not investment, and now certainly not product.
Cleveland and the surrounding bergs no longer CHOOSE to support professional baseball. It is that simple.