BOB: Cubs sale draws near and mid-season attendanceby Brian Borawski
July 08, 2009
Tribune reaches tentative agreement to sell CubsThe buyer was announced some time ago, but the Tribune Company and the group of investors led by Tom Ricketts reached an agreement earlier this week to purchase the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast SportsNet Chicago for a hefty price that's close to $900 million. This number could still move as negotiations have not yet been completed.
At this point, it looks like the deal has been forwarded to the league so the owners have to approve the deal. In addition, since Tribune is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the sale will also need to be looked at by the bankruptcy court. I haven’t been able to find any details on how the deal is going to be financed or if there is some kind of special transaction that’s going to occur but when I find something, I’ll be sure to report.
Midseason attendance numbersMost teams are near the mid-point of their seasons, so it’s interesting to check out the attendance numbers to date. For that, I used ESPN.com’s numbers. Coming in at number one are the New York Yankees. While that’s not a big surprise, the fact that they’re below 90 percent of their capacity is. They’re drawing almost 8,000 fewer fans per game then they did in their record breaking season last year. Coming in at number two are the Philadelphia Phillies, who are cashing in on their World Series win last year. They’re looking to dethrone the perennial National League leader, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who despite sporting the best record in baseball, sit at number three as they’ve drawn almost 3,000 fewer fans per game.
Another big disappointment are the New York Mets. After drawing over 51,000 fans per game last year, they’re bringing in just over 39,000 fans this year. Granted their stadium is smaller, but they’re still operating at 93 percent of capacity.
Coming in at the bottom are the Florida Marlins, who are getting a new stadium in a couple of years. The Oakland Athletics are just a notch above them and rounding out the teams with an average of fewer than 20,000 are the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Chicago Cubs are the best draw on the road, although it’s close between them and the New York Yankees. The Boston Red Sox, who have had the best road record the past two seasons, sit in third place.
If you total up all of the games to date, overall attendance sits at 36.6 million. While it’s not exact, that would put overall attendance in the 73 million range if that trend holds. This is well below last year’s mark of 78.6 million and it’s quite a bit lower then the 75 million I predicted in the THT Annual. There’s some reason to be encouraged though. There are several tight division races (see the NL Central) and the warmer weather should bring out more fans to the more northern cities. Still, it’s safe to say that attendance is going to be at a multi-year low for the season.
Yankees, Padres to stream in-market gamesMLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) has partnered with the YES Network and Cablevision to allow fans in the New York area to watch the Yankees on streaming video. To date, MLB.TV has had a stranglehold on this market and the big drawback is that you can’t view your home team’s game on the platform. At least for Yankees (and Padres) fans, that will change soon. Fans can choose between a one-time fee of just under $50 to view Yankees games the rest of the season or they can opt for the monthly package of just under $20 and they must be a Cablevision subscriber.
A similar deal was struck last week between MLBAM and Cox Communications that will give Padres fans local access to streaming video. The fee is the same as for the Yankees and fans must be Cox internet subscribers.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.