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   1. Walt Davis Posted: February 02, 2007 at 09:08 PM (#2290915)
A 3.4% attendance drop while losing 96 games is not exactly something to be concerned about. If there's a substantial impact on this year's season tickets and pre-sales, then they've got something to worry about.

Yes, attendance is up around baseball but not so much for the Cubs -- but that's because the Cubs were already at capacity. What you really want to compare (which we probably don't have the data for) is ticket revenue. Teams with spare capacity increase revenue mainly by bringing in more people. Teams without spare capacity raise their ticket prices. According to this, the Cubs had the second highest ticket prices last year and a 7.2% increase (slightly above league average). In 2005, they were still #2 and had a 12.5% increase, roughly double the league average. The year before that? #2 with a 17.5% increase, about 4.5 times the league average. So while attendance has been stable or maybe even declining as % of capacity, ticket prices were up about 40% since 2003 compared to about 15-16% for the league average.
   2. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 03, 2007 at 01:44 AM (#2291050)
I don't agree. Again, it was probably something other than a 3.4% attendance drop. The no-shows aren't a problem if people go back next year and buy pre-sales again the next year, and this year I'm sure they will, but I don't think it's a sustainable system. Maybe they can keep lighting a fire under fans after every losing season, but I don't think so. Not when there's a better show in town.

The capacity argument doesn't fly for me either, in fact, it amplifies any attendance problems. When the Cubs were at 97-98% attendance, which is probably about as close to 100% you can get when you play so many day games, they probably could have hit 3.5 million in attendance if they had the capacity for it. Interest probably had to wane quite a bit to drive it down to 93%.

As for ticket prices, I'm sure it was a factor, but it is a factor of the Cubs's choosing and a force they have to work against.

I mean, as I said in my post, you're right: the Cubs weren't damaged directly by the attendance drop in 2006. But there is reason to think that they have started on a slippery slope. The Cubs are unlikely to see <2.5 million in attendance, but a lack of interest will hurt tv ratings. Maybe they don't have that much to worry about, but I think the Cubs brass thinks they have something to worry about.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: February 03, 2007 at 08:55 AM (#2291221)
You seem to completely miss the point.

The Trib (or any owner) doesn't care about butts in seats, they care about dollars in pockets. The Cubs' attendance declined a few percentage points while ticket prices rose 40% since 2003. That's more money -- and I'm pretty sure it doesn't include the scalping and the rooftops.

The point about capacity is that you compare the Cubs to MLB attendance which has risen while the Cubs' has fallen a bit. But the Cubs attendance couldn't have risen (other than the 1800 seats) because they were already at capacity, so comparing them to a league-wide attendance increase is utterly meaningless.

(And of course, as I pointed out in the previous thread, in terms of official attendance (i.e. basically tickets sold), the 2006 Cubs did better than the 2005 and 2003 teams and only a little worse than the 2004 team).

What can teams at capacity do to increase ticket revenues? They can increase ticket prices which the Cubs did at about 2.5 times the league rate. Even the Red Sox haven't come close to that the last 3 seasons ... and they won a WS. I'm not claiming the ticket hikes decreased demand ... I'm pointing out that the ticket hikes led to a LARGE increase in ticket revenue which is the important factor here, not attendance.

I bet if you looked at changes in ticket revenue and compared the Cubs to the league, you'd find the Cubs' ticket revenue increased as much and probably more than the league average.

Can the Cubs run losing teams out there forever? Well, nobody has claimed such a thing. But of course the Cubs have been running losing teams out there quite regularly for 35+ years and are one of MLB's most valued franchises. Besides, the argument is that the Trib spends enough to build "decent" teams, resigns the stars the Cubs already have, etc. just to be a larger-market version of the Pirates' drive for 75. Nobody's suggesting the Trib has been the equivalent of the D-Rays or the non-WS Marlin years.

Just how long do you think the Sox string of winning is gonna last? And the Sox won the series in 2005, had a fan-friendly offseason (resigning Konerko, picking up Thome) and they still couldn't draw as many fans as the Cubs. And that was with tickets $8 less than the Cubs and only a 2.5% ticket increase from 2005.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: February 03, 2007 at 09:01 AM (#2291222)
Just for giggles, I signed up for the Cubs season ticket waiting list. I'm number 33,000 and something. Demand seems reasonably healthy.
   5. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 03, 2007 at 03:11 PM (#2291259)
At the risk of stating the obvious, the real question isn't the attendance because the ticket money is paid for either way. The Cubs probably aren't all that concerned about the modest drop in ticket sales.

What they are concerned about, however, is the fact that fewer fans in the ballpark impacts concessions, etc. The real numbers to which they are paying attention are sales of beer, hot dogs, caps, and the like -- those are the items that took a huge hit last season and represent a real cause for the Cubs concern.
   6. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 03, 2007 at 06:15 PM (#2291314)
Well Walt, either I am completely missing the point, or I have been very unclear in making mine. Let me distill it into two points:

1. The Cubs did actually show a decline in attendance from what I would call maximum capacity levels.

2. I believe, and I think the Cubs brass agrees with me, that there has been an accelerating decay in fan interest over the last couple of years, which is bound to result in a major decline in revenue if allowed to continue. I think the slight lag in official attendance is a significant sign of that.

I'm NOT saying that the Cubs have suffered revenue-wise at all up to this point, nor do I expect them to suffer this season (again, I think what they did this off-season will keep that from happening, at least in terms of pre-season sales). But they only have so many tricks they can pull.

The point about capacity is that you compare the Cubs to MLB attendance which has risen while the Cubs' has fallen a bit. But the Cubs attendance couldn't have risen (other than the 1800 seats) because they were already at capacity, so comparing them to a league-wide attendance increase is utterly meaningless.

I don't believe I made a comparison. I said that the decline occurred in the context of a league-wide increase in attendance. The point is that you can't explain the Cubs' decline in attendance as reflecting a league-wide lapse.

I bet if you looked at changes in ticket revenue and compared the Cubs to the league, you'd find the Cubs' ticket revenue increased as much and probably more than the league average.

I'm sure it did, but IIRC the Cubs' ticket prices were pretty cheap before the recent run of increases. Since 2003 they've been selling pretty much every ticket possible, and so it made sense for them to boost prices to match those of, say, the Red Sox.

Just how long do you think the Sox string of winning is gonna last? And the Sox won the series in 2005, had a fan-friendly offseason (resigning Konerko, picking up Thome) and they still couldn't draw as many fans as the Cubs. And that was with tickets $8 less than the Cubs and only a 2.5% ticket increase from 2005.

I'd say that if the White Sox win and the Cubs lose, and if they are clever about marketing, they could pass the Cubs up this season.

When the Cubs have been bad in recent years, they have had a couple of major things going for them: 1) Wrigley Field and 2) some interesting star players having jaw-dropping seasons. The latter was something of a problem in 2006 for the first time, really, since Sammy Sosa hit 66 home runs.

I've never been to New Comiskey but know that it has undergone a series of renovations and changes over the last few years. It will never be on the North Side in a neighborhood like Wrigley, but I have to wonder how many families with kids are going to choose a trip to see the better team in a place that has all of the peripherals you find in a new ballpark. Going out ten years, I would predict that the Cubs will win more, draw more, and make more money than the White Sox, but I assume that there will be a major change in how things are done in that time, including a change in ownership. If the status quo were maintained, no way.

But I do think that 2006 made the Cubs brass nervous. Sure, they are still doing fine, but it doesn't matter how much money your business is making, a decline in profits is seen as a negative. They have to stay the hottest ticket in town. I doubt they've seen a decline, and don't think they necessarily will, but I think they're concerned.
   7. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 03, 2007 at 06:21 PM (#2291321)
What they are concerned about, however, is the fact that fewer fans in the ballpark impacts concessions, etc. The real numbers to which they are paying attention are sales of beer, hot dogs, caps, and the like -- those are the items that took a huge hit last season and represent a real cause for the Cubs concern.

My guess is that tv ratings trump everything.
   8. The New No. 2 Posted: February 03, 2007 at 09:16 PM (#2291389)
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that the Sox attendance last season was somewhat artificially bolstered from their playoff run. They sold sets of 2005 playoff tickets to people who were willing to sign up on the spot for 2006 season tickets. It remains to be seen whether or not those fans re up for this season.

As for the Cubs, they are certainly acting like they are concerned about revenue slipping. Is there a cause for concern? Who really knows. I would be willing to bet that they have enjoyed the huge revenues they have witnessed the last few years and realize that this was due in large part to the high expectations set in 2003. As those expectations lapse from a fans perspective there is certainly a significant chance that the sellout crowds would diminish, the tv audiences would fade away, and revenues could plummet. The attendance numbers are really only a very crude approximation for this type of analysis.
   9. The First Pitch Express Posted: February 03, 2007 at 09:52 PM (#2291400)
No offense everyone, but this is such a non-issue I can't even believe a thread was started on it. Sure, the Cubs were playing to smaller crowds in September, but they still drew 3.1 million fans, a figure which any team not called the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers would absolutely kill for.

Also, as Andere said, the real issue is the TV ratings. That's where the big money is.
   10. Bunny Vincennes Posted: February 03, 2007 at 09:55 PM (#2291401)
My guess is that tv ratings trump everything.

Apparently, they favor the 30 flavors of Moesha, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Cubs.
   11. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 04, 2007 at 03:39 PM (#2291702)
What they are concerned about, however, is the fact that fewer fans in the ballpark impacts concessions, etc. The real numbers to which they are paying attention are sales of beer, hot dogs, caps, and the like -- those are the items that took a huge hit last season and represent a real cause for the Cubs concern.

--My guess is that tv ratings trump everything.


Point well taken. Still, my greater point is that I don't think the Cubs brass is (or should be) nearly as concerned about losing ticket sales as they are about the loss of things associated with butts in seats (i.e., beer sales, etc.) and more importantly, lower TV ratings. While significant, losing the sale of 150,000 tickets is a drop in the bucket compared to this.
   12. Jessex Posted: February 04, 2007 at 08:56 PM (#2291800)
I think some of this is from the Cubs leaving some game-day sale tickets available for the new bleachers. Those tickets, likely to have been sold in pre-sale, were left unsold when the Cubs were teh suxor. I'm also unsure if the new seats have some sort of adjustment period. Have there been any other stadium expansions to compare this to?
Also, is there an effect that the years and years of sold out tickets have in wearing down fans from even trying for tickets? To me, I think the difference is that the people that jumped the bandwagon in and after the 2003 playoff run are jumping off.
   13. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: February 05, 2007 at 03:36 PM (#2292058)
There's an article on Rich Hill in the Boston Globe:

http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/articles/2007/02/04/hill_climber_in_chicago/?page=1

For while the Cubs spent zillions this offseason, some in their organization are far more excited about Hill than Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, or any of their other acquisitions.

Could this be a sign that our fears of management sending him back to AAA (if the veteran starters are all healthy) are unfounded? I certainly hope so.

Feel free to post the article as a separate topic if you think it's warranted. Hill discusses his early struggles last year, learning from Greg Maddux, the progress of his changeup, and altering his approach to be successful in the Majors.
   14. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 05, 2007 at 03:49 PM (#2292078)
I'll post the link in the newsblog, DLGM. Thanks.
   15. nagurski Posted: February 07, 2007 at 03:49 AM (#2293272)
As we creep up on ONE HUNDRED YEARS of futility, I've been reflecting on the whole curse mythology. It suddenly hit me that it's not the team that is cursed, it's us fans. Players and managers move on, have careers with other teams,do other things, but we are stuck with this miserable franchise from the time we are born with it, like a genetic disease until they lower us into the dirt (cue Steve Goodman's 'A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request'). Do you think Dusty Baker's losing any sleep over his failure to bring a championship to the north side of Chicago? How did someone who pitched to Troy Glaus with a base open and a lead late in a pennant clinching game get another job anyway? Only the Cubs could extend a career like that. Now that the ballpark has become a Disney-like 'baseball experience' filled with ignorant polo shirt wearing scum, what does the ballclub offer us? Fervent protestations of their determination (once again) to build a 'winner'? How many swings does Hendry get? Three strikes and you're out, chump. It seems to me they have no idea what it takes to win and are buying guys with name recognition, as someone above alluded to, to pull fans. A couple of my favorite Cubs of all time, Grace and Maddux, got to the World series, but for us Cub fans, it's just more of the same, year after promising year as the ivy slowly gets green, flourishes and then turns brown in a silent tomb. We get a lousy return on the tens of thousands we pour into this dysfunctional family in ticket prices, hats, shirts, pennants, Old Style, food and the rest. How about we get a parade permit for October 2008, spray paint our Cubs gear black, and circle the dismal confines of Wrigley Field for an hour. Maybe we could convince Tom Waits to be grand marshal to set the proper funereal tone. How long until pitchers and catchers report? This could be our year! Go Cubs! Suckeeerrrrsssss.
   16. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 13, 2007 at 07:27 PM (#2296964)
I believe in sports karma, so that the disappointment of rooting for the Cubs is made up by the performances of other teams I root for. Just in the past six years, karmic payback has resulted in three Super Bowls for my Patriots. The year the Cubs win it all, I know all my other teams will tank for decades to come.
   17. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: February 13, 2007 at 07:33 PM (#2296969)
Just in the past six years, karmic payback has resulted in three Super Bowls for my Patriots. The year the Cubs win it all, I know all my other teams will tank for decades to come.

Your teams include the Cubs AND Patriots? How? What are your other teams?

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