As Phillies Falter, Attendance Plummets

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized
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citizens 2Not too long ago, Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Park was baseball’s mecca. Fans from near and far traveled hundreds of miles not only to see the Phillies play. But, to experience the ambiance of 45,000+ screaming Philadelphians. Now, thanks to years of failed efforts from Ruben Amaro, “the Bank” is a barren wasteland. Gone is the sea of red and missing are the clever fan groups. A once passionate fan base has been left for dead. As the Phillies falter, so too does attendance, and that, my friends, could impact the ball club in many ways in the future.

The team’s impressive sellout streak, which lasted 257 games, is no more. That record ended in 2012. The Phillies currently rank 13th in attendance in Major League Baseball at 30,382 per game. That ranks them behind such powerhouse markets as Denver and Milwaukee. That’s paid attendance, after all, as the cavernous confines of the home town stadium is now painted blue with empty seats on a night-by-night basis. The argument could be made that this is a league wide epidemic, as none of the league’s 30 franchises are averaging a sellout in 2014 (the Los Angeles Dodgers lead the way, selling 98.3% of tickets on average). But, one thing is clear, the allure of Phillies baseball is no more, and the blame goes solely on the shoulders of the team’s general manager.

$25 million a year for Ryan Howard. $26 million per season for Cliff Lee. These are contracts signed by Philadelphia when they were still printing money every evening. Now, as ticket sales look more and more like a Wednesday matinee of Disney on Ice, one has to wonder how the team’s future moves will be influenced by the failure to sell tickets. When attendance falters, so too do concession and merchandise sales. Not too many people are lining up in Ashburn Alley to spend $9.75 on a cheesesteak. Nor are any 8-year old boys asking their fathers to spend $150 on a Domonic Brown jersey. Instead, fans are more content to stay home and watch Ready, Set, Cook reruns than spend their hard earned money on a team that hasn’t earned the right to be watched in years.

citizensWill the team’s lack of financial flexibility, combined with a ridiculous $175 million payroll, cripple their hopes of future contention? One has to believe that the once frugal ownership group, who only started paying players realistic salaries when the fans started paying attention, will revert back to their old ways. Unfortunately for them, the contracts that Amaro levied to the current crop of underachievers are stuck on the books. But, as another wasted season hits the warm summer months, the failures of today’s roster will greatly impact the makeup of future lineups. With Howard, Lee, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon, and Cole Hamels all locked up long term, the team will likely find it difficult to stretch payroll any larger without a solid commitment from the fanbase. A classic catch-22, the team needs attendance figures to improve the team; but, the fans need an improved team to attend the games. The problem is currently without an answer, as no one knows what the future holds in store for Amaro and Co.

One thing is certain, Citizen’s Bank Park is no longer Philadelphia’s hottest craze. With rising ticket and concession prices and a falling win total, the Phillies are going the way of many past franchises whose management left their fan base for dead. Will anything change in the short term? Not if Amaro is still the team’s GM come 2015. No, things won’t change in Philadelphia unless ownership finally takes a stand. It took them five years to listen to the faithful and fire Ed Wade. Three seasons later, the city was celebrating their first world championship in 25-years. The fans have made their point by not showing up. Let’s see if ownership makes theirs by telling Amaro to act like those same fanatics, and stay home on game day.

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