— Days Without Shea —

Don't say we didn't warn you.

A report out today says the Mets have the worst decline in attendance in MLB.

There are lots of factors - bad economy, smaller stadium, awful team, epic meltdowns.

But anyone who used to buy tickets at Shea knows that the Citi Field experience is a whole new ballgame.

We know alot of long time ticket holders who did not come back this year. We didn't renew at first and unlike past seasons, we get the feeling our relationship with the team is year-to-year. The Mets front office is not doing much to court their old fans. So they are feeling the bite because the corporate sales are just not there. And the idea that fans will come back when it gets warm is wishful thinking.

Full story:

A year after moving into a sparkling new $800 million stadium, the Mets have the most home victories in the major leagues, but neither their stadium nor their record is translating into box-office success.

After 22 home games, attendance at Citi Field is down 6,852 fans a game, the largest decline by number in Major League Baseball. That translates to an average of 31,892 fans at games this season compared with 38,744 last season.

The Cleveland Indians, who have a losing record at home, are second to the Mets, down 6,585 fans a game from last season.

The Yankees, who won the World Series last season in their first year in a new stadium, are holding steady at about the same numbers as last season.

In baseball, attendance figures are almost as important as victories. Fewer fans in the seats mean fewer sales of hot dogs, beer and caps. Team executives obsess over the numbers, finesse them and -- when necessary -- do their best to spin them, while Commissioner Bud Selig and his deputies closely monitor each team's reports.

In percentage terms, the Indians' decline is sharper than the Mets', 30 to 18, but the Mets' drop is especially jarring for a big-market franchise that is counted on to help generate income for the rest of the league. The Mets are also 11th in average attendance in the major leagues, down from seventh last year.

The Mets' drop follows two September collapses, a 92-loss season in 2009, an uninspiring off-season and the loss of gloss that comes with the second year in a new stadium.

"The problem is last year the tickets were really expensive and the team stunk and that can really stick with fans for a while," said Jon Greenberg, the executive editor of Team Marketing Report, an industry publication.

In the mid-1990s, Greenberg said, teams could count on new stadiums to help them boost ticket sales for several years, but that trend has ended.

"Stadium fatigue sets in much faster than it did before," Greenberg said, noting that new stadiums built in Baltimore and Cleveland in the early 1990s led to long periods of increased attendance for both franchises. "When Camden Yards and Jacobs Field were built, they were a big deal and were a complete change. The novelty has worn off."

The Minnesota Twins are the latest to benefit from the novelty. The Twins lead the league in increased attendance, with an average of 14,129 more fans attending games at the new Target Field than last season at the Metrodome, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

The Mets tried to prevent a drop-off by cutting ticket prices as much as 20 percent after last season, but signs of trouble quickly became apparent. When the team submitted its monthly report to the commissioner's office in March, ticket sales dropped 40 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Dave Howard, the Mets' executive vice president for business operations, blamed the early-season decline on bad weather in April, the team's disappointing play in recent years and the economic downturn. (The weather in April was warmer and drier than normal in the New York area.)

"We are confident as we continue to play better, the weather gets warmer and school ends that we will draw more fans and end the year fine," he said.

It didn't help that the Mets started the season by losing 8 of their first 12 games before putting together a winning streak at the end of April. The team is 14-8 at home and 18-17 over all.

"The winning streak has definitely helped," Howard said. "The fewer season-ticket sales has allowed us to sell more walk-up sales, and we have had four record walk-up sales so far this season."

It may take more than one winning streak to fully win back fans after the team's failures in 2007 and 2008 and the disappointment of the first season in Citi Field. The Mets came into the new stadium with hopes of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but the glow began dimming before the team took the field.

Citi Field was modeled in part after Ebbets Field, and there were complaints that it seemed to be designed more to honor the old Brooklyn Dodgers than the early Mets. Fans complained about obstructed seats. The team fell apart, with one star after another going down with injuries.

To the dismay of many fans, the front office did little to improve the roster in the off-season, adding only one premier free agent, outfielder Jason Bay, while cutting the payroll by a little more than $10 million, although it is still among the highest in baseball.

Mets players profess optimism about the weeks ahead. "I'm sure it's been the weather," shortstop Jose Reyes said. "It's no big deal. The crowds will come. The fans still love us."

Selig adopted a similarly optimistic perspective when he addressed the issue after an owners meeting in Manhattan on Thursday.

"The Mets have been playing much better lately, and let's just see what happens," he said. "Sparky Anderson always used to say to me, 'Forty to 50 games, you can't make any judgment before you play 40 to 50 games.' That is true on the business side of the game

[May 15, 2010 5:53 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Paul said

It sure didn't take long for the "New Stadium Smell" to wear off. Since Nelson Doubleday was "Bought-Out", this Wilpon run organisation has been putting the long time fan last.

It started in 2006 with the note in our plan renewals...Don't get shut out of Citi Field and upgrade to season tickets. Only after not enough season ticket plans were sold, were plans offered on a take it or leave it basis. A selection of only outfield locations with no regard to seniority or long time seat location held at Shea. Some canceled and most all of us who renewed hated our new homes.

This year the choice was not much better, Oh sure, Plans were offered in other locations, but the choice fans had was clear. Pay more and accept seats much further out, which some did or send a message and not renew. Till ownership stops treating us like a number I for one choose just to buy on a game-to-game basis at my terms.

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