(from USA Today, September 18,2013)
MLB teams have been noticing more and more empty seats in their ballparks. The Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, and Cleveland Indians have been surprised with the lack of turnout to their regular season games considering how well they have been playing. The Rays are tied with the Texas Rangers for the American League wild-card, and only 10,786 fans showed up to watch them play. Despite the fact it was an important game, fans didn’t seem to make it there to watch them.
The Athletics have clinched their second AL West title and cannot get people to their games either. Even though fans are buying Division Series tickets and their opening night game sold out in ten minutes, no one is coming to the other 81 games in the regular season. They have tried various promotional nights, like the two dollar ticket night on Wednesdays, which helped boost sales some, yet the A’s have never drawn three million fans.
Things are looking the same way for the Cleveland Indians. They are ranked 28th in attendance for MLB games despite being tied with the Rays for the AL wild-card. Their three game sweep of the Chicago White Sox that moved them closer to the post season produced a mere $20,000 in ticket sales.
With all three of these teams, there is nothing wrong with their ballpark or lack of fans. TV and radio ratings for games have gone up 35%, so people are clearly interested; they just aren’t paying the price for the ticket. What these cities need is a new economy. Cleveland, for example, has led the nation in multiple quarters of unemployment growth. The residents have moved away from downtown, where the stadium is, to the suburbs. With lower income, it’s more difficult to get fans to spend their money on baseball tickets.
As for Oakland and Tampa Bay, they realize they are going to have to move if they are ever going to bring their attendance records up from the bottom two. All three teams have a shot at winning the World Series; the fans just aren’t willing to spend the money to see them live unless they actually make it there.