Cleveland was, once upon a time, a baseball town, featuring a team on the cusp of the World Series and perennial All-Stars like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez.
Those days are a distant memory.
Since the Tribe's home opener, which is always a sell out, the Indians have drawn record low attendances at Progressive Field. The Tribe has played in front of crowds of less than 10,000 fans four times already this season, including Tuesday night's game that saw only 9,137 fans.
Ticket prices in Cleveland have fallen dramatically. On StubHub's website, tickets for the upcoming series against the Kansas City Royals range from only $2-10. Tickets into the stadium would cost less than a hot dog and a beer for the typical baseball fan to enjoy.
The Indians front office saw the major drop-off in attendance start last year and it has carried over into this season. But not because of lack of effort from the front office. Starting this season, the front office has adopted a more fan-friendly philosophy hoping to draw as many fans as possible. They have veered away from the typical baseball menu and installed more food kiosks with a variety of food in the stadium. New items on the menu include macaroni and cheese and buffalo chicken. The Indians have also altered their strict non-re-entry policy they have had in recent years in order to get more fans out to the ballpark.
All of these additions and more to the ballpark still haven't paid off in getting fans out to Progressive Field. The team's struggles in recent years, and lack of a World Series title since 1948, have likely left some Cleveland fans fed up, and caused them to remain indoors.
With the majority of seats empty at a stadium, many would assume that it would have a negative impact on the team. Indians manager Manny Acta speaks to the contrary (via the Akron Beacon Journal). “Once a guy gets to the ballpark, he’s focused on the other club and trying to win,’’ Acta said. “Is it better when the seats are filled? Yeah, but players know they can’t control that. We’re sure not going to make excuses because there aren’t 40,000 people there.’’
The Indians players also realize that sparse crowds likely are a result from their woeful home record to begin the season. The Indians first baseman says he hope an improvement in on-field performance will result in improvement in the seats. “I’m hoping the fans will come when we play better [at home],’’ Kotchman said. “If they don’t come, we know it’s not in our control. But if you’re not playing well, it’s hard to expect fans to want to show up, especially in bad weather.’’
On the Bull and Fox show, Indians ace Justin Masterson isn't worried about the attendance to start the season. "It's only two games," Masterson said. "It [was] Easter. Everyone has to go to church one day of the year," he added.
Holiday or not, the attendances have been declining drastically in the last two years in Cleveland. If the new fan-friendly philosophy doesn't pay off in bringing in the crowds, and the team doesn't start improving it is hard to tell where the Indians front office will turn to try to draw the crowds.