Any number of words might have described the stands at Citi Field over the last few months of the Mets' 2015 season: giddy, joyous, bananas and, at the very end of the team's World Series loss to the Royals, deflated. Or try this one: full. These are all adjectives that before this season were rarely applicable in the first six years of their still relatively new stadium.
“It was a great run, there’s no question about that,” Lou DePaoli, the team's Chief Revenue Officer, said on on Monday. It was the day after the Mets had blown their third late-game lead of the World Series and less than 15 hours since the final out of Game 5, yet neither DePaoli nor others around the club seemed to be in mourning. Bottom line, it had been a very good season, and it had been a very good season for the bottom line. “We’re feeling good about what we were able to accomplish this season,” DePaoli said, “and about what the future might bring.”
Along with optimism about the team's young pitching staff and the finally shored-up farm system, New York's short-term financial future is brightened by the fact that it has already received 6,500 deposits for full-, half-, or quarter-season ticket plans for 2016. That’s a huge number, and it comes on the heels of a 2015 season in which Mets attendance shot up 18.1%, by far the biggest increase in the National League.
So where do they go from here? DePaoli revealed to SI.com that Mets season ticket prices, which did not go up from 2014 to '15, will be raised by an average of 2.86% for next year. (Some tickets, of course, may see a higher increase, some lower.) That would bring Citi Field's average ticket price to $26.02, which would still be $2.92 below the MLB average in 2015.
The idea behind pricing, naturally, is not simply to reap as much as you can per ticket, but to bring as many people as possible into the house. Big crowds are good for on-site mojo, and also excellent for the ledger. More people in the stands means more people paying for parking (revenue that the Mets share with New York City) and more people buying $6 beers and $5 sodas, and $20 hats, and teddy bears and cotton candy and key chains and sausage-and-peppers and….
So just how much can the Mets expect their attendance to jump in 2016? Wayne McDonnell, the academic chair at NYU’s Tisch Institute of Sports Management, Media and Business, researched a series of financial metrics tracing back to 1967, the year after Marvin Miller took over the players’ union and set about transforming baseball's economics. One piece of the research showed that after winning a World Series, a team saw an average attendance increase of 6.9% the following year. (That excludes seasons with games lost to work stoppages.)
Because each team and park and situation varies, that number includes wild fluctuation, even in recent years. The White Sox' 2006 attendance, for example, leapt by 26.23% after their '05 title, the first for the franchise since 1917, while the Giants (playing before a stadium that was often already chock-full) actually dropped by -0.24% after winning in 2012, their second title in three years.
But the Mets, despite opportunities, didn’t win the Series. And as DePaoli said, “Our own research indicates that losing in the World Series does not have the same impact as winning it.” But that too is circumstantial. For example: The Royals, who lost the 2014 series to San Francisco, saw a mammoth increase of 38.4% in 2015, the biggest jump in baseball.
As for the Mets' attendance history, the team saw jumps of 24% in 1970 (after winning the World Series in ’69) and of 9.63% in '87 (after winning it in ’86.) But they also endured attendance drops of -9.94% and of -5.75% after losing in the 1973 and 2000 World Series, respectively.
Those 6,500 ticket plan deposits, the modest price increase and the possibility of having a competitive team in 2016 indicate that, despite falling short in the Fall Classic, the Mets can indeed expect more fans to come out to Citi Field next season. And if the team can convert enough of those 6,500 deposits and lure in enough single-ticket buyers to yield an additional 5,312 fans per game next season (an increase of 16.74% over 2015), New York will draw three million fans for the first time since the ballpark's inaugural season in 2009. “That’s a number they can hit,” McDonnell said. “The signs are there.”
DePaoli, though, won’t speculate. “We honestly don’t know what that number will be,” he said. “What I can say is that things are looking up.”