Discussion of the Padres home attendance is starting to heat up; it has been disappointingly low. Here’s a chart of the San Diego Padres home attendance in the Petco era, data courtesy of Baseball Reference:
There’s a falloff there after the opening of a new ballpark that is to be expected. What is not necessarily expected is the drop off that is occurring this year, especially after a 17-11 start. Last year, the 75 win team had a better average attendance.
One of the important things to consider about attendance is that there are a lot of variables that impact it: performance, time of season, opponents, promotions, even pitching matchups. Let’s take a quick look at some of the potential factors.
First, time of season. Attendance generally heats up in the summer months, as school gets out and the weather gets nicer. This year through 16 home dates, the Padres home attendance sits at 22,059, as shown above. Last year after 16 home dates, the home attendance was 26,293. Last year’s team, with a worse early season record and future outlook, had better early season attendance by about 4,000.
Bill Center (linked above) makes the claim that the Dodgers are the reason to blame for this season’s low figures. Is that the case? The Padres averaged 31,735 in the series against LA, a series that included the Padres home opener (and season opener). Even if we eliminate these four games, last year’s early season attendance would be 24,481, still more than this year. The Dodgers make a difference, but not enough to offset the gap entirely.
As RJ’s Fro mentions, the Padres played a few more home games on the weekend last year, and a few more on weekdays so far this year. That also, undoubtedly, accounts for some of the difference.
The overall point, for me anyway, is that attendance is slightly down, even compared to a season last year that saw the Padres draw their lowest home attendance since the mid-1990s. We can quibble about the difference, about what explains the slight decrease of a few thousand people per game. In the end, however, what is more concerning is that this year’s figures are even close to last season’s. A hot start, some good, young players, Adrian Gonzalez, a couple extended winning streaks, sole possession of first place, and so on, should all contribute to increased attendance and overall excitement about the team’s prospects.
There is plenty of time to turn things around; plenty of time for fans to buy into the New Regime and the players on the field. But if the early returns tell us anything, it is that the Padres front office has a lot of work to do in rebuilding the confidence of the fans. Hopefully, continued success on the field will do that, or the Padres will have to resort to other tactics.