By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) Yes, it’s been 104 years since the Cubs last won a World Series and it’s been 67 years since they even played in a Fall Classic. But it simply isn’t true that the North Siders never snap any streaks at Wrigley Field.
Heck, the Cubs did so just last season – when they failed to draw at least 3 million fans for the first time since 2003.
This summer on the North Side of Chicago, plenty of attention will be placed on the number of wins – and losses – that the Cubs pile up during Year 2 of The Age of Theo. But the attendance figures at the corner of Clark & Addison might be just as interesting to follow.
Perhaps even more so.
Last season, the Cubs drew 2,882,756 fans to Wrigley Field, which was still good for the 10th best attendance in the majors, but also constituted a 4.5 percent drop from the 3,017,966 the came through the turnstiles in 2011. It also was the first time that the attendance had fallen below the 3 million mark since the Cubs first surpassed that milestone in 2004.
“It’s been a tough year on the field and for the fans,” Cubs vice sales manager Colin Faulkner acknowledged to Crain’s Chicago Business last fall when discussing the team’s dwindling attendance. “But it’s still great. It’s a testament to the great support we get.”
For most franchises, nearly 2.9 million fans is indeed great. And for a 101-loss Cubs team, I suppose it still was a pretty impressive. But even though the ballclub’s new slogan for 2013 is “Committed,” will Cubs fans show that through ticket sales during what appears to be another painful season that’s creeping up above Arizona’s spring training horizon?
Or will the Cubs get burned by further shrinking crowds?
If early ticket sales are any barometer – and how could they not be? – it appears that the Cubs very well may experience yet another drop in attendance this season. The team hasn’t released any official sales figures, but through cubs.com on Friday – one week since single-game tickets went on sale – good tickets remained available to every game on the schedule. That includes all summer weekend games, which used to be gobbled up by eager fans within just hours of going on sale.
The White Sox series at Wrigley Field has usually been a hot ticket. This summer, it’s been reduced two just a two-game slate that will be played on weekday afternoons in late May. But even still, it’s somewhat startling that a fan can still buy four $116 seats in Aisle 33, Row 8 just beyond the visitors’ dugout for Sox-Cubs on May 29. Or four $117 seats in Aisle 32, Row 11, directly behind the visitors’ dugout for the game on May 30.
Besides the team’s home opener, the Cubs rarely draw that well at Wrigley during April when it’s often cold or rainy – or snowy – in Chicago. But, beginning with the second game of this season, a Cubs fan can snare tickets to every other April home date for as low as $8 via StubHub.
Beers cost that much.
Last fall, Faulker stressed to Crain’s that the Cubs “do not take for granted the support of our fans,” who made the franchise one of only four in the league that surpassed 3 million in attendance for each of the previous eight years.
Team president Theo Epstein also added that, “I think obviously we really care about our fans and we want them to have a great experience, but we’re trying to be transparent about it. We have a plan and we have a vision and it won’t happen overnight, but given the way of things I think this is the best way to go.”
It will be interesting to see if Cubs fans continue to agree.
And just how “Committed” they are with their ticket purchases throughout 2013.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.