Arthur: Rising ticket prices explain MLB’s attendance problems

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on November 8, 2019:

If there’s one problem fans cited in reference to going to major-league games in 2019, it’s not pace, umpire inaccuracy, or noncompetitive teams. Ticket prices lead the way, with people reasonably concerned about the escalating toll of merely getting in the gate (not to mention acquiring a parking spot, a cold beverage, and a sumptuous meal).

A statistical analysis of attendance since 2012 shows that increased costs may have dissuaded about two million fans from showing up to ballparks in the last five years. But despite the massive impact on the league’s attendance totals, the same analysis shows that increasing ticket prices yields more revenue than it takes away, meaning owners have every incentive to jack the fees up.

In September, I examined the relationship between tanking, or noncompetitive teams, and attendance. I built a model to predict how many fans showed up to each game from 2012 to 2019, taking into account a slew of factors that determine crowds: weather, the day of the week, the timing of the game, and, importantly, the playoff odds of the home and away teams. That model was highly accurate, with R2 values around 0.9. Not surprisingly, thousands more people showed up to watch the hometown heroes when they were playoff contenders than when they were out of the chase.

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Originally published: November 8, 2019. Last Updated: November 8, 2019.