The New York Yankees are in the playoffs again — for at least another two games, anyway — which means it’s once again time to play “What’s wrong with attendance at the new stadium?” During both last week’s Division Series and in the first two games of the A.L. Championship Series this weekend, the Yanks drew several thousand fans short of capacity, and ushers were told to bring fans down from the nosebleeds to higher-priced seats to make the stadium look more full on TV. It’s a startling change from past seasons, when postseason games were sold out the minute they went on sale, and all the more startling considering that the new Yankee Stadium has about 7,000 fewer seats than the original one.
Many observers have been quick to jump to the conclusion that Yankee fans now suck, but it’s hard to see why they’d suck now when they didn’t just a few years ago. Some other possible theories, then, some raised by other news outlets, some my own:
- It was cold. It was really cold — windy and below 50 on Friday and Saturday nights, and not much better on Sunday. Given that those three games weren’t even sure of being played until the last minute, it’s easy to see why some fans would have steered clear. Still, it’s usually cold in October, and that hasn’t stopped fans in the past.
- Scalper greed. There were roughly 10,000 tickets a game still available on StubHub close to each game time, so it’s possible sellers were holding out for more than they could get. They did drop prices for Friday’s game, though, plus those 3,000 unsold tickets were unsold even by the Yankees, though, so this wouldn’t explain them.
- Yankee greed. The unsold tickets were largely in the corners of the upper deck, where seats are 1) expensive for postseason games and 2) pretty crappy compared to the old stadium. Several fans commented to local papers about the high prices at the new stadium not just for tickets, but for concessions: “I think the high prices of the [concessions] and the seats themselves, I think that’s what’s causing people not to come out,” said one. “It’s expensive to come out here anymore.” Another added: “At the old stadium, a playoff game, Saturday night, it was electric. It was a zoo. There were guys in jersey-shirts, drinking $8 beers. They’re gone, and I don’t know if they’re going to come back. Your $10 tickets are $50 tickets now.”
- Postseason fatigue. The Atlanta Braves have long been famed for not being able to sell out postseason games, and like them, the Yankees have now made it to October almost every year for well over a decade. Maybe fans are thinking, “Enh, I’ll wait till next year when the team is maybe hitting better and they’re not playing the Orioles”?
If the Yankees survive long enough to make it back to the Bronx for Game 6 on Saturday, we’ll have another data point to see which of these theories, if any, hold water. Regardless, when you have Detroit Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry calling the new stadium “a very easy place to play” compared to Oakland, you know that something has gone very wrong with the Yanks’ move to the House That George Built.