Billy Beane

Oakland Athletics’ attendance woes: what’s the cause, baseball or ballpark?

In the comments responding to yesterday’s post titled, “Why Giants fans should root for a new Oakland A’s ballpark,” there’s an interesting discussion about the Athletics’ attendance issues.

Some people think it’s the fault of Lew Wolff, Billy Beane and the A’s for their inability to put a winning team on the field. Others think the Athletics are doomed to play in an empty stadium until they move to a different one.

So I decided to peruse the Athletics’ home attendance figures since Pac Bell opened in 2000. I added the team’s record each season, just for fun.

2000: 1,603,744 (91-71, 1st AL West)
2001: 2,133,277 (102-60, 2nd AL West)
2002: 2,169,811 (103-59, 1st AL West)
2003: 2,216,596 (96-56, 1st AL West)
2004: 2,201,516 (91-71, 2nd AL West)
2005: 2,109,118 (88-74, 2nd AL West)
2006: 1,976,625 (93-79, 1st AL West)
2007: 1,921,844 (76-86, 3rd AL West)
2008: 1,665,256 (75-86, 3rd AL West)
2009: 1,408,783 (75-87, 3rd AL West)
2010: 1,418,391 (81-81, 2nd AL West)
2011: 1,476,791 (74-88, 3rd AL West)

Average attendance when the Athletics finish…
1st in AL West (4 yrs): 1,991,694 – 24,589 per game
2nd in AL West (4 yrs): 1,965,576 – 24,266 per game
3rd in AL West (4 yrs): 1,618,169 – 20,060 per game

While there is a correlation between winning and increased attendance, the difference isn’t all that great.

The A’s averaged 97 wins per year in their AL West title years (five division titles in seven years is amazing, by the way, even if they didn’t manage to win one ALCS game) and didn’t even average 25,000 fans per game over those seasons. If you own the team and your tickets already cost less than the Major League average, 5,000 more tickets sold per game when the team wins isn’t a game-changing difference.

Plus, the stadium has only gotten worse since those winning years, just like the team. It’s to the point now where even if the A’s won 100 games in 2012, they’d still have trouble selling over 2 million tickets.

I used to attend at least 3-to-6 games at the Coliseum every season, but two years ago we went to see A’s/Orioles on a Saturday afternoon. Almost every concession stand was closed, leaving a few extremely long and slow lines to get any kind of refreshments. The scoreboard stopped working in the first inning, meaning the only way you could see the score was by checking out the narrow scoreboards on the facade of the heavily-tarped upper deck. It was depressing, and not just because the Orioles were in town. I haven’t been back since.

Winning brings some people to the stadium more often, but season tickets are an investment. Giants season ticket holders might complain about ever-escalating prices, but they’re not canceling because they paid for a seat license. Why did they pay for a seat license? Because the Giants and their park aren’t going anywhere for the next 50 years, and probably far longer. The A’s can win division titles and even a World Series, but until MLB figures out a solution to this mess Athletics fans still won’t know where their team will end up. Or if they’ll end up anywhere at all.

The Bay Area is an elite market. Not that it’s better than anywhere else … just that we like elite things around here. People will pay top dollar for great experiences, but will take quality over quantity almost every time. Whole Foods over Walmart. Boutique mac ‘n cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches over Kraft Mac and Velveeta. Blue Bottle over Folgers. When the Giants played in Candlestick, the better team drew more fans. With AT&T Park across the Bay, the Coliseum looks less inviting every inning.

While it’s frustrating for A’s fans to see the national media fawn over Beane and the Moneyball movie in the midst of the Athletics’ fifth consecutive season where they failed to win over half their games, winning isn’t the only answer. Until the Athletics get a new ballpark, they won’t draw the 30,000+ fans per game necessary to compete in today’s MLB.

31 Comments

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31 Comments on "Oakland Athletics’ attendance woes: what’s the cause, baseball or ballpark?"

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adrian reynolds
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adrian reynolds

Billy Beane is a terrible GM…his moves are also a factor in declining attendance. Who wants to come out and see Ryan Sweeney play the outfield? Remember Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez? Hell, even Nick Swisher! It’s absurd that Gio Gonzalez is on the trading block w/4 more years of club control. Blame the park all you want, but Billy Beane’s decisions give A’s fans no hope.

Drew
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Drew

Going to A’s games is like going in a time machine to 1979. This made it charming and gave it character, up until about 1999. Now it is an embarrassment to the city of Oakland, the A’s and major league baseball. Someone needs to step up and finance a new ball park. Mark Zuckerberg?

Stan
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Stan

Right BASG-the BUILDING decided to close consession stands AND the BUILDING decided not to make basic repairs. OR,was it an uncaring ownership group? Next thing you know the owners wil cover a whole part of the stadium with a tarp-making SURE there will never be a sell out.
And the BUILDING traded Like Adrian said,Either,Holliday,Gonzales,Harden,Street,..need I go on?
And your way of looking at the stats..ONLY 1.5 and 2.2 mill??..with all the talk of leaving and those trades?..some fan appeal Slick Billy has. Are you blind to what damage Beane has done?

Stan
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Stan

What did the Giants draw in the 80’s with their crappy teams? HOW would THEY draw with no with no Lincecum,no Panda,no Cain?,no giraffes and other zoo animals? You think they wouldn’t have drawn at Candlestick if they had played their in 2010?..Like ATT is sooo much warmer?-no ,it’s the big glove that drew the extrsa mill…

Stan
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Stan

And -what do you make of the team leaving(or trying to ) it’s charming spring training field,BASG…to go to a dump where its cheaper? Of course isn’t that the Fisher and Beane man way?. Just more of why they are making the Coloseum un fan friendly.

Stan
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Stan

And-I say this group is so tight.Where is it a written law that if they move or get a stadium-they will THEN try to win-sign big name free agents? Are you that naive?

Licky
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Licky
The attendance question is complicated, and is probably mixed between both baseball, ballpark and history, with a gray areas in between. As a consequence, the A’s have lent themselves to the susceptibility of devaluation in the franchise’s brand. This vicious cycle has hurt them so bad that the glory days of the late 80’s and early 90’s seem like a distant memory, when top free-agents (ala Ricky Henderson) actually signed long-term contracts with the club. Since then, fans have witnessed a complete degeneration of the brand, where only management is able to attract players that are in the twilight of… Read more »
Stan
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Stan

To me-moving to a new stadium and QUALITY baseball are two seperate issues.
Beane defys common sense-says he cant afford new stars and yet gives away ones he has locked into contracts like Cahill or the impending Geo trade. No reason or excuse for those trades.
IF Beane is operating on profits now-be damned the team..it’s right on track.

adrian reynolds
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adrian reynolds
What matters a great deal in baseball is the present and future, and so what about 5 division titles in 7 years. Beane is wheeling + dealing for prospects to beget more wheeling + dealing. The Coliseum is a horrible place, just sad, but I’m sick of hearing excuses for Billy Beane. He’s a lousy GM…it’s not like any of his teams advanced beyond one round of the playoffs (or did they, I’m wondering if I’m mistaken here). It will take 3 years or so to build a stadium once it’s approved, and by then I get the argument that… Read more »
Stan
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Stan

I shake my head that Beane- a no hit wonder in his short playing career..has forced that take pitches until it hurts, on all A’s players short of veteran stars the A’s rent for a season.

MoragaJohn
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MoragaJohn
Try this logic thread. There are NO free agents of any consequence who would want to come to Oakland because I believe they have created a reputation for not caring about winning. You might ask, is that true? While I think this could be debated, actions speak louder than words. When you have a history of trading away good players because your unwilling to pay them market value… that’s not necessarily trying to win, IMO. So, if you refuse to keep the best of your internally developed players and can’t attract good free agents… chances are pretty good your not… Read more »
Stan
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Stan

I bestow on you John, a C.S. degree(common sense) from Stan University.

MoragaJohn
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MoragaJohn

With great humility I accept this honorable accreditation. I’ll keep looking for your Lowell comments on Grant’s blog… hysterical if I do say so.

MoragaJohn
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MoragaJohn

BTW, Stan, check your Tagalog dictionary… it’s balut… scratch the “e”. Prefer Lumpia with a nice pint of pale ale myself. l

Bay Area Stats Guy
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Member

Not sure if anyone else mentioned it but the A’s actually came in 2nd place in 2001 behind the 116 win Mariners.

I did a quick regression and there is a relationship between wins/playoffs and their attendance.

Wins and where they finish in their division explain about half of the variance in the year to year attendance.

Stan
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Stan

Of course! WINNING IS THE BEST SPORTS MARKETING STRATEGY. If anybody can name a better one,let me know..

Stan
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Stan

GEO is gone..for no ryme or reason. Gone because Billy Beane is a greedy asshole. So is John Fisher and Lew Wolff the Bronx mobster.
NOT one of you can defend this trade. And as you do your research,you see the all stars the A’s traded and now have nothing to show for them except some really fine minor league stats.
Athletic Nation that shill website-supported by A’s org money can go to hell.

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