The New York Yankees have been surprisingly excellent this season, with a 27-17 record and a unique, likable young star in hulking, homer-bashing rookie Aaron Judge. Their rich history and success on the field should make them the hottest ticket in town. And yet, they aren’t.
The Yanks are currently sixth in per-game attendance at 36,280. That ranking isn’t bad, but Yankee Stadium can fit around 52,000 people. Earlier this month, a record-low 25,566 people attended a game against the Blue Jays. As the New York Times noted today, ticket and suite revenues have fallen $166 million since 2009 when they opened their new ballpark:
The financial figures, from the public filings the Yankees are required to make on their stadium bonds, represent a 42 percent loss in ticket and suite revenues over the last seven seasons. And despite the team’s compelling play this season, attendance through the first quarter of their home schedule is down from the same point last year.
Yankees czar Hal Steinbrenner, perhaps too swayed by many half-assed op-eds, blamed “the millennial problem” for baseball’s lower popularity among younger people. Rainouts and the team’s poor record in the recent past have contributed to lower attendance, and the decline has affected the arcane structure of the team’s stadium bond financing.
Last year, ticket and suite revenues declined $46 million. It was a sharper-than-expected drop that was cited by Moody’s, the bond rating service, as a factor in its decision this month to downgrade the outlook of the $1.2 billion in stadium bonds to negative from stable.
The team has slashed some prices and opened up new areas, including a courtroom-themed “Judge’s Chambers” area where fans can swill beers, wear fake powdered wigs, and cheer on the Yankees rookie. It’s also still early in the season, and the weather will get warmer and more enticing for going to a game. If the Yankees maintain a strong presence in the race for the pennant, attendance could tick up. That might not solve their deep-seated issues, but the Judge bump could still be in the pipeline.