Indians' Attendance Troubles Coming To A Boil After Low Numbers In Recent Homestand
The Indians are currently just a 1/2 game back in the AL Wild Card race, but an average crowd of 13,518 fans for a nine-game homestand from Sept. 2-11 "might have marked the nadir of what has become a tired topic for the Indians' brass -- their struggle to get fans to buy in," according to Kevin Kleps of CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. The Indians' average attendance through last Friday was 19,435, ranking 28th in MLB. The reasons given for the "poor showings are many, but there seems to be a common theme among the Tribe's followers -- bitterness that goes back years." Common complaints from fans were "grudges from days gone by," including trading away Ps CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and ownership "not spending money." Indians President Mark Shapiro believes that the attendance issue is a "complicated one that isn't about grudges or trades," but rather about "market dynamics." Cleveland is the 30th-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., and only the Royals and Brewers "play in areas with smaller populations." Shapiro: "The largest driver of our attendance numbers are tied to our market size. The second factor is we need to get a greater number of season tickets or advanced purchases in a city where so few people live and work downtown." Kleps reports the Indians' attendance "seems to have taken a slight hit from the first full season of the team using a dynamic pricing model." The Indians' current average is 362 fewer per game than in '12, but Shapiro said the team has seen a "noticeable bump in ticket revenues" in '13 because of dynamic pricing. Shapiro noted the team's season-ticket base currently is in the mid-7,000s and said, "The issue continues to get back to season tickets and plans. ... Everything boils down to we need to get that (season-ticket) number up" (CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS, 9/16 issue).
CONCERNS ARE GROWING: In Cleveland, Brent Larkin wrote discussions of poor attendance at Indians games have been "largely confined to the sports pages and baseball-related chatter." But the concern "has now spread to government buildings, corporate boardrooms and downtown businesses." One government official said, “We should be worried. And if it continues next year, we should be extremely worried.” Larkin noted fans have complained "for years about the Dolan family’s spending habits." While that "changed this year," fans "haven’t bought in." Larkin: "If this is the new normal, then another crisis over the Indians future here is inevitable" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/15).