Carroll Rogers has noticed that attendance is up for the Braves and asks readers to suggest explanations.
The Braves have only played 12 games at home this season – entering a seven-game home stand that opens on Friday at Turner Field. But so far the returns in attendance are up.
The Braves’ average home attendance has increased by 20 percent from about this time last year, according to figures in a recent Wall Street Journal article. The Braves’ increase is second only to Minnesota for the biggest increase in Major League Baseball through games of May 8….
So what do you think it’s about? Is Jason Heyward having that big an impact? Or is it because this is manager Bobby Cox’s last season? Or is it because of good weather or that three-game series against the Cubs to open the season?
Readers seem to think Heyward and Cox are the big draws, but I think there are a few other factors involved. And after looking at the numbers, I think you can make the case that the numbers so far suggest that attendance might very well go down this year.
2009 2010 Gm# Date Opp Attendance Gm# Date Opp Attendance 4 Friday Apr 10 WSN 48,327 1 Monday Apr 5 CHC 53,081 5 Saturday Apr 11 WSN 34,325 2 Wednesday Apr 7 CHC 36,170 6 Sunday Apr 12 WSN 19,873 3 Thursday Apr 8 CHC 27,443 7 Tuesday Apr 14 FLA 16,293 10 Friday Apr 16 COL 27,692 8 Wednesday Apr 15FLA 19,204 11 Saturday Apr 17 COL 32,602 9 Thursday Apr 16 FLA 21,072 12 Sunday Apr 18 COL 26,546 19 Monday Apr 27 STL 16,739 13 Tuesday Apr 20 PHI 18,032 20 Tuesday Apr 28 STL 18,121 14 Wednesday Apr 21PHI 21,171 21 Wednesday Apr 29STL 19,127 15 Thursday Apr 22 PHI 22,476 22 Friday May 1 HOU 29,309 23 Friday Apr 30 HOU 30,082 23 Saturday May 2 HOU 28,203 24 Saturday May 1 HOU 27,035 24 Sunday May 3 HOU 27,921 25 Sunday May 2 HOU 25,665 25 Monday May 4 NYM 19,132 26 Tuesday May 5 NYM 21,049 Overall Mean 24,193 Overall Mean 29,000 Weekend Games 6 Weekend Games 6 Total 177,781 Total 169,622 Mean 29,630 Mean 28,270 Weekday Games 8 Weekday Games 6 Total 150,737 Total 178,373 Mean 18,842 Mean 29,729 Opening Total 102,525 Opening Total 116,694 Mean 34,175 Mean 38,898 Houston Total 85,433 Houston Total 82,782 Mean 28,478 Mean 27,594
There are a few things to note here. The first thing I notice is that there were more weekday (Monday-Thursday) games in 2009 than 2010, which normally generate lower attendance than weekend games. This is going to bring the average down. This disparity is exacerbated by the fact that the Braves opened the series against the Cubs on a weekday. The opening series, especially the first game, traditionally brings a huge crowd. And when the Cubs come to Turner Field, it might as well be a home game for the Cubs. This year, the Braves actually outdrew last year’s opening series by 14%, even though the 2009 home opener was held over the weekend. That goes to show what hosting the Cubs versus the Nationals will do for you.
I think a good barometer for how attendance will change this year is the comparison between the 2009 and 2010 Houston series, because both were held over a weekend at about the same time in the season. This year the Braves drew 884 fewer fans per game to the Houston series than last year. If Cox and Heyward were a part of the 20% boost, it should show up here.
Having Heyward and Cox on board certainly don’t hurt—they may be preventing attendance from shrinking—but I don’t think that they have much to do with the rise in average attendance so far. This does not mean that attendance will not be up later in the season. If the Braves start winning as the season progresses, I expect that attendance will rise. Despite the team’s early woes, I think think the roster is built to win, which will ultimately put fans in the seats.
Edit: I initially attributed the AJC blog post to David O’Brien. My apologies to Ms. Rogers, who also does an excellent job covering the Braves.