Jays need to address their poor attendance
Currently, the Toronto Blue Jays are holding down the second wild card spot in the American League. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels have all had rough starts and might not have the season most people thought they would. That would leave room for a few teams—like the Blue Jays—to sneak up in the standings. Yet, the Blue Jays are 15th in total team attendance and are averaging only 24,000 fans per game so far.
Looking at a team’s overall attendance for their home games or the average attendance is good, but that can be deceiving since stadiums are all different sizes. I think the best way to measure a team’s attendance is to look at a team’s percentage of sold seats. Currently, the Blue Jays rank 27th with only 49.3 percent sold for 2012. Toronto has not ranked higher than 22nd overall in percentage of seats sold in the last 10 years. Over the past three years, they have been at the bottom of the league in percentage of attendance. They have hovered around 45 to 55 percent tickets sold for nine years.
The good news is that since their low attendance in 2010 (only 39 percent sold), the team's percentage of seats sold is on the rise by five percent each year. It would be nice to have attendance around the 70-percent sold mark, or around 35,000 seats on average. So, what ways can the Blue Jays increase attendance numbers?
Here are six ways to fill more seats at the Rogers Center.
Do ticket prices stink?
Right now, money is tight for every family, and it’s easy to point to money as the culprit these days. The Blue Jays tickets right now range from $11 to $73 when you factor in the regular pricing and the premium games pricing level.
While $11 for a ticket is cheaper than going to the movies, when every game on the weekend (or games against Boston, New York) are priced higher, it comes across as a money grab. That "cheap ticket" does not seem cheap when it’s only valid for weekday games. I would like to see that $11 stay the same for premium games like the Cleveland Indians do with their two cheapest price levels.
The higher-priced tickets are on par (or cheaper) with the rest of the league. The problem is with the low-end tickets. The jump made from the 500-level seats to the 200-level outfield is a 100 percent increase ($11 to $22). The next level, 100-level outfield to 200-level bases is an 83 percent jump (from $24 to $44). There should be something more in the middle of those jumps. Perhaps going from $11 to $16, and $24 to $35 instead. The jump from value games to premium is also high in most categories, like 200-level outfield, where it goes from $22 to $30 depending on what day of the week.
Reducing the high price jumps just because the game is on a Friday or Saturday as well as the high price jumps from one seat level to the next will increase the Blue Jays' attendance.
The Rogers Center—or as some still refer to it as, the SkyDome—opened June 3rd, 1989 with much fanfare. It features a retractable roof and some really cool upgrades since 2005. The 100-level concourse has more light and new restaurants, the very large video board near the windows restaurant (still referred to as the "Jumbotron"), and the screens built into the outfield walls. The field is also a new version of AstroTurf.
What needs to be done—the first thing is to find a way to get rid of the concrete look. Everywhere you look around the stadium (especially as you walk up the ramps to the 500 level), you see concrete—and a lot of it. If that could be opened up, that would look a lot better. It would also be nice to see some real grass in the dome as well. They only open the dome if it is 15 degrees Celsius or higher; that needs to change so that the dome is opened more often. I would also like to see more comfortable seats or cup holders anyone, but that might be a stretch.
With some upgrades, more people would be more apt to buy tickets.
Why did no one attend Clemens' games?
Back in 1997 and 1998, Roger Clemens played for the Toronto Blue Jays. He won the pitching Triple Crown and Cy Young Awards in both years. Yet the team's attendance averaged 30,000 for both seasons. People in Toronto did not come out to watch Clemens dominate for two consecutive years in a row.
That has been an argument against raising payroll, since people did not support the Jays then when they did sign a big name. With the Blue Jays recent success and the possibility of playing meaningful games in September, I think people in Toronto will support big stars again.
In 2013, it would be great if the Blue Jays signed Josh Hamilton to play left field at $12 to $15 million for three years and signed Cole Hamels for five years. The second signing is a stretch, but those two players would solidify the team and would draw fans out to the Dome as well.
J.P. among only 5 home grown starters
Going out and signing free agents was something that Jays fans really wanted their team to do this past offseason. Yu Darvish, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols were all free agents, and each would have looked good in a Jays uniform today. It seems as if GM Alex Anthopoulos was unwilling to sign someone to a big-term contract. I think that is wise. So the way around that is to have a lot of young players who are under control.
Out of the 20 starting positions (including bullpen), the Blue Jays have only five that were drafted as Blue Jays: J.P. Arencibia, Adam Lind, Ricky Romero, Drew Hutchison and Casey Janssen.
There are currently four Blue Jays on Jonathan Mayo’s top-100 prospect list, with Travis Snider and Adiney Hechavarria in the minors as well. To have a guy like Anthony Gose (homegrown) for Jays fans to latch onto, like Brett Lawrie (young, talented and exciting but not drafted by Jays), has would be good to see and would attract more fans as well.
More walk off wins = higher attendance
Over the last 10 years, the Blue Jays' season win total went up and down, from 67 (in 2004) to 87 (in 2006). In that span, they have had five winning seasons, and they have not made the playoffs since they won the World Series 19 years ago.
From 1985 to 1998, Toronto had averaged at least 30,000 fans per game, and since then, they have not hit that figure. From 1985 to 1998, the team made the playoffs five times.
I think there is a relation to winning and attendance for the Blue Jays. When the team is on top, people will come out to see them. Not as much when the team is rebuilding. Two years ago, the Blue Jays won 85 games, something they could do again in 2012, which could mean a spike in attendance from the average of 22,000 from last year.
Imagine a full Dome once again
The one thing that has plagued the Blue Jays the most over the past 10 years is consistency. From 1984 to 1993, the Blue Jays finished either first or second eight times.
Their average attendance was almost 40,000 during that time span. When the Blue Jays were winning consistently, people showed up to watch. Since their World Series title in 1993, Toronto has finished above third place in the division only once—their 87 wins in 2006 was good for second in the AL East.
The biggest factor to the Blue Jays getting back to the 30,000 mark in attendance is long-term success and consistency. When they rattle together a few 85-win seasons in a row and challenge the AL East for first or second like they did in the late 1980s and early 1990s, their attendance numbers will get back to that 30,000- to 40,000-mark once again.