Baseball suffers from an attendance problem, but it would be even worse without Dodgers fans. While the rest of baseball is mired in receding ticket sales, Dodger fans picked up the pace.
The Dodgers posted an average attendance boost of more than 2,000 per game compared to last season, according to statistics at Baseball-Reference. And in 2019 the team’s average attendance was 49,066, the best in baseball.
Despite increasing ticket prices, concession prices steadily climbing, and parking also becoming a substantial expense at Chavez Ravine, Dodger fans continue to come to the ballpark and root on the Boys in Blue.”
Final numbers for 2019 show the Dodgers with the best overall attendance as well at just shy of 4 million on the year (3,974,309). Contrast that with a New York Times report in September headlined, “Baseball saw a million more empty seats…” with a subhead that noted a “12-year slide in MLB attendance.”
“The 2019 season will be remembered as the year of the home run, when baseballs flew out of stadiums at a historic rate,” the Times reports. “But in front offices across the sport, it will also be remembered as yet another season when attendance continued to dwindle…”
Attracting fans to actually come out to the ballpark is getting tougher, and it’s not just about the wins and losses. Losing teams can expect for disinterested fans to stop showing up. Perhaps less obvious, teams on the far opposite end of the win-loss spectrum have their own obstacles.
Running away with the division also saps the uncertainty out of late-season games. A team 15-games-out or 15-games-ahead in the division doesn’t have much on the line in any particular nine innings.
This year the Dodgers won the West by 21 games, easily the biggest margin among all divisions in baseball. Add to that fact that the Dodgers have made the postseason every year since being left out in 2012.
If you think a record of success couldn’t lead to some apathy during the regular season just take a look at the Houston Astros. Despite also racking up 100 wins en route to this year’s World Series, the Astros actually saw a decline of 123,182 in overall attendance this year.
So what are the Dodgers doing all that differently to wind up with such a different result? For as much money as the team spends it isn’t just about inflating payroll. Going into the season the Red Sox, Cubs, and Yankees all spent more, according to a March 29th post at Bleachereport.com.
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Of those three teams, only Boston saw a modest increase from the previous year (29,052) and the other two teams saw actual declines in attendance. Besides the Dodgers, the other teams that showed an increase of more than 100,000 in total attendance were the Reds, Twins, Mets, Phillies, and Padres.
Big free-agent acquisitions (Phillies and Padres) and a division winner (Twins) seem to have boosted turnout for three of those teams. It may be that Dodgers fans are just increasingly hungry for another World Series title.
As robust as attendance was during the regular season there is evidence fans are looking more toward that ultimate prize. A review of postseason ticket sales prior to the division series showed that prices aren’t keeping up with inflation in LA.
In fact, “Dodgers LDS series tickets are down an average of $35 from 2015,” according to the results of a survey posted on Sportsnaut. That isn’t because Dodgers fans aren’t fired up after a year of record attendance.
The more likely reason is that having reached the division series for seven years in a row, the Dodgers faithful were keeping their playoff dollars on hand for the later rounds.
Coincidentally, 2015 was also the last time the Dodgers failed to advance past the division series. At this point Dodgers fans understandably expect their team to be playing later in the tournament. As the winning continues the expectations move accordingly higher.