Padres's Attendance Was Better When Losing at Qualcomm

Remember when John Moores said the Padres couldn't survive economically playing at Qualcomm Stadium? This year, the team has an excellent record and is in first place in the National League West. Attendance is averaging a mere 22,381 a game. Now consider the last five years at Qualcomm, from 1999-2003. The team had losing records every year. Average attendance: 28,407. The lowest year was 2003 at 25,063. There could be many reasons. One is the higher prices, both tickets and concessions, at Petco than at Qualcomm. People of lesser means have been driven out of San Diego pro baseball games. Another is the recession. A third is the inconvenience of going to a game downtown. Fighting the traffic isn't worth it; Qualcomm is so easy for parking. A fourth may be the fact that Petco is a pitchers' park and fans don't like low-scoring games. Another possibility is that fans don't believe that the Padres, who have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, are for real. Any ideas among readers?


You're right on all counts, but also, attendance is always higher in years right after a team appears in the World Series (as the Padres did in 1998). League champs always tend to sell more season tickets the next year or two, which drove some of that. The converse is also true. Poor teams don't see attendance build until awhile after they've turned things around. My guess is if they're still on top of their division in September, the average game attendance will be a lot higher then. Also, Petco Park is much smaller, with a seating capacity just a tick or two over 40,000. I recall games at Qualcomm that would occasionally sell out in the mid-to-upper 50,000's for special events and such, even in overall off years. Tossing in several of these over the course of a baseball season can push the overall "average" up some too. If I'm not mistaken, I think both the New York teams, the Yankees and Mets, opened brand new ballparks last year, but saw their attendance also dip from 2008. In both cases, their new parks also have smaller capacities than their previous ones.

Response to post #1: These are all good points. The Padres averaged 31,155 in 1999, the year after the World Series appearance, and a bit above 29,000 the next two years. The Padres's strategy in making Petco smaller was to attract a more upscale crowd that would pay higher prices for tickets and concessions. It worked the first few years (there is always a novelty factory) then stopped working. I think, in particular, the Padres drove away lower-income Hispanics. That was a very big mistake. Also, San Diego is not a high income metro area. As to the Yankees: the team set its prices ridiculously high, just as Wall Street got creamed. Even after it lowered prices, it wasn't attracting the crowds it expected. It is reprehensible that pro sports teams raise prices 25% to 40% or so when opening a new stadium, thus making the game mainly accessible to people of means -- but the taxpayers pick up the tab! Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #2: Again, all true. But I think we could wait too for the "big draw" teams to finally come to town this year. The Padres have yet to host in 2010 their top-drawing opponent every year, the Dodgers. Nor have they yet hosted the defending NL champ Phillies or other traditionally large draws like the Mets and Cardinals, nor the really-big drawing card (and who knows why), the Cubs. For us to say the Padres attendance is down from last year when they've only hosted the likes of the Brewers, or the expansion Rockies and Diamondbacks, isn't completely fair to them (Giants and Braves notwithstanding).

Response to post #3: Good point with the Dodgers. One of the TV stations made that point a bit ago, comparing the 2010 season thus far with 2009 over the same number of games. However, the team has played 17 games. Statistically, that is meaningful. Of course, once the Pads start playing the Phillies, Mets, and Cardinals, that won-loss record might not be so good. You never know. The team could be as good as advertised. I'm not the one to judge. Best, Don Bauder

I think that the two main reasons for low payroll are the economy and a "wait-and-see" attitude. I've gone on record stating that this team was better than most sports writers prognosticated. They're fast and athletic, and they play well at home, to the strengths of their park. They lead the league in stolen bases, and the pitching staff is very highly rated.

The economy is going to hurt small market teams this year. I think that if the Padres can manage to remain competative, attendance will pick up. General Manager Jed Hoyer went on record today as stating that if the team remains competative, then ownership will invest more this year to ensure that the Padres get into the play-offs. This will certainly promote higher attendance.

Response to post #5: At least thus far in the season, it appears your optimism was justified. The team may actually be that good. But the schedule has not been too challenging yet. It's still early. If the team is in contention, and ownership spends some money, then attendance should certainly pick up. Best, Don Bauder

A good ticket is now $63!! With two people, add in the cost of parking, a little food or drink, and you've spent $150-plus on two hours of often dismal baseball. Maybe in the long run the Padres are finding that there is no free lunch, and no amount of public subsidy will offset a poor, overpriced product.

Response to post #7: Good point. Throughout professional sports, the leagues' strategies have been to to boost prices of tickets and concessions very sharply, making a visit to the ballpark mainly within the reach of the affluent. But the taxpayers have to pay for it. This strategy may be backfiring in San Diego. It is already crumbling in other markets such as Baltimore. The ones to watch are the NY Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. After just one year, the Yankees' pricing ploy may be falling apart. Dallas is still going strong. But wait. Best, Don Bauder

I just posted a blog about the Season Ticket pre-Renewal notice letter we received recently. They want us to pay starting in August, BEFORE the end of the season. This will not endear fans to a management team that does not have the right attitude for the San Diego market.

This is a good team. One problem is that last year was so BAD that people stayed away in droves. Management did nothing except to bring in more AAA players. Many thought the team should have been charging AAA prices. Season ticket sales are down. Go to a game and look around. I kinda have to laugh about the elitist Toyota Terrace. It is devoid of people this year. It was a bad idea, gone wrong! 13 out of 33 home games had attendance below 20,000.

It is WAY too expensive for this market. San Diego may be a big city but it is not one of big salaries. With the VERY high cost of living, a baseball would be a luxury most families cannot afford.

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