Cleveland Indians 2016 Home Attendance: What We Learned
The Cleveland Indians wrapped up the 2016 regular season home portion of their schedule Sunday afternoon, and the numbers from their 81 home games in 2016 was better than 2015 - but was still very much near the bottom of baseball.
While there's still games to be played by teams around the league, it looks like the Indians will finish 28th of 30 in Major League Baseball, ahead of just two teams that have very much been out of the the playoff race for a long time - the Oakland A's and the Tampa Bay Rays.
For reference sake, the big attendance drop off for the Indians started 13 seasons ago in 2003.
Go back to 2001, the team was 4th overall in the Majors in attendance, pulling in 3.1 million fans, putting up an average of 39,694.
Just two seasons later, the drop was considerable, and has never recovered.
From the 39,694 in 2001, in 2003 the team dropped to 24th in attendance, pulling in an average of 21,358 per game, over 18,000 less than just two years before in 2001.
So here's the final numbers from this year, and mind you the team is going to have at least two more home games when they eventually clinch the AL Central in hopefully the next few days in Detroit.
Total Attendance at Progressive Field for 2016: 1,591,667
Total Attendance at Progressive Field for 2015: 1,388,905
Rise in Attendance at Progressive Field in 2016: 202,762
Average Crowd at Progressive Field in 2016: 19,806
Average Crowd at Progressive Field in 2015: 17,806
Rise in Attendance Per Game at Progressive Field in 2016: 1,844
It's a modest gain for the team, and while the glory days of the sellouts of the 1990's are gone when the team would bring in 3.3 to 3.4 million per year, there's always going to be a huge question about fans coming to Progressive Field, and it's a simple one.
Why are more people not coming?
As someone who has covered the team from the beginning of Jacobs/Progressive Field in 1994, I can tell you from a personal level there's no question the fan base regarding the Indians has changed.
In the 1990's going to the Indians games was the 'in' thing to do. People went because the stadium was still brand new, and those that came into town knew it was the place to go and see.
Now 22 years later, the Stadium may be as beautiful as ever, and with many new amenities. Part of the issue, and this isn't the Indians fault, is that most people have been there - if not once than a ton of times, and it's not quite the 'in' thing anymore when you go to downtown, that's just the reality of it.
Also there's the case of cost, and the income of those living in Northeast Ohio and the surrounding areas. People have more options now, and it never helps when another team in town breaks a curse that lasted over 50 years, and played big games three months into the Indians six-month season.
Yes, the Cavs had to cut into people deciding where to spend their money in 2016. Overall LeBron and company winning a title was a huge boost to the city and made people walk with a swagger like never before, but when you had people spending hundreds, and some thousands of dollars on tickets to see one game (don't believe me, see the ticket prices people paid during three games of the NBA Finals), it cuts into buying tickets to see the team next door.
There's no doubt that the Indians were able to draw and do it well on the weekends during the summer. $1 hot dogs as well as some of the best fireworks you will ever see had fans coming out in a big way, but that's only on Fridays and some Saturday, leaving five other days of the week where fans really just don't come out.
It's an issue that the Indians brass are well aware of, but one that doesn't appear to be on the way to being solved anytime soon.
One thing that fans can't complain about in 2016 is the product on the field. In the past fans have complained saying that when the Dolans built a winning team - the fans would come.
Well either the fans lied, or they were just flat out wrong.
2016 was the most successful season the Indians as a team have had in nine seasons, when they made it within one game of the World Series.
Fans still failed to come out, and with exciting finishes including 11 walk-off wins, fans seemed more apt to staying at home and watching the games on TV.
The Indians faithful won't get questioned during the postseason, because as we all know, fans will turn out for games that could see the team advance to the League Championship Series and hopefully the World Series.
More selling points will likely be added to Progressive Field this offseason, but at the end of the day it's the fans decision on if to come out or not.
In 2016, while it was a slight increase, the overall answer of if fans made it to the ballpark or not was still clearly a no.