In a relatively new challenge during their run at Oracle Park, the San Francisco Giants are having to address concerns over declining attendance numbers.
Widely acclaimed as one of Major League Baseball’s best ballparks since its 2000 opening, Oracle Park has been a solid draw over the years. Attendance figures of 3 million-plus have not been uncommon for the Giants during their time at the ballpark, and this decade–which saw the Giants win World Series titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014–was fueled by a seven-year sellout streak that concluded in 2017.
For this season, though, the Giants are starting off relatively slow with an average paid attendance of 32,165 through their first 10 home games, compared to 38,733 over the same period last year. Recognizing that attendance could be a concern in 2019, Giants officials took several steps over the offseason to make ticket packages more appealing, including the introduction of an exchange program, 20% discounts on concessions and merchandise, earlier start times for many weekday games, and other initiatives. The team has also embraced an MLB trend by offering their own variation of a Ballpark Pass and renovated an area in center field to include a new gathering spot, moves intended to appeal to younger fans. More from the San Francisco Chronicle:
In a bid to attract younger fans, the Giants adopted a popular strategy used elsewhere and introduced a $35 monthly standing-room pass that allows fans to come to every game and roam the ballpark as a social event. The club ripped out several rows of seats in the center-field bleachers to build a gathering spot.
[Giants executive vice president of business operations Mario] Alioto said many younger fans are not concerned with the “real-estate investment of a seat,” and the club sold 2,500 passes in April. About half were used each game, with that number baked into paid attendance.
In short, the Giants recognize that huge crowds are no longer “gimmes” in a changing market where customers can track fluctuating ticket prices on their smartphones and delay purchases, expecting prices to drop.
The trend is not contained to San Francisco. Attendance throughout the major leagues was down 4 percent last year and dipped below 70 million for the first time since 2003. There were myriad reasons, including an inordinate number of early-season rainouts and teams that chose to “tank” by not acquiring good players, hoping to lower payroll and rebuild.
From an attendance perspective, the appeal of Oracle Park and strength of the San Francisco market likely puts the Giants in a better position than many MLB teams, even if their on-field struggles over the past two seasons carry over into 2019. Still, the Giants–like many teams around MLB–are having to adjust to address worries over declining attendance, and revamping ticket offerings to give fans options that are more flexible than traditional packages has been one part of that process. (Adjustments might also be coming to Oracle Park, with the Giants reportedly exploring the idea of moving in the outfield fences after making several upgrades ahead of the 2019 season.) The Giants and Oracle Park have been among MLB’s most successful draws for fans for years, and it seems the organization is trying to adapt to ensure that trend continues going forward.