Chicago Cubs Attendance Is Down: Are Their Fans Abandoning the Team?

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIMarch 11, 2011

CHICAGO - MAY 14:  Baseball fans arrive at the bleacher entrance of Wrigley Field to watch the Chicago Cubs play the San Diego Padres May 14, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. A deal by the Tribune Company to sell the ballpark to the state of Illinois recently fell through. The Tribune company now hopes to sell the team and the ballpark as a package.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Just like you can count on the swallows coming back to Capistrano, you can count on Cub fans migrating to Arizona during Spring Training to watch their beloved Cubbies.

The Cubs have always been the top draw in the Cactus League. Because they were so popular, they actually tried to get a surcharge passed in Arizona on other teams training there to help them build a new compound in Mesa.

That failed and now it seems another certainty in life is gone, leaving us with just death and taxes.

If recent developments are any indication, it seems Cub fans are now demanding some form of competence from the team before spending their hard-earned dollars.

Hohokam Stadium's capacity is 13,074. Yesterday, barely more than half the stadium was full as 7,186 fans trudged through the gates to watch them against the Indians. If it was only a one-game aberration, there wouldn't be cause for alarm, but it has been this way all spring and it started before that.

It was shocking last year to see so may empty seats at games in Wrigley Field in August and September, including in the bleachers, which is usually the hottest ticket in town both literally and figuratively.

Then the Cub Convention in January, which normally sells out in a couple of hours, had tickets available if you decided you wanted to go on a whim when it started.

What has happened to Cub fans?

Known as the most loyal in baseball along with Red Sox Nation and Yankee fans, it seems like just opening the doors is no longer the answer. Cub fans now appear to have expectations.

Where did that come from?

You would think they would still be basking in the glow of the team winning the World Series in 1908.

What it comes down to is that people are feeling that nobody in power cares enough to put a winning team on the field.

After years of despair with the Wrigley family running things, the sale to the deep-pocketed Tribune Company seemed to be just what the fans were looking for.

There was an initial ray of hope with Dallas Green running the show, but eventually company stock values proved to be more important than spending money on the team.

Over the years, the fans grew disappointed with the team, but still filled the park and sold out the convention.

Then came the news that the Tribune Company was selling the ball club.

Fans grew hopeful that the new owner would spend wisely to build a perennial contender. You notice I said wisely.

Unfortunately they didn't do that during the last few years with Sam Zell owning the team, when they tried to squeeze out every last dollar to add value to the franchise before the sale.

That meant spending $136 million on Alfonso Soriano, $48 million on Kosuke Fukudome, and $30 million on Milton Bradley.

Whether it was GM Jim Hendry's fault, or those above him for the abhorrent contracts he gave out, the team has been stuck in an abyss because of it.

When the Ricketts family took over the team, there was a call for change with the Cubs, just as the country was calling out for change by electing Barack Obama president.

I won't comment on that, but it seems like there hasn't been the expected change that new ownership was supposed to bring to the Cubs.

They did upgrade the bathrooms and the food, but there were no real changes with the structure of the organization.

The family decided to leave things as they were despite a disappointing year in 2009. When they tanked in 2010, everybody thought Jim Hendry would be gone after the season.

When that didn't happen, fans got restless. Where there was hope when the change came about, keeping the status quo has diminished the giddy feeling the fans had when Tom Ricketts and his family bought the club.

It's not their fault for what happened in the past, but ignoring the past and keeping things the same is the reason for the apathy now being displayed by Cub fans.

There are still as many Cub fans as there ever were. It's just that they are not spending their money if they are not happy with the product on the field.

Using a recent campaign slogan, it's time for "Change you can believe in," and I'm not talking toilets.


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