Wednesday, August 26, 2021. A double-header between the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field ends with a 1-1 split and a paid attendance of around 24,000 for both games. Note that these numbers are based on tickets paid for and not the actual number of people who go through the gate. The actual in-game attendance had plenty of no-shows and seemed more like 12-15,000 each night (just an estimation).
Jon Greenberg of The Athletic pointed out that Monday’s game against the Rockies was the lowest attended game since April 2014. It does not take spreadsheets of data to see how empty the stands at Wrigley have been since the trade deadline.
One could point to Wednesday and say, “Oh it was a double-header during the week against a bad Rockies team, of course the attendance was lower.” Sure, double-headers during the week might not draw the same, but look at other games. The weekend series against the Royals saw the Sunday game draw about 29K (paid) and there were definitely some no-shows that entire series. The upper decks had sparse gatherings, as did the top sections of the bleachers and grandstand corners. Tickets on the secondary market are going for less than $20 now in some sections of the park. Today on StubHub you can find $6 tickets for their next upcoming home series against the Pirates. Even cubs.com prices, where tickets are normally more expensive regardless of opponent, are falling.
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The key to looking at how the attendance fares now is looking at how they’ve drawn done since June when the ballpark was allowed to sell all tickets without COVID-restrictions. While the ballpark never seemed to quite reach standing-room-only crowds in 2021, at least in June when the team was coming off a hot May, the place was around 80 percent full. Back on June 12 against the Cardinals the announced paid crowd was 39K. Now the attendance continues to plummet.
Actual in-house attendance numbers could look as bad as we have seen them over the past few decades. Since 1984, the Cubs have drawn less than 2 million people four times; two were strike years (1994, 1995) and 2020 with no fans due to the pandemic. The other year was 1986. To expand on that, since 1998 the Cubs had not drawn less than 2.6 million outside the pandemic year. Since the 1980s, Wrigley Field has been the place to go “no matter what the team was doing” but apathy among fans seems to be overpowering that.
Chicago Cubs: Wrigley Field alone won’t draw a massive crowd right now
Fans are not pleased, let’s be real. Wrigley Field used to draw people to see the most mediocre of Cubs teams. Even the 101-loss 2012 Cubs drew the 10th-most fans in the majors. Sure the end of the season saw some no-shows but there was still 25-35K in the stands regularly. That team had a plan and vision under Theo Epstein.
Today there is a rebuild plan (sort of) under Jed Hoyer, but the collapse of what was supposed to be a long-term window of contention and lack of financial investment from ownership the past few years has turned off fans. They do not want “Lovable Losers” anymore – that was supposed to be over.
Yes, tickets are super cheap now, but for awhile they were not and it was not like the “old days” where taking a family to a game was actually affordable. Even if you take a family now with cheap seats, parking and concessions still cost an arm and a leg. The team on the field is also unrecognizable to the average fan, at least in the 90s there was Sammy Sosa or the promise of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro in the early 2010s.
As pointed out by Brett Taylor from Bleacher Nation, the floor and ceiling of Cubs attendance the rest of the year is still higher than a number of non-contending teams (Pirates, Marlins, Rangers etc.) but still a farcry from where it normally is. The final series against the Cardinals might draw solid crowds, but expect most others to fall way short of full capacity.
If the Cubs make vast improvements over the winter, then attendance should rise again. Fans are known for being loyal, but right now there is more apathy on the North Side than we have seen in a long, long time. The only way to fix it is to fix the product on the field.