Last month, a few folks sounded the alarm about declining MLB attendance this year. One commentator attributed it mostly to rising ticket prices, while another blamed it on a combination of digital services, the slowness of the game, and other things. Others offered a variety of explanations from team performance to the weather.
Of course, the hype has died down a bit, and now that its July we have better attendance data to analyze. In fact, click here to check out a nifty table from Baseball-Reference.com that provides practically up-to-the minute attendance stats. It shows that 10 of the 30 MLB teams are enjoying increases in attendance: Toronto, Washington, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Oakland, Atlanta, Colorado, San Diego, and St. Louis. Seven of these are also in the top 12 for number of runs scored. However, not all first place teams have experienced increases in attendance. Boston, for example, has had 171,275 fewer people in the stands so far this year.
Of course, we’ll have to see how the rest of the season plays out, but the discussion is basically a sociological one: what are the factors, human, social, and environmental, that can impact overall attendance? This has, in fact, been studied by some sociologists and economists. (For example, Baade and Tiehen in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues a while back, or more recent studies on minor league baseball attendance from Google Scholar.) However, there seems to be little consensus on which variables to test and which methods to use.
However, if you’re concerned about this issue, I think the best way to address it is to go out and see a game!