Each stadium visit, I always look forward to the “Official Attendance” announced by the PA or me looking it up in the box score when I got home. I’ve always known that this “official” number was not representative of the people in the seats. Through the years, I’ve learned that this magic number is the amount of tickets sold (or given away) as opposed to a turnstile count. I accepted that and took it for what is worth and knew that it was all just about money and marketing. However, over the past few months, I’ve become more and more frustrated by this increasingly farce number. Each stadium I’ve visited, the announced attendance was more and more ridiculous.
I did some research trying to find ANYONE who gave an accurate depiction of butts in the seats. However, nowhere is turnstile attendance available unless I contact local governments for the numbers. More and more reading, led to show me just how absurd this attendance number has become. According to Travelerocity, a blog for the Texas League’s (AA baseball), Arkansas Travelers, the average announced attendance in 2010 for Travelers games at Dickey-Stephens Park was 4,940. The actual (turnstile) attendance? 2,662. That’s not to single out Arkansas as that’s the story all across baseball (minor and major), hockey and collegiate athletics. A much more informative and wonderfully written piece on the issue can be found at the San Diego Union-Tribune and I highly, highly recommend giving it a read.
So, where does that leave me? I’m now done writing the “Attendance” in the top part of each stadium review. The number is such a lie, that there is no sense in painting a picture that a place was “sold out”, when in reality it wasn’t even close. Unfortunately, that makes judging fan support a lot more difficult, because a lot of it is based on multi-year attendance rankings. I’ll still look at that, since “everybody does it”, but there will be part of me that will question it and think, “did this team just fudge the numbers more?”. So, I’ll rely on the very tiny sample size of the crowd at the one game I attend and I’ll rely heavily on team and league experts and bloggers who know plenty about their local sports landscape.
I understand why the inflated numbers occur, but doesn’t it just seem so wrong to incorrectly portray how many fans are watching your product. It certainly won’t be the fans that change this, the only hope is that the advertisers and sponsors who are being duped, start demanding the real, actual attendance.