There is always a danger when you pursue a new ballpark: trashing the old home, even implicitly, will depress attendance. And that’s what the Oakland A’s are discovering, with terrible crowds for this week’s homestand.
We’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again during years of covering new-ballpark efforts. The cycle: team decides it wants a new home, team proposes new home, team trashes current home to make case for new home, team sees attendance decline, team procures deal for new ballpark, attendance ticks up at old home as fans get in line for new-ballpark tickets, new ballpark opens. You see this cycle play out time and time again, both on the MLB and MiLB levels.
After years of trashing the Coliseum site as potential home to a new ballpark and then openly seeking a sugar daddy in Las Vegas, the A’s opened the ballpark to full capacity this week, only to see the smallest crowds of the season–including the smallest crowd in Oakland in 34 years. The team seems to be a little surprised at the lack of interest from fans, per the Daily Democrat:
The A’s drew just over 14,000 fans for their three-game series against the Texas Rangers, which concluded Thursday with 5,182 in attendance — the biggest crowd of the series. Wednesday night (4,320) was the smallest crowd in 34 years. Tuesday night the A’s drew 4,739 fans on the night the ballpark opened to full capacity for the first time since the 2019 Wild Card game.
“We thought we would see a little more of an uptick, obviously we’re going to see an uptick this weekend,” [A’s president Dave] Kaval said. “I think it remains to be seen how the balance of the season goes and we’re going to keep redoubling our efforts to get the word out and encourage people to see the exciting baseball that’s being played here….
“It further cements our position that we really just need a new venue,” Kaval said. “The facility in its current condition — even with championship plaza, marketing and the Treehouse — it’s a challenge to attract fans to this location in the numbers necessary to support a Major League team. And obviously this last home stand was case in point.”
The A’s attendance numbers will rebound this weekend with the Boston Red Sox in town; indeed, tonight’s game should see a crowd approaching 30,000. But those midweek games, especially with a non-marquee team visiting, will continue to be hard draws. Yes, COVID-19 concerns may play a small part in the depressed attendance, and it may take a little while for word to get out that the team is playing to full capacity. But fans deciding to stay away from a venue trashed by ownership is just of the new-ballpark cycle.