Brewers continue ranking highly in attendance

Jonathan Daniel

Now that a third of the season has passed I wanted to see what attendance at Miller Park has been and what that might mean.

Not that this is news to most of you, but the Brewers operate in the smallest market in baseball. I don't have the numbers in front of me but if the Brewers don't have the worst TV contract in baseball, it's hovering close to it. Among other things, that means attendance is especially important to them. It impacts their spending at every level. I'm interested in the weird minutia of baseball operations so I thought I'd take a look at how their attendance has been this year and how it projects to stack up to recent seasons.

So far in 27 home games (exactly 1/3 of all home games) the Brewers have attracted an average of 31,709 fans for a total of 856,147 fans. That ranks 11th by average attendance and 8th by overall attendance. It no longer surprises me that the Brewers rank so highly in context of their market. It's not a new phenomenon but it's a pleasant one. Take a look:

AVG Attendance Rank Total Attendance Rank
2007 35,421 12th 2,869,144 12th
2008 37,882 9th 3,068,458 9th
2009 37,499 9th 3,037,451 9th
2010 34,278 11th 2,776,531 11th
2011 37,981 7th 3,071,373 7th
2012 34,955 11th 2,831,385 11th
2013 31,248 15th 2,531,105 16th
2014 31,709 11th 2,568,429* N/A

*For the 2014 total attendance I used their average attendance per game to project the total after 81 home games.

I can make two inferences when I look at that table. First, one year's attendance is, at least in part, affected by the team's previous season. The Brewers actually had a better season in 2007 than 2009, but they made the playoffs in '08 so attendance was better in '09. It makes sense to me. For example, there are going to be less people interested in buying season ticket packages if the team did poorly the previous year and the opposite is true for good seasons. There are also going to be more people interested in going to games early in the season if they think the team is going to be good.

Second, the team's in-season performance impacts attendance. I know. Duh, right? The Brewers came closer to the world series in 2011 than any time since making the WS in 1982. That should have given 2012 a boost, but attendance dropped that year because they had a bad season. In 2008 the Brewers topped 3 million. It wasn't really because they had a good season the previous year. That was part of it since it was the first season above .500 since whenever. Still, that's not exactly a strong selling point. The Brewers had a good season that year, played very well at home, and had a chance at the playoffs for a long time (ultimately grabbing a wild card).

Both points impact the Brewers again this year. One could expect the negative trend in attendance to continue after 2 disappointing seasons (topped by a truly abysmal one last year). I think that's why the Brewers are currently on pace to have their second lowest attendance since 2006. The second point is the encouraging one. Since the Brewers are doing well this season and at some point will likely enter legitimate postseason conversations, the attendance could see a rise. Since they've already had better attendance this year than last suggests this is already a factor.

That bodes well for us fans since at this point in the franchise, spending and team quality are going to be linked more closely than in other years. There aren't a lot of prospects coming up in the next couple of years so if they want to improve in areas they'll need to sign free agents or make trades. Having money to spend can only help that. There's other things to consider too, like the international prospect market. The Brewers are tied to one of the top prospects, Gilbert Lara, who is thought likely to receive the largest bonus of the year. A substantial increase on National TV revenue is likely a major factor in play right now, but eventually that is going to even out so having good attendance is still as important as it always was. A strong finish to this season coupled with a playoff berth will help not only this year, but next as well. If they can make the playoffs in consecutive years that could pay huge dividends for years to come.

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