The Obligatory Attendance Post

I’m a White Sox fan writing a web log (aka “blog”) about the Chicago White Sox baseball franchise.  I am required by the ghosts of Jerome Holtzmann and Dave Condon (Tribune scribes, both of ‘em) to discuss that sore subject of White Sox attendance.

Sox attendance is a sore subject for one reason and one reason only:  the Sox are outdrawn by the Cubs.  Consistently and thoroughly.  The last time more people went to a baseball game at 35th and Shields was 1992.  It was the second season for New Comiskey Park.  It’s been all Cubs ever since.

It’s a bitter pill for Sox fans to swallow because it’s the one fact that cannot be argued.  Numbers are numbers.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  Like every other Sox fan, I’ve tried to deliver a red-faced, flustered rebuttal to the fact that the Cubs outdraw the White Sox.

“B,b,b,but the Tribune Company!”

“Harry Caray was with the White Sox first!”

“WGN TV and Radio!”

“SportsVision!”

“Media bias!”

“They all wanted to see Sammy Sosa and he’s a cheater!”

“They’re all from Iowa!”

“Trixies and Chads!”

“Tourists!”

“What’s the score?”

There’s no use in arguing the facts.  Despite their motivations, more human beings in the Chicago Metropolitan Area spend more money at Wrigley Field.  What are you gonna do?

The problem is that we compare the White Sox to the Cubs.  That is the wrong comparison.  The White Sox are a baseball team.  The Cubs are a cultural phenomenon that defy the laws of sports and business.

The casual baseball fan in Chicago is a Cub fan.  I’ve tried to preach the gospel of the White Sox to new arrivals, but they always gravitate towards Wrigley.  Clark and Addison is closer to their apartment in Lincoln Park.  It’s closer to bars.  It’s got sunshine and celebrities.  A Cub game is a “thing that you have to do when you are in Chicago.”  The only time they go to US Cellular Field is to watch the AL team from their home state play the White Sox.  If they’re going to a Sox game, they’re going as fans of the Detroit Tigers or the Minnesota Twins.

By those standards, White Sox attendance looks pretty bleak, doesn’t it?  When compared to the Cubs, yes it does.  But not when you compare the White Sox to themselves.

Despite all of the doom and gloom about Sox attendance, we are actually in the midst of a box office renaissance at US Cellular Field.  Of the 10 best attendance years in White Sox history, six have been in the 2000’s (2006, 2007, 2008, 2005, 2009, 2010).  The only year in the 21st Century that didn’t crack the Top 20 was 2002.

Yes, attendance has fallen every year since 2.9 million people bought tickets to US Cellular Field in 2006.  But there are two caveats:

1-      The White Sox had a competitive year after winning the World Series.

2-      2006 was the best year for attendance in the 113 year history of the White Sox Franchise.

The second best attendance year in White Sox history was 1991, the first year in New Comiskey.

White Sox attendance discussions often devolve into an airing of grievances going all the way back to when Jerry Reinsdorf bought the team from Bill Veeck in 1980.  The fact that Andy the Clown wasn’t allowed into the new ballpark in 1991 does not change the fact that the White Sox marketing department is fan friendly and quite responsive.

The team cut ticket prices for 2013.  The lower prices, combined with a competitive product, should push attendance back over the 2 million mark.

So stop fretting about butts in the seats.  Don’t think about the Cubs.  When it comes to White Sox attendance, we’re in the best years of our lives.

Enjoy ‘em.

Filed under: Box Office

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    The other thing that skews the attendance figures are the number of tourists who go to see Wrigley Field while they are in Chicago, and the fact that there happens to be a ball game going is more of an annoyance then the point of the trip.

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    First of all, why would I prefer to sit next with a crowd of people rather than to have some leg and arm room? And why would I want to wait in a long line to pee rather than to be in-and-out?

    I have no financial interest in either team. What difference does it make to me, the common fan? And, no, the Sox aren't moving to Tampa or Miami any time soon to even less fan support. Nice bluff, Jerry. You really fooled them.

    Second, there are only a few sections in ANY ball park worth sitting. Let the real fan figure that out.

    Third, whoever designed The Cell is a follower, not an innovator. He got the plans from a cookie cutter company. His name should be made public so we can all mock him, though I am sure the State of Illinois paid - and likely still pays, knowing Illinois politics - him handsomely.

    Finally, if the team wins, the fans will come. If not, they won't.

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    You forgot one other important fact...when you go to a Cubs game, it's a whole day of restaurants, bars, the game, then more bars, lots of people mingling around, having fun. At the Cell, there is nothing but the ball field....not really any place to go. And, let's face it...there are very few hardcore baseball fans at any given MLB game compared to a Bears game. Who really cares about game 26 out of 162? So what you have left is, which ballpark is more fun to go to. Which park can I make a day of? Which park can you bring the kids to and feel safe? I'd rather see an average game at Wrigley than a "higher" caliber game at the Cell...the difference to me is too subtle to drag me to the cell.

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