Empty Seats All Around: Why Attendance at Sporting Events is in Decline

Everywhere you look, attendance at sporting events is down.  Some blame the slumping economy, others put the onus on sub-par teams.  Busy schedules, high ticket prices, or any other reason you can imagine are all contributing.  What can sports do to get the fans excited about coming back to the stadium?

The Problem

Better Seats at our House

There once was a time when nothing could compare to actually being at the stadium or arena for a sporting event.  The sounds, the air, the camaraderie – all created an amazing fan experience.  These days, fans can get closer to the action by simply turning on their TV sets. HD cameras (even 3D if you are lucky enough to have the technology) provide a crystal clear picture that gets you seemingly right on the court or field with the players.  Mix in some surround sound and you get the feeling that you are actually at the game – except you never left your couch.

Rising Cost of Attendance

Another reason that fan attendance is dwindling is the sheer cost of going to a game.  Ticket prices aren’t getting any cheaper, and neither is parking or concessions.  At the end of the day, the cost of ordering MLB Extra Innings or NFL Sunday ticket is far cheaper than season tickets (or even tickets to a handful of games).

Lack of Selection

For every Yankees/Red Sox or Patriots/Colts game, there are 5 equally horrible matchups.  Lets face it –fans aren’t clamoring to get tickets to see the Pirates take on the Astros on Wednesday night or waste their weekend to see the T-wolves face the Cavs.  The larger the leagues get, in terms of expansion clubs, the more diluted the talent.  Furthermore, we know that when we turn on ESPN or TNT we are going to get to see the best, most intriguing matchups.  There are some teams, unfortunately, that don’t even have a superstar that I will tune in to watch, regardless of how bad their team is.  With so few interesting matchups on most team’s schedules week in and week out, it’s no wonder why there are so many empty seats on game day. The NFL is exempt from this, for the most part, but only because their games are accessible (played on weekends) and there is only one contest a week (one home game every other week on average).

The Solution

Aside from the lockout shenanigans, the NFL actually has it right.  They use the law of supply and demand in their favor.  Reduce the supply of games (16 game season) and watch the demand for those games skyrocket.  I’m not saying that Major League Baseball or the NBA should go to a 16 game season, but is 162 really too much?  Do I need to see the D’backs play the Padres 18 times a year or could we get away with 6? Shortening the season would also add importance to each individual game.  Part of the reason that nobody goes to see the Yankees play the Orioles mid-week is because win or lose, that game means very little.  An 81 game season where the majority of the games were on the weekends would probably boost fan attendance (at least percentage-wise).  The NBA isn’t as bad as the MLB, but still needs some help.  My solution. Fewer time outs and stoppages.  I want to be able to see an NBA game in around 2 hours, not 3 or more.  Nothing is worse than sitting in an NBA arena during a TV timeout with literally nothing to do except watch a bunch of idiots try and throw T-shirts into the second deck.  I’m not having it.

Just to clarify, these are my ideas on getting fans to become more interested in actually attending games.  I despise the thought of shortening the MLB season or tweaking the NBA in any way.  But the point still stands – something needs to be done to fill the seats. How about trimming off the fat and reducing the NBA and MLB to like 20 teams?  All food for thought my friends. Let me know if you think that attendance is a problem in basketball and baseball and get at me with your ideas.


One comment

  1. Tend to agree with you on this one. I’d go back to 154 games, shorten the season overall. March to November (practically) is way too long.

    And the main problem is cost. Tickets are crazy expensive. Have some family specials—Mom, Dad, 2 kids, etc. Give them say, free parking in exchange for 23 guaranteed games. Or whatever. Baseball needs to get families back—especially during this recession.

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