Sunday, February 7, 2016

Why Phillies attendance numbers matter

The Phillies drew 513,147 fans for their first 14 home games in 2013. Their average decrease of 8,359 fans per game is second-most in baseball; only the gutted Marlins are worse.

Why Phillies attendance numbers matter

A young Phillies´ fan just can´t watch anymore.
A young Phillies' fan just can't watch anymore. Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer

On Thursday, 33,443 people paid to watch the Phillies lose again. It was the largest attendance at Citizens Bank Park in three days, and another discouraging sign for the organization.

The Phillies drew 513,147 fans for their first 14 home games in 2013. That is 117,031 fewer fans than in the first 14 games of 2012. Their average decrease of 8,359 fans per game is second-most in baseball; only the gutted Marlins are worse.

If the trend continues, it could have a serious effect on the team's finances.

An average decrease of 8,359 fans projected to 81 home dates is a total loss of 677,079. The team's average ticket price is $37, according to Team Marketing Report and Forbes. That could represent, on average, a $25 million loss in revenue. And that's just in ticket revenue alone. When fewer people are in the ballpark, less money is spent on concessions and merchandise.

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(Important note: Gate receipts used to be split between both participating teams but that is no longer the case, as of 2010.)

Again, all of those numbers are extrapolations. It is early. The weather was unseasonably cold. The Phillies should draw better later, especially when the temperature warms. But the baseline from 2012 is more than 43,000 fans on most nights. That may no longer be reality.

Even with the drop, the Phillies rank second in the National League in attendance so far.

Let's assume the Phillies do not average 8,359 fewer fans per game across an entire season. Maybe it's a 5,000 per game decline. That would offset them by 405,000 fans (and approximately $15 million in gate revenue) from 2012.

The franchise's largest year-to-year drop in attendance (not including strike-shortened seasons) was 584,788 from 2004 to 2005. That drop, of course, coincided with the first two years at Citizens Bank Park.

The smallest crowd the Phillies had all last season was 40,394 on Sept. 9, 2012. An astounding 12 of their first 14 home games in 2013 have registered smaller crowds than that figure. The team announced paid sellouts for 62 of their 81 home games (77 percent) in 2012. They have sold out one of their first 14 home games (seven percent) in 2013.

Sure, there may have been times in 2012 when the stadium was emptier than the announced number. But what matters here is paid attendance and that is the figure announced every game and kept for records. It is the figure used when calculating gate receipts.

More than once, Phillies president David Montgomery or general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have said something to the extent of, "Our fans and their support have allowed us to sustain this success." Translation: We've filled the ballpark to capacity for four years running and people will pay anything to enter.

Or, as Amaro recently told, "How many people are in the ballpark means a lot to us. Attendance is a larger factor of our revenue than for other clubs because of our marketplace."

Attendance affects the bottom line. A significant drop in revenue could affect how large the Phillies' payroll is come 2014. It could affect how they approach this winter's decisions on free agents Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young. It could spur a "youth movement" which would make for a cheaper roster.

It is most definitely something worth watching.

Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.

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