MLB attendance, or lack thereof

The Associated Press recently did a story on the lack of attendance in Major League Baseball parks.

Cody Thorn

Cody Thorn

This year will be the fourth year in a row that MLB has seen a drop in customers coming through the gate. The counter argument is that TV ratings are higher than ever.

I have the MLB.tv package and I can watch almost every game every night, with the exception of the Royals due to that archaic blackout law. On a side note, the state of Iowa is the worst when it comes to blackout laws because you can watch like three or four games tops due to the restrictions.

Back to the point though — not enough people are coming through the gates. There are hundreds of games I have seen this year where the cameras pan on a pitcher getting set to throw and there are vast amounts of empty seats. Those fancy seats behind home plate, no matter what city, usually have about a dozen empty seats most times.

A few weeks ago, six Triple-A teams drew larger crowds than the Miami Marlins. That same night, MLB’s Florida teams drew a combined 12,653.

Overall, the Marlins have a lower average attendance than the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators.

Baltimore, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Tampa Bay have set stadium records for the lowest attendance in a game. Kansas City drew a little more than 10,000 early in the season, the lowest since 2011.

San Francisco earlier this year had its lowest attendance since 2010.

When the Royals played in Baltimore last week the three-day series drew a little more than 30,000 and had 9,000 in attendance in the finale.

The Royals’ attendance has fluctuated but in the summer it went up with kids out of school or perhaps by who was playing at the K. For the first three months of the season the two highest attendance ‘home’ games for the Royals were the home opener and then the game in Omaha, which drew 25,454.

There have been only six times the Royals drew more than that total since that mid-June game held prior to the College World Series.

Those are all numbers. There isn’t a real concrete answer as to why the numbers are dropping in Kansas City and across MLB.

Maybe the fact that almost every MLB team has its own TV contract, it is easier to just sit on your couch and watch it than pay almost a $100 for four tickets then another $50 on food and another $20 or so on parking.

The Detroit Free Press did a story a few months ago when the beat writer for the Tigers took the day off and went to the game as a fan and wrote about his experience.

“Instead of bemoaning the shrinking crowds, perhaps we should marvel that there are still thousands and thousands of people willing to pay a premium price and endure all sorts of inconveniences to come to games,” Evan Woodbery wrote.

He noted that his $20 ticket from the team’s website turned out to be $27.05 after a ticket fee and order fee.

Baseball, like many sports, is driving some fans away from that aspect. Technology should make it easier but it makes it frustrating when it costs extra to get a ticket you can download to your phone.

Another thing a lot of teams are doing, the Royals included, is dynamic prices. You will pay a lot more for teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals than you will for say the Tigers or Twins, who visit multiple times a year.

Woodbery’s ticket he bought was higher since it was a weekend series. I know teams are there to make a profit ultimately but maybe cut fees for a weekend since that is generally when most people can go. Just an idea.

I recently had a talk with my friend, Rick, who lives in Dallas. He helps build websites for newspapers and travels across the country.

He has been to all but three MLB stadiums. He noted the teams that do well are the ones that are a ‘destination.’

Last year the Chicago Tribune did a ranking of all 30 MLB ballparks and the neighborhood and Kauffman Stadium came in at No. 28. The newspaper rated parking near the stadium, commercial and residential developments and the park itself.

The Royals’ stadium came in No. 28 out of 30.

After being to a third of the MLB parks it is probably true. I don’t have much experience on the places on the east or west coast, but it might seem fair. Kauffman is one of the oldest parks in MLB, but after revamping it almost a decade ago, it looks better.

However, it isn’t a destination by any means. My buddy said it is a lot different going to places where the stadium is downtown. There is just more to do there in addition to seeing the game. In places like Minnesota, Colorado, Texas, the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh you have more than a dozen different places to eat within walking distance of the stadium. At the K, you have Taco Bell and Burger King.

KC isn’t alone. Milwaukee is in the middle of nowhere so you tailgate or eat inside. Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago has little nearby to offer outside of a few hot dog carts.

Perhaps it is a convenience issue or perhaps the rising costs across the board are keeping people away. It will be interesting to see if MLB, like the other main sports, finds a way to turn the dwindling numbers down.