Early season attendance numbers for baseball are down from last year, which in turn were down from 2001. Three teams, including the Astros, have drawn their smallest-ever crowds at their new ballparks this season.
It's early, and I do believe attendance will bounce back - some sign of economic recovery, plus an end to active combat for the military, would certainly help. Sports overall are doing poorly right now - ratings for the NCAA Tournament and the Masters were both down. I don't expect those represent trends any more than this does.
Naturally, in times like these, you can count on Beelzebud Selig to totally not get it:
Viewed from one angle, the sport never has recovered from the 1994 players strike. That season, the average major-league game drew 31,612 fans.
In the nine seasons since, average attendance never has reached that level. It topped 30,000 per game in 2000 and 2001 but dropped back to 28,168 last season.
Selig emphasizes the drops were a result of the economic disparity that left small-market teams like the Royals and Minnesota Twins with virtually no hope of competing. He points out that baseball is as appealing as ever in cities with competitive clubs, like, say, Seattle, which is expected to draw more than 3 million fans to Safeco Field for a fourth straight season.
Even Selig can be right about some things, though:
Selig laughs when he hears fans talk about the game's golden era. The average big-league game drew a bit more than 14,000 fans in the 1950s, and until the late 1970s, drawing 1 million fans was the benchmark for a good year.
That number increased to 2 million in the 1980s and then to 3 million as the new ballparks opened in the 1990s.
UPDATE: In the end, attendance in 2003 was just shy of 2002 levels, which as noted in that post was good news and bad news.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 16, 2003 to Baseball | TrackBack