March 09, 2009
Are you sitting in an office right now? If so, I'd like you to tab five people in your line of sight.
Are you sitting at the computer by yourself? Then pick out five buddies from your IM list or Twitter feed.
Then brace yourself for some bad news.
One of your five friends will not be attending a Major League baseball game this year.
According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, MLB officials are readying team beancounters for a drop in attendance that could equal a 20 percent decline — or even more in areas hit particularly hard by the economy.
Gammons doesn't get into specifics — the mention comes in the middle of a Jon Lester contract post — but the drop would obviously put a crashing halt to the yearly attendance increases from 2004-07 and be much more devastating to revenues than the 1.14 percent dip in '08 (a year which still ranked as MLB's second-highest attendance total ever).
"Major League Baseball has warned club businesspeople that attendance is expected to be down 17-20 percent in 2009, and that it could be worse, especially for franchises such as the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies and others that could be seriously impacted by the recession."
So what does this mean? Over on MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes does the math and finds that a drop of 20 percent would mean the league losing about $400 million in just ticket revenue. That's not counting cash from parking, concessions, souvenirs for Stewie Jr., etc.
Suddenly that boring Hot Stove season that just ended makes a little more sense.
But whether or not the decline will be that sharp remains to be seen.
And since this is a baseball blog visited by baseball fans, asking whether or not you plan on cutting back on tickets probably wouldn't be totally representative of the entire population, which includes millions of fans who probably won't think twice about eliminating the cost from their budget lines.
Still, I'll ask it anyway. Anyone planning on attending four games instead of five? Has anyone forced to downgrade from a 10-game plan to an eight-pack? Tell us your plans.