Is Winning Enough Part II
Shortly after writing my previous post I was asked if certain teams, TB, Fla, Min and Oak have trouble drawing fans because of their stadium situation.
Is winning enough, is building a new stadium really going to draw fans? The beginning of the modern stadium building crazy started in 1989 with the SkyDome. Since then almost every team has built a new park. At the start of next year, there will be only the Dodgers, Angels, A’s, Twins, Red Sox, Royals, Cubs will have stadiums older than 20 years. Baseball has set attendance records in the last few years but what about the teams that have trouble drawing? What should they do? A rising tide does lift all ships but is the competitive attendance market changing?
Teams, have tried to coordinate winning teams with new stadiums this has seen huge attendance surges in Toronto, Baltimore, Cleveland, Seattle, and San Francisco. Other clubs have seen a little surge when a new stadium is built but the team does not improve and in some cases is terrible. My previous article showed what happens when a team simply turns it around, after years of losing they all of a sudden start winning. This will anwser the question that a new ballpark will actually show a bigger surge but a team will revert to their old drawing trends soon after. The following study will show how the Pirates have a huge surge in attendance when the team wins regarless if they play in Versailles or a garbage dump. It will show that even OPCY will lose its lustre at the Orioles have returned to cellar dwellars in attendance. Some large market teams have to deal with competition but most of these teams are small market but solid baseball markets. I could not expose a trend common to these teams. In Pittsburgh if they win, people will show up. In Baltimore you need a new park for people to show up. In Toronto you need both. In Cincnnati or Milwaukee or Chicago, it doesn’t matter, a little surge will be noted when a new park is built or the team starts winning but attendance is already steady in those markets.
The Cincinnati Reds, in a chronic small market have a comfortable fan base.
The Reds only drew 1 million four times to Crosley Field, their home upto 1970. In the last 30 years at Crosley the Reds were only in the top 3 in attendance once. They were commonly in the bottom two in attendance. When the Big Red Machine started rolling in the 1970’s the Reds were amongst the leaders in attendance. The Reds record is 2.7million in 1976. In the last 10 years, the Reds highest attendance season was at Riverfront Stadium. The Reds had a couple good season towards the end of Riverfront’s life but never reached the attendance marks of the 1970’s. At GABP the Reds have attracted a little more than in the lean years at Riverfront.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992.
Since the 1992 season they have not been higher than 11th in attendance. That was in 2001, the Pirates first season at PNC Park, when they set team record for drawing 2.4 million. They also lost 100 games that season. Pirates attendance has hovered around 20,000 at PNC. This team is terrible but the park is considered the best in baseball. Curious as to how many people would go if the Pirates ever return to contending. The previous trends is for attendance to almost double when the Pirates field a strong team.
1920 – 429000 – 4th place finish
1925 – 804000 – WS Champs
1955 – 455000 – 8th place finish
1960 – 1.7mil – WS Champs
1968 – 693000 – 6th place
1971 – 1.5mil – WS Champs
1985 – 735000 – last place
1990 – 2 million – div champs
So from these numbers, usually within five years of each other the Pirates have made big turn arounds but have also doubled their attendance figures. So, in this case PNC may win all the kudos for being a beautiful park Pirate fans will fill it when they win.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been one of the worst franchises in ML history.
In 1953 Milwaukee became the first city in almst 50 years to recieve a ML franchise. The team played in brand new County Stadium. There hadn’t been a new park since the 1920’s. In the first 6 years Milwaukee led the NL in attendance. The team was really good and had many hall of famers. When the team faltered the people stopped coming. The Braves drew just over a half-million in their final of 13 years in Milwaukee. The Altlanta Braves did not top the Milwaukee Braves 1957 attendance record until 1993. The Brewers topped the Braves mark in 1983, the only season they drew more than 2million at County Stadium. The Brewers drew at least 1 million to Country Stadium every year since 1975, which is good for a team that at times was very weak and other times competitive. They consistently outdrew the Braves who played in the larger Atlanta market. The Brewers moved to the NL and then into a retractable dome within a few years. Attendance went up and in 2001 Miller Park had almost 3 million visitors. Dispite mixed results in the last 4 years the Brew Crew has attracted 2 million, they had only attracted 2 million twice before. However, their ranking in the NL has not increased. It seems Milwaukee can predict how many people will come, no matter what the team does.
The San Francisco Giants played for years at Candlestick Park which was probably the worst stadium for weather in history.
The Giants had good teams for the first 10 years in San Fran and people came out to see the new club. In the lean years of the 1970s and 1980s the Gmen had to compete with the success of the A’s and found themselves in last place in attendance, playing infront of a nearly empty stadium considered the worst in the NL. The Giants were on the moving block several times during this time. The Giants finished in 1st or 2nd in the NL west for 7 straight years in which, also they moved from Candlestick to AT&T Park. The gimmicky ballpark, some success and Bonds’ home run efforts saw the Giants average 40,000 at the new park. I expect this to die down but there is no way they will reach the doldrums of Candlestick. This year expect to see the worst Giant team since the early 1980s and attendance has already decreased 25% since the Bonds era.
The Texas Rangers, much like the Brewers, have been consistenly average. Playing in a large, wealthy market the Rangers have drawn dispite unsavoury hot weather and average teams. Except their first two seasons, the Rangers have drawn 1 million. They had some terrible teams in the early 1980s. Since moving to the new ballpark, which is probably the lesser of all parks built since 1990, the Rangers have drawn 2 million. The teams have been tough to watch I am sure but usually finish middle of the pack in attendance. They typically were towards the bottom of the AL at Arlington Stadium. Rangers Ballpark is old enough now to say that it has had a positive impact on drawing people to a normal Rangers game.
When the Baltimore Orioles played in St.Louis they drew 550000 or more once. The handful of winning seasons the Browns had began to turn around in Baltimore. For 20 years from the mid 60s to the mid 80s the Orioles were one of the best teams in baseball and they found players that played the Oriole way. From ’66 to ’85 they had only one losing season. Had 8 playoff appearances and 3 WS championships. A major occurance took place in 1971 when the AL Washington Senators played their final game. The parks are located within 70km of each other. Oriole attendance actually went down after the Sens moved to Dallas. Attendance would hover around 1 million but would always be in the middle of the pack in the AL. When Camden Yards opened in 1992 the reception was incredible. The Orioles finised first or second in AL attendance for their first 9 years at OPCY. The O’s have not had a winning season since 1998. They had some residual attendance surge by simply having Cal Ripken Jr on the club when the team became walk overs. In the last couple years attendance as plummetted. Perhaps of the arrival of the Nationals or the precieved gross mismanagement has turned people away but Baltimore finished 11th in AL attendance last year. Their lowest since 1955. OPCY is now 15 years old and the attendance in Baltimore, a small city, has reverted comparativley to pre-1992 levels.
The Toronto Blue Jays had arguably the worst stadium for weather and serviceablity in modern history. In their inaguaral season the Jays were 4th in attendance. The team finished in last place their first 6 seasons and Exhibition Stadium was famous for its wind, fog, snow, seagulls and heat more than the Jays early players. between 1983 and 1994 the Jays increased attendance every year except 1986 and 1988. The Jays led the the AL in 1987 in attendance and then became the first team to draw 4 million in 1991. The success and continuity of the team in the 80s and 90s led to the surge but many fans have left the Jays. They average a little more than half of what they were during their WS years. Except for one year, between 1996 and now the Jays have won between 74 and 87 games. They have been buried in Yankees and Red Sox dynasty. They finished 3rd behind those teams 6 straight years and only had one losing season amongst those. If the Jays can turn the corner and be a yearly competitor rather than to Show every year and realistically be out of the playoff picture, the Jays will draw 3 million. There will be no return to the sell out every night. Everyone has seen the SkyDome. It is now 20 years old and its arrival was met with great Jays success. It is now, at times, viewed as a white elephant when other teams are building retro styled ballparks. Attendance has increased everyone of the last 6 years, this should continue as long as the Jays are somewhat competitive.
The Chicago White Sox and Cubs have always neutralised each others attendance. When the Cubs are good they draw more, the ChiSox draw more when they win. The stalwart fans of the teams are very different. The ChiSox have typically outrawn the Cubs. That changed in the mid 1990s when the Sox moved out of old Comiskey but were a better team and the Cubs traditional approach and dynamic stars led to sell outs. Throughout most of the post war period the ChiSox were amongst the league leaders in attendance. In the 1980s the team nearly moved several times. They instead, built a new stadium. The new stadium seemed to be out of date almost immediatley. It is the last of non-retro parks. Renovations have made it more “retro” but the Pale Hose are a middle-lower drawing team regardless of success. Since moving to the new park the Sox have only been in the top half of AL attendance 4 times, predictably, the first three years and the year following their WS championship.