Mets’ league-leading attendance drop: Sign bloom is off stadium rose?

The New York Mets have seen the largest drop in attendance from last year of any MLB team, and somebody thinks they’ve spotted a trend:

“The problem is last year the tickets were really expensive and the team stunk and that can really stick with fans for a while,” said Jon Greenberg, the executive editor of Team Marketing Report, an industry publication.

In the mid-1990s, Greenberg said, teams could count on new stadiums to help them boost ticket sales for several years, but that trend has ended.

“Stadium fatigue sets in much faster than it did before,” Greenberg said, noting that new stadiums built in Baltimore and Cleveland in the early 1990s led to long periods of increased attendance for both franchises. “When Camden Yards and Jacobs Field were built, they were a big deal and were a complete change. The novelty has worn off.”

That last note about stadium fatigue isn’t entirely untrue, but it’s also worth noting that the Orioles and Indians both got really good on the field around the same time they opened their new stadiums, which is the main reason their attendance honeymoons were so long. Cellar-dwelling teams have not been so lucky: The Pittsburgh Pirates jumped 41% in attendance the year they opened PNC Park, then fell 28% the next year after losing 100 games in 2001; the Cincinnati Reds had a similar but less-dramatic drop two years later.

Some of this is no doubt stadium fatigue &mdash Camden Yards could have drawn fans in the early ’90s even if the Orioles had been playing like, well, the Orioles — but mostly it’s just an expression of the same principle at work as always: If your team is winning, you can stretch a honeymoon out for a few years; if not, it’ll likely fizzle in two to three. Every stadium draws curiosity-seekers its first season, and every stadium is pretty much back to baseline attendance levels ten years down the road. Florida Marlins, you have been warned.

Mets “talking” with Islanders, MLS about Queens move

More rumors of rumors, but: New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon tells Newsday (via its new sister publication Gothamist, since Newsday has hidden all its articles behind a $5/week paywall) that he’s “had conversations with Islanders owner Charles [Wang] and we’ve talked about Queens,” and that he’s also talked to MLS commissioner Don Garber about a soccer stadium, though “we probably can’t do both.”

Any hockey or soccer venue would presumably be built in the Citi Field parking lot, though Willets Point is always a possibility as well if New York City follows through with its redevelopment plans. The bigger question — who would pay for it — Wilpon and Newsday left undiscussed.

If nothing else, anyway, this gives Wang some added leverage on his move threats to kick Nassau County into approving his plans there. And who knows, maybe Wilpon is just doing his fellow owner a favor by tossing out some red meat to the tabloids — though right now it’s not like his team doesn’t have its own ways to get itself into the paper.

More dubious firms got Citi Field contracts

Because everyone is emailing me about it: The New York Post ran an “exclusive” report yesterday that the Mets used contractors with suspected mob ties in the construction of Citi Field:

The Mets shelled out $51.6 million in taxpayer money to contractors shunned by the city for their ties to the Mafia, labor corruption or bribery, The Post has learned.

At least seven contractors the city avoids were hired by the team to build Citi Field between 2006 and 2009, according to government records.

The tainted companies were paid from a $91 million pot the city Economic Development Corp. gave to the Mets.

This is big news — or at least, it was back in April, when the New York Times first reported it. The Post did uncover some additional names of questionable companies that worked on Citi Field, though these were because of bribery allegations and other unethical practices, not specifically mob ties. But then, the Post has a notoriously hazy notion of what constitutes an “exclusive.”

Mets add Mets content to Citi Field

The New York Mets sent out a press release over the weekend announcing that they’re naming Citi Field’s VIP entrances after former Mets greats, renaming the stadium’s outfield footbridge “Shea Bridge,” and otherwise adding more Mets-specific stuff (orange-and-blue flowers in planters!). This should please Mets fans who’d griped that the new stadium seemed to have more homages to the Brooklyn Dodgers than to the pre-2009 Mets, though as the blog Loge 13 wonders: “This is all great news but it is stunning that everyone else but the Mets realized this was a good idea long before Citi Field ever got built.” One possibility: Mets execs may not have wanted to rename entrances for the likes of Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges before they’d seen if they could sell off naming rights to corporate sponsors first.

Citi Field springs a leak

With the New York Mets‘ season long since having passed the laughingstock stage, the media have turned their sights on their new stadium: Yesterday’s New York Post reported that the new $830 million stadium “has been plagued by water damage to several luxury suites — including Jerry Seinfeld’s — as well as mold, falling signs and concrete, flooding in outfield seats, faulty electrical wiring and shoddy tile work, sources said.” One “insider” (hey, remember when newspapers weren’t going to rely on anonymous sources anymore?) told the Post: “Shitty Field — that’s what we call it.” Get in line, pal.

To be fair, this is the sort of thing a lot of new buildings go through when they first open, and all the problems seem fixable. Still, after taxpayers devoted more than $600 million to building the place, water dripping on Jerry Seinfeld’s head must seem like adding insult to injury and injury and injury…

Yankee Stadium slam book, mid-season edition

Just in time for the pennant race, we have yet another review of the new New York Yankees and Mets stadiums, courtesy of Metropolis magazine’s Mark Lamster, who’d previously critiqued New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourossouff’s review of the new places as being too focused on abstract aesthetics and not enough on actual ballpark experience. Lamster’s principal conclusion this time around: New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are mostly about making money, and aren’t shy about it.

When I first started attending games on my own, some 20 years ago, a ticket to the Yankee bleachers cost $1.50, pocket change even for a kid on a tight allowance. That same ticket now costs $14: not an unreasonable sum, but more than a movie and enough to keep a student on a limited budget from making it too much of a habit. The new stadium, for that matter, doesn’t beg that kind of relationship. It’s a special-occasion place, somewhere to visit a couple of times a season. Why empty your wallet for an entertainment event that might not be entertaining? (Even the best teams lose roughly 40 percent of their games.) When you’re stuck in the nosebleed seats, and a beer, a dog, and a bag of peanuts cost upward of 20 bucks, thoughts of exploitation inevitably percolate through the mind. It is in those moments that the fan-team compact seems hopelessly broken, and one begins to wonder about the difference between being a fan and being a chump. Sometimes it seems like there’s no difference at all.

I’m pretty sure Yankees bleachers prices went up to $3 in 1986, but otherwise, hard to argue with that — and yes, I’d be saying that even if Lamster didn’t quote me in his piece.

Sports bubble watch: Mets ticket discounts

The New York Mets, who’ve so far managed to duck the criticism the Yankees have got despite their own sky-high ticket prices and empty seats behind home plate, sent out an email yesterday offering field-level tickets to their upcoming homestand for as much as 33% off. (Which still isn’t as good as StubHub, especially given all the Ticketmaster fees the team tacks on, but it’s closer.) Meal deals, here we come.

New Yankee Stadium slam book, cont’d

It’s official: Everybody and their sister has now chimed in with their thoughts on the Yankees‘ new stadium. The latest:

  • There are still lots of empty seats, according to the New York Times, though the ultra-pricey ones in camera range appear to be filling up some.
  • Bald Vinny likes it, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, though all he’s actually quoted as saying is that he likes that bleacher tickets are still the same price and it’s “sad to see” all the empty luxury seats.
  • Alan Schecter at Bleacher Report says, “I don’t think they could have put together a less fan-friendly experience if they tried.” He also reports that the new let the fans down to the field during batting practice rule isn’t as generous as it appears: It only applies during Yankees batting practice, and fans are ordered to skedaddle as soon as the visiting team takes the field.
  • The Business Insider suggests the Yankees management could fix matters through the magic of the marketplace: “24 hours before each game starts, for example, remaining seats could be sold via an online auction in which prices drop 1% a minute until they’re all gone.” Though they also note that the risk that “people and corporations [would] stop buying tickets in advance so as to save money.” Now there’s an idea.
  • The Newark Star-Ledger thinks it’s time for a fan boycott. It’s never worked before, but you can’t blame people for trying.
  • And finally, for a change of pace: Scott M.X. Turner’s bad day at the Mets‘ new stadium, including reports that Citi Field is likewise beset by empty seats and bans on viewing batting practice from the field level.

Seatgate: Our long national nightmare continues

The controversy over those empty seats at New York Mets and Yankees games has reached MLB commissioner Bud Selig, though he was typically uncritical of the teams in his response:

“Hal Steinbrenner did say a couple of weeks ago that he thought that they may have overpriced tickets, and they ought to look at it. Well, good for him,” Selig said at MLB’s New York headquarters in a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors. “And I know the Wilpons are very sensitive about all of this, and I’m sure both clubs are doing that. And I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t be doing that. Because they should.”

Which is all well and good, except that it was reported the day before that Yankees president Randy Levine revealed the team intends to raise premium ticket prices 4% next year. Guess Selig doesn’t read the Times.

As for Levine, he’s said he considers the issue closed: “We’re done talking about seats,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re not talking about seats.” You may not be, Randy, but everybody else still is.

New NY stadiums roomier, in both good and bad ways

Some more reactions of late to the new New York Mets and Yankees stadiums:

The New York Times’ Bats blog worries that “Let’s Go Mets!” chants sound weaker in the new, smaller-capacity but physically larger Citi Field. Which will come as some surprise to the Huffington Post’s Michael Shapiro, who insists that Citi is intimate like Ebbets Field. (The HuffPost’s Thomas B. Edsall gives a more measured overview of the new Yankees facility and its funding controversies, including a quote from yours truly.)

NJ.com blogger Mike says he was “both impressed and disappointed” by his first visit to the new Yankee Stadium, digging the open concourses and abundant food options, but missing the close-in upper deck and history of the old stadium: “Overall, the new place lacks the character of the old, but much of that character was rooted in the fact that the old place was old. … The new place in comparison, while more comfortable in many ways, also felt sterile in many areas.”

The Bongo Frenzy blog notes the irony of Citi Field honoring Citi Field while dedicating much of its space to exclusive clubs: “In the elite Delta Club, fans are segregated into Delta Club and Delta Club Silver fans. I wonder if there are signs above the water fountains in the Delta Club that read, ‘Silver’s Only.'”

After the Yankees and Cleveland Indians combined to hit 20 homeruns in the first four games at the new Yankees park, there’s growing speculation as to whether the team has inadvertantly created a homer haven. Greg Rybarczyk of Hit Tracker notes that contrary to team claims that the new park’s dimensions are the same as the old, the Yankees actually moved the right-field fences in at the new place, while making them shorter as well; however, Rybarczyk notes that homeruns are flying out of parks all over baseball at increased rates, and speculates that a juiced ball is the likeliest explanation.

Finally, the Bronx Beat, a site run by Columbia Journalism School students, has turned my Yankees stadium cost spreadsheet into a nifty infographic, suitable for framing, if your wall can hold Flash applications.