MLB attendance has declined 3% since 2012 and speculation exists that 2018 attendance figures will continue to drop, perhaps by as much as an additional 3%. Teams in full rebuild mode (see: Miami, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh), teams coming off disappointing 2017 seasons (see: Toronto, Washington), a waning honeymoon effect in Atlanta (attendance +24% last year, opened SunTrust Park) and an off-season that lacked significant free agency activity are among the reasons ticket sales are expected to decline for a 3rd straight season. Less than 73 million people attended 2017 MLB games, the first time the league has failed to hit that mark since the 2010 season.
Howie Long-Short: Declining attendance over the last 7 years likely has more to do with artificially inflated attendance figures between 2001-2010, propped up by the opening of new ballparks (i.e. honeymoon effect), than a lack of interest in the game. Between 2001-2010, 1/3 (10 teams) of the league opened new stadiums; since that time, just 2 teams have (Marlins in ’12 and Braves in ’17). If you build it, they will come…for a few years.
Fan Marino: Baltimore’s baseball team may struggle to sell tickets in 2018 (ranked 23/30 in ’17 attendance), but the O’s have a plan to develop their next generation of fans; a program entitled “Kids Cheer Free”. For the first time in MLB history, a team will allow children (under the age of 9) into the ballpark for free. Parents that purchase a regularly priced upper-deck ticket are entitled to 2 additional seats for their children. This is a well thought out promotion (runs through at least March 31 – April 29). Empty seats don’t generate revenue, kids don’t buy tickets and parents spend on their kids (food/merchandise) at the ballpark. Everyone’s a winner, except the team on the field; projected to finish with the 4th worst team in the league.
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