COMMENTARY | Despite an 18-12 record -- good enough for second place in the American League East -- the New York Yankees continue to struggle attract fans to home games.
Attendance at Yankees games is down 8 percent this season and continues to drop. On Tuesday, it began offering Groupons -- something the team didn't do last year until June. The team's current offers are for six mid-week games against the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians, and include discounted field-level seats and half-price terrace-level seats.
Granted, the Yankees' ticket offers don't seem as desperate as the Miami Marlins' Groupons, which have included opening-day tickets and merchandise credits. However, it's part of a growing trend. As I described last month, the Yankees have been desperate to give away tickets to some games, even offering $5 grandstand, terrace, and bleacher tickets. (The New York Mets, meanwhile, are offering free tickets to any game in May to anyone who speaks to a salesperson about buying season tickets this season.)
Through 19 home games this season, the injury-plagued Yankees have averaged 37,414 fans (paid attendance) per game. Last season, through the same number of home games, the team averaged 40,710.
When the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, paid attendance never dropped below 42,000 fans. In 2010, the low dropped to 41,571. In 2011, it dropped to 40,045. Last year, the team's low point was 36,831, set during a mid-April game against the Minnesota Twins. This season, the team set a new low when it drew only 31,445 against the Toronto Blue Jays last month.
Through it all, the team's season ticket licensees are also being squeezed out of trying to resell their tickets on the Yankees' online ticket exchange, which continues to offer severely discounted tickets. The team has tried to appease licensees by offering opportunities to let kids run the bases, play catch in the outfield, and take pictures of Yankees warming up, but the allure is beginning to wear off.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
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