SBD/April 5, 2011/Franchises

Cubs See Smallest Crowd At Wrigley Since '02 For Monday's Win Over D'Backs

Cubs have exceeded the 3 million mark in attendance every season since '04
The Cubs drew an announced attendance of 26,292 for yesterday's game against the D'Backs, the "smallest crowd in nine years," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The announced figure was "about double the number of actual fans at Wrigley Field." It is the lowest attendance since 20,032 fans attended a Sept. 26, 2002, game against the Reds when the two teams were "playing out the string." The Cubs' fifth-place finish in the NL Central last season, "combined with the third-highest average ticket price in the majors, apparently has led to a wait-and-see attitude among fans." Attendance has "dropped in each of the last two seasons, and now the lure of Wrigley Field is no longer enough to convince fans to turn up no matter what the weather is like." The Cubs during the offseason debuted a 13-game partial-ticket plan, using "marquee series against the Yankees, Cardinals and White Sox to sell tickets to less popular matchups," including yesterday's game. But fans "didn't respond to the plan, and there were even empty seats Friday on Opening Day" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/5). Cubs P Kerry Wood said, "It's a little strange seeing empty seats, but it's our job to change that." Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano added of yesterday's crowd, "It was very surprising. But it is a Monday and cold weather, and people don't want to get out of the house. When it gets warmer, people will come." The team has exceeded the 3 million mark in attendance every season since '04 (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/5).

NOT WHAT WAS EXPECTED: In Chicago, Ed Sherman writes the attendance issue has to be a "stunning development" for the Cubs, and it "has to be a sobering moment for owner Tom Ricketts and his crew." The "backlash from fans after two terrible years, plus six straight playoff losses in 2007 and 2008, is intense," and rising ticket prices "don't help." Any attendance drop "will be felt" by Ricketts. With a "high payroll and heavy debts to finance the acquisition, he doesn't have much margin for error." The weather in Chicago yesterday at the start of the game was around 40 degrees with a light drizzle, but Sherman notes that "can't be an excuse." The smallest crowd at Wrigley Field last April was 36,660 (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 4/5). The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton said, “You’ve got to be a little nervous because there just isn't that much juice about the team to begin with. The expectations aren't that high, and a lot of the currency you have early in the season is people trying to fool themselves into believing in a team until proven otherwise. But apparently, no one has decided to even bother with that at this point." The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh said, “I don't think there's any doubt that this is a concern with the Ricketts family. Going into this season, ending last season, attendance was an issue that they knew they would have to address at some point some how." Haugh added of the product at Wrigley Field, "It was recession-proof. I don't know if it is anymore" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 4/4).
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