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17 September 2006

A's won't hit 2 million but will make more money?

The final totals aren't in yet, but with one week left in the A's home schedule, the A's have pulled in slightly less than 1.8 million fans. According to Attendance Watch (sidebar on the right), the team has averaged 24,251 per game over 74 dates. The projected total for the full 81-game season is 1,964,352. That makes them over one game's attendance short of 2 million.

That may sound disappointing, but based on comments by Lew Wolff and Michael Crowley, they're satisfied with the turnout. I've noticed that many critics of the third deck closure have claimed the strategy would fail, but they didn't exactly say what failure meant. If it meant that the A's wouldn't boost attendance, there's no news there because at no point did the front office indicate that total attendance would rise. Instead, they pointed to increases in season ticket and advance sales, which appears to have happened. All of this came at a price - the reduction in walk-up makes the A's far less accessible for younger or less wealthy fans. As I posited at the beginning of the season, sections 315-319 were perhaps too good for their price. By eliminating those sections, $10 seats (other than the regular bleachers) are what they are in most other MLB stadia: cheap seats with compromised views.

Even with the dropoff, ticket prices were raised 25%. Ticket prices have risen steadily since the start of the A's recent run of success. The A's average ticket price is now in line with the league average.

So really it's a matter of matching or surpassing revenue targets by not dropping attendance 25%. No team readily releases its finances to the public, so the following chart is just a guess. It's the product of the past two charts' data while factoring in a 15% discount. That should cover the inherent discounts in season ticket packages, promotional discounts such as BART Double Play Wednesdays, and other changes. It does not take into account revenue from suites or special premium seats like the Diamond Level.

If my assumptions are correct, that's a 17% increase over 2005, and over double (121%) the revenue of the year 2000. Talk about beating the recession. At the same time, payroll is up 12% over 2005 and almost double (94%) over 2000, so it's not as if it's all going to the owners. With the incentives that Frank Thomas will earn this season, the numbers will line up much more evenly (payroll up 17% over 2005 and slightly over double 2000's payroll).

What can we glean from this? All we can say at this point is that the A's are able to pay the bills and make some money for themselves, assuming that revenue sharing receipts are similar to what the A's have received over the past two CBA's. Looking at the trend from 2001 through 2005, the A's would've been hard pressed to fund the payroll by continuing with the previous pricing scheme. But what would've happened had they kept the third deck open and simply raised ticket prices 9% (the trend) across the board? Unless they had an enormous (20% or more) spike in attendance, they would've been short. Sure, they could've had other revenue coming from other sources such as the MLB national media deals, but come on - these people aren't in business to lose money, at least not on a regular basis. If you're looking for a nefarious scheme to swindle fans, it's not here. It's my sincere hope that in the new venue there will be creative methods of getting affordable tickets for the small, but vocal group of disenfranchised fans affected by the third deck closure. I've come up with a couple of ideas on this blog, and I think I've got a few more up my sleeve.

BTW, the A's have an outside chance of surpassing the 2 million mark. However, they'd have to average 30,000 per game for the rest of the homestand to do it. Considering the next four games will be against an out-of-contention, Travis Hafner-less Cleveland Indians squad, I can't see it happening.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, but come on, you KNOW the oakland-or bust anti-Wolff crowd will find SOME way of spinning this in their favor.

I heard there will be an entire section on A's ownership/ballpark conspiracy theories in the next version of "Loose Change."

Georob said...

I still can't see why the A's don't open the third deck any time a game is sold out 72 hours ahead of time. Or even do what they did before Mt Davis was built and sell bleacher seats only on the day of the game. (I remember them doing that in the 70's, so I'm guessing that lasted until the renovation)

Sure, you risk people "holding back", but if enough do that then they don't get to buy at all. Frankly, given the price of even bleacher seats for a family of four; I want to make that purchase at least a day or two in advance. And for anything pricier, definitely a week or more.

The era of "walk-up" ticket buying is coming to an end. However, it would still be a nice gesture to the financially impacted fans to either bring back the old bleacher policy, or institute a 72-hour rule for the third deck.

It would seem to me that 90% of the fan base Wolff needs to attract are advance buyers who won't be affected by this.

Anonymous said...

Doing that, Georob, would negate the entire point of closing the deck in the first place. The purpose is to limit walk up sales and get more advance ticket sales.

So why would you reopen the 3rd Deck the day of the game, when all that will do is have the walk ups go back to what they were?

Besides, its a pain in the ass to remove and put the tarps back on.

Georob said...

Okay, so let's open the discussion to an idea that Rhamesis has touched on. JUST HOW do you accomodate so-called "working class" fans that cannot or don't want to pay the average price for a ticket at a MLB game? While at the same time not impacting revenues for those that can and do pay full price?

I have an idea, and it goes back to the OLD bleacher setup before Mt. Davis. You have bench seats, reduced concession offerings, the inability to move elsewhere in the stadium, perhaps even port-a-potties(kind of drastic, but no one complains at fairs and such when you have them). Then you charge only a buck or two and only utilize them for big games where you have a sellout or close to it.

Your typical season ticket holder(partial or otherwise) probably won't go for this setup, particularly with portapotties. Neither will thousands of other ticket-buyers who would then go ahead and buy regular priced tix in the main part of the stadium. But it DOES give the opportunity for fans that couldn't afford to go to games otherwise or fans that couldn't obtain regular tickets, still want to go, and don't mind the "ambience" of the bleachers.

And since they'd be bleachers in the back of the stadium, you could easily hide them or roll them away so that you wouldn't see a bunch of empty seats for other games.

Sure, there'd be those that would gripe about the "separating fans by race, class, and God knows what else". But again, those fans would have an opportunity to go to games that they normally would not have(or could still buy expensive tix if they wanted). And as I said, most other fans wouldn't even consider trading down to sit there.

I think the reaction would be generally positive, and I think Lew Wolff should consider such a thing for the new stadium. After all, it'd be just a 21st century variation on the old "knothole" concept.

Marine Layer said...

I've already put out the idea of portable or collapsible seating in the outfield, perhaps behind the bleachers in the new stadium. It would hold anywhere from 1000 to 5000 fans. If done right, it could also serve as flexible platform area that serves as a party deck. I am certain that this type of thing is already being considered.

Closing off sections of the stadium, as was done in the 80's, is not doable. The current trend is to increase circulation in the park so that fans that are in the cheap seats can move to areas where they have access to more upscale food and other offerings than they would in the bleachers. Even Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field, which have historically had closed off seating areas or concourses, are moving in this direction.

Going back to the portable cheap seats arrangement - it's a matter of how much is the right amount without it impacting permanent seating inventory. There's a science to predicting this, and the forecasters won't know until the first few months of the season. The best way to make it work is to have a grass berm in the outfield. The team can have a set number of seats for sale in advance, but can release more as needed just in case demand is high. Fans bring blankets or cushions and everyone's happy - except for the third deck people who prefer their perch behind home plate.

jrbh said...

Right now, the Dodgers close off the bleachers from the rest of the park; they even have a separate entrance. The concessions out there are brutal, and they have no alcohol.

Anonymous said...

As handy as many find the "conspiracy theorist" straw man, I'll not speak for others of my ilk, but for my part I never assumed the deck closure meant lost net revenue for the A's. I guess I can roll with "small but vocal" and "disenfranchised."

To the success/failure question, the team appears to have failed in the season ticket sales boost goal, to all appearances. I'd imagine Crowley et al would be quite a bit louder if season sales had actually spiked. This may change down the line, but I doubt it, as lame duck status takes over until NewParkDay.

However, as to the goal of ridding the franchise of those annoying working class fans, the Wolffish plan has succeeded masterfully. And for the same reasons that ML's revenue guesses suggest the closure helped the bottom line--in a pennywise sense, the team makes more money selling fewer but pricier tix. Wolffish realized that, and move accordingly.

There are prices yet to be paid, though, and at Cisco Field (or whatever) the seat grabbin cheapskatin flag wavin drummin types will be in even shorter supply. Ditto kids and the whole generational handoff idea of going to a buncha games with your Dad until you can't help but to be a fan for life. Well intentioned ideas like college nights and portable cheap seats aren't even window dressing...they're fundamentally at odds with ownership's vision.

I uderstand that's the way most of the sports biz is these days. I just don't think it had to be that way in Oakland.

--FSU

Anonymous said...

FreeSeatUpgrade:
"Ditto kids and the whole generational handoff idea of going to a buncha games with your Dad until you can't help but to be a fan for life."

Believe it or not, but some of those white collar professional Silicon Valley types have kids, too! That's right, kids are not unique to the "working class."

Anonymous said...

Well, demographically speaking the higher, whiter income brackets these days have fewer kids, but I get your point. Mine, though, is that baseball occupies a unique spot in America largely due to a decades long tradition of accessability across income and other lines. Baseball is not the post-modern TV juggernaut that football is; rather, baseball gives you 80+ chances to come and watch each year, and has in the past made it fairly easy to do so. As the rank and file (and families thereof) lose some of that closeness I do fear for the longer term health of the sport. And that’s regardless of what edifice might next be built for the A’s.

--FSU

jrbh said...

I couldn't agree more with what FSU wrote... and yeah, sure, upper middle class families have children too, and I'm very happy when those parents pass along the love of baseball to their sons and daughters. Where else are we going to get the next generation of stat geeks and bloggers? :)

The point FSU was making is that for a huge segment of society, that ability will be lost. I think it's profoundly short-sighted on the part of MLB, and the A's, and, hell, let's go for the vision thing, it's part of America losing it's democratic values.

Georob said...

Well, Oakland is pretty much the last holdout here. Major league baseball has changed, perhaps for the worst in this regard. But this isn't the fault of Lew Wolff or the A's. This trend started with free agency back in the 70's. Conservatives will say this was good because it enabled a free market. Liberals say it was good because the old reserve clause was comparable to slavery.

So NOW who do you blame, JRBH?

You want to take your kids to see baseball? Go to a college game, or to a minor league game in the valley, or even a high school game. There ARE alternatives, but to many Americans, it's either the major leagues or nothing.

But don't try and blame this all on the A's moving to Fremont!

Bleacher Dave said...

For what it's worth - baseball attendance has never been higher.

Anyone know how many comp tickets the A's have to give to the league during the playoffs?

Anonymous said...

The A's attendance of 15k yesterday and 20k today is poor for a team with a single digit magic number.

Anonymous said...

well said, Georob!

Jeff August said...

I think this relevant to the disscussion:

Under the current deal, the team agreed to pay $4.7 million over five years and share half of its revenue from ticket sales after 2 million tickets are sold in a year.

This comes from an article today on insidebayarea.com

The A's make less money on ticket sales once they cross the 2 million mark.

jeff august

Jeff August said...

Le link:

http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_4379169

Georob said...

If the A's had the choice of drawing over 2.3 million versus slightly under 2.0, they'd take the 2.3, trust me!

However, I'll be willing to concede that between closing the third deck and coming off missing the playoffs two straight years, the A's figured that the attendance this year would be right around 2.0, and that to go slightly over it wouldn't help them much.

But to DELIBERATELY drive attendance down? More conspiracy theory B.S. from the OAFC meth lab!

Jeff August said...

Agreed. I didn't mean to imply that they intentionally drove attendance down. I guess my point was in calculating how much revenue the team made last year versus this year it should be factored in that they made less, most likely, than what the chart shows.

In other words the 1.9 this year is easily worth more than the 2.1 last year because they didn't split any of the money for that extra 100,000 tickets.

Am I making sense, it has been a long day already?