If you've been to a Phillies home game so far this year or if you've watched one on television, you've probably noticed something that you haven't seen in a long time - big swaths of empty blue seats. For a franchise that set "sell out"records, led the NL in attendance from 2010 to 2012, led all of baseball for 2011 and 2012, and has had over 3 million people at games for the past 8 years running, CBP has felt empty recently.
All those blue seats contribute to how we experience baseball at CBP. On the one hand, the place feels a bit sadder. It reminds us of days long gone when the team was bad and the Vet was cavernous. The stadium is quieter. But, on the other hand, it's more comfortable not being packed in, lines to the bathroom and concessions are shorter, and parking is easier.
But what about the effect on the team? In particular, what do those empty seats mean to the team's bottom line?
It's obviously way too early to know, but we can do some basic calculations to make a guess here. Let's compare the team's first two home series from this year to the first two home series last year. This year, with some of the best weather Philadelphia has seen in months, the Phillies had 186,036 people attend the six games. Last year, we also had very nice weather for the first six games, but the Phillies packed in 50,000 more people, totaling 236,646 fans.
There are a lot of assumptions here, but based on this difference, the Phillies can expect to have a total attendance this year of 2,368,159 people. The simple explanation is that the first six games from this year saw a 21.4% drop-off in attendance from last year. Stretched across the entire season, that drop-off will mean 21.4% less attendance this year than last year's 3,012,403.
That's a loss of 644,244 fans in the seats this season. At an average ticket price of $37, the Phillies are going to lose just under $24 million this year if the current pattern continues. That's a lot of money. And it's before taking into account all the other things those 644,244 fans would spend their money on -- parking, concessions, and souvenirs.
Going back two years is even more worrisome. In 2012, the Phillies had 272,692 people attend the first six games and 3,565,718 attend the entire year. Comparing the first six games this year to 2012, the Phillies are 31.8% lower than that year, which works out to a loss of 1,133,113 fans over the entire year. Using the same $37 per ticket average price, the Phillies are set to make just under $42 million less this year than in 2012.
These are some stark numbers. The Phillies are stretched to the limit on payroll but are going to lose $24 million (and more!) this year because not as many fans want to see the product the organization is putting on the field.
With the Comcast money coming in, maybe this won't matter. But, no business likes to lose any money, let alone $24 million. And fans have to hope that attendance patterns change or that other money will make up for this loss as the team tries to get better into the future.