Chicago White Sox fans must be out there somewhere, but it’s obvious, based on the pitiful home game attendance figures that they are not out at the ballpark. Despite a decent start to the 2014 season (10-10), the Sox find themselves near the bottom of the barrel in attendance.
Currently, the Sox are second to last in home game attendance, averaging 16,959 (41.8 percent capacity) sold tickets per game—second only to the Cleveland Indians. It’s nothing new, as they have failed to draw more than thirty-thousand per game since they won the AL Central in the 2008 season. This year though, they are flirting with the sub twenty-thousand mark—a feat they have not seen since their centennial year back in 1999, when the team finished second in the division with a record of 75-86.
It’s not some kind of mystery that the Chicago White Sox play second fiddle to their neighbors on the north side, but in a city of more than 2.7 million people, and a metropolitan sprawl in excess of 9.5 million, it’s quite pitiful how low their attendance has reached. The question then becomes, what is the problem down on the south side of the Windy City? Therein lies one of the problems—nobody can pinpoint any particular reason why people have failed to show up at U.S. Cellular Field.
Some White Sox fans have pointed to the overall cost of attending games, placing part of the blame on the economic downturn. Although 2013 reports show the total price index for the Sox (a number that figures in total cost of tickets, food, parking, etc.) to be one of the highest in baseball, there are a handful of teams with a higher index that do not have the same attendance issues. Other fans point to a number of issues such as: crime, traffic, time, and the generic vibe of U.S. Cellular Park. It’s a wide-reaching problem that’s a result of numerous issues that surround the south side of Chicago, and despite winning the World Series in 2005, nothing appears to be changing that will fix the attendance issues.
The only solution, besides dramatically dropping the average cost of tickets is for the suits upstairs to assemble a winning team. It has been proven that if they are winning, the fans will come, as evidenced by the 36,511 average attendance in 2006, the year following the World Series victory. Unfortunately, the team has not been winning and attendance figures have continued a decline ever since, reaching levels as low as 10,625 in a game earlier this season.
It is well known that the Chicago White Sox have a strong and loyal fan base, but it is clear that home game attendance depends strongly on the fickle, fair weather fans that only show up if the team wins. It is a problem that plagues many MLB teams, but if the front office executives want to correct the pitiful home game draw, they need to make some major changes. They need to first and foremost make prices more reasonable for fans to attend games, and secondly, they need to assemble a winning baseball team. Preferably, for Sox fans, they should work on making both of these fixes come to fruition. Until then, fans will stay at home and watch their HD television, pop their own popcorn and watch a so-so product play to a near empty stadium.
Commentary by Johnny Caito