By Bruce Levine-
U.S. CELLULAR FIELD (CBS) — It is an old story but still worth investigating: Why can’t the White Sox draw anything near an average amount of fans to their games?
The White Sox rank 28th in baseball with an average attendance under 20,000 per game. Many explanations have been posed, but few seem to be the exact reason for a free-fall in fan participation. White Sox attendance now has dropped for the fifth straight season.
The game day experience is fan-friendly at U.S. Cellular Field, based on reasonable ticket prices in 85 percent of the ballpark. There is a fair atmosphere in the corridor that surrounds the lower bowl of the seating area, where there are 26,000 seats. The food is as good as any you would find in downtown Chicago specialty restaurants. Wide walkways make it easy to get around, and libations that are easily obtained and consumed are a real part of a fun day at the ballpark.
I still haven’t touched on the best reason to attend a game at U.S Cellular Field. The White Sox have a young team with some really interesting players and are hanging around in the AL Central race. Two names come to mind if you are looking for a reason to attend a game: Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton.
Of course, it appears the real reason people don’t attend games is the location of the ballpark. Over the past five years, traffic patterns have gotten worse, causing fans in the southwest and northwest suburbs to think twice before heading toward the main feeder expressways. Two seasons ago, the Red Line was doing major repairs and shut down for five months of the season. That gave many commuters to White Sox games another reason to take a pass.
Marketing director Brooks Boyer has discounted tickets on the weekends and parking for all Sunday games. Some observers believe Sox fans became bargain ticket shoppers. If that is true, it occurred after years of half-price Monday tickets and Tuesday half-price admission with a Pepsi label in tow.
Although U.S. Cellular Field isn’t historic like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, the Fundamental Deck in left field as well as the patio and bullpen bar area in right field give the ballpark some real South Side flavor.
Late Chicago mayor Harold Washington insisted upon the stadium retaining a place on the South Side of Chicago, and no stadium deal could be agreed upon unless the mayor got his way. Many believed that a downtown ballpark near the east railroad tracks off of Randolph Street, now condos and office buildings, was the right place to build a a park with a sure draw every night.
Attendance at U.S Cellular field is always a topic that has a dead-end sign attached to it. When you are within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Tigers, as the Sox are, and draw 18,694 fans against Detroit, it is worthwhile to look into why people don’t show up.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.