A’s won’t hit 2 million but will make more money?

The final totals aren’t in yet, but with one week left in the A’s home schedule, the A’s have pulled in slightly less than 1.8 million fans. According to Attendance Watch (sidebar on the right), the team has averaged 24,251 per game over 74 dates. The projected total for the full 81-game season is 1,964,352. That makes them over one game’s attendance short of 2 million.

That may sound disappointing, but based on comments by Lew Wolff and Michael Crowley, they’re satisfied with the turnout. I’ve noticed that many critics of the third deck closure have claimed the strategy would fail, but they didn’t exactly say what failure meant. If it meant that the A’s wouldn’t boost attendance, there’s no news there because at no point did the front office indicate that total attendance would rise. Instead, they pointed to increases in season ticket and advance sales, which appears to have happened. All of this came at a price – the reduction in walk-up makes the A’s far less accessible for younger or less wealthy fans. As I posited at the beginning of the season, sections 315-319 were perhaps too good for their price. By eliminating those sections, $10 seats (other than the regular bleachers) are what they are in most other MLB stadia: cheap seats with compromised views.

Even with the dropoff, ticket prices were raised 25%. Ticket prices have risen steadily since the start of the A’s recent run of success. The A’s average ticket price is now in line with the league average.

So really it’s a matter of matching or surpassing revenue targets by not dropping attendance 25%. No team readily releases its finances to the public, so the following chart is just a guess. It’s the product of the past two charts’ data while factoring in a 15% discount. That should cover the inherent discounts in season ticket packages, promotional discounts such as BART Double Play Wednesdays, and other changes. It does not take into account revenue from suites or special premium seats like the Diamond Level.

If my assumptions are correct, that’s a 17% increase over 2005, and over double (121%) the revenue of the year 2000. Talk about beating the recession. At the same time, payroll is up 12% over 2005 and almost double (94%) over 2000, so it’s not as if it’s all going to the owners. With the incentives that Frank Thomas will earn this season, the numbers will line up much more evenly (payroll up 17% over 2005 and slightly over double 2000’s payroll).

What can we glean from this? All we can say at this point is that the A’s are able to pay the bills and make some money for themselves, assuming that revenue sharing receipts are similar to what the A’s have received over the past two CBA’s. Looking at the trend from 2001 through 2005, the A’s would’ve been hard pressed to fund the payroll by continuing with the previous pricing scheme. But what would’ve happened had they kept the third deck open and simply raised ticket prices 9% (the trend) across the board? Unless they had an enormous (20% or more) spike in attendance, they would’ve been short. Sure, they could’ve had other revenue coming from other sources such as the MLB national media deals, but come on – these people aren’t in business to lose money, at least not on a regular basis. If you’re looking for a nefarious scheme to swindle fans, it’s not here. It’s my sincere hope that in the new venue there will be creative methods of getting affordable tickets for the small, but vocal group of disenfranchised fans affected by the third deck closure. I’ve come up with a couple of ideas on this blog, and I think I’ve got a few more up my sleeve.

BTW, the A’s have an outside chance of surpassing the 2 million mark. However, they’d have to average 30,000 per game for the rest of the homestand to do it. Considering the next four games will be against an out-of-contention, Travis Hafner-less Cleveland Indians squad, I can’t see it happening.

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