While the Padres are no slouch at drawing fans, the team is hardly leading the league in yearly attendance figures. Attendance has been adequate, but not impressive. So why fix something that’s not technically broken?It should be addressed now to head off any potential issues in the future.
The San Diego Chargers are walking a line. The team is often brought up in relocation discussions. The same thing has happened in the past with the Padres and can happen again if the city and the team are not careful. The Padres, the city of San Diego, and fans do not even want to think about this subject. Not now or anytime in the future. With that in mind, let’s consider some options for increasing attendance.
First, what’s a good yearly attendance total? Last year the Padres ranked 17th in attendance, drawing 2,143,018 fans. That’s not a bad figure, but it’s not a great one either. Consider the 2011 Phillies. They drew 3,680,718. Not only did they break the coveted 3 million mark, but they drew over 1.5 million more fans than San Diego. I don’t expect a small-market like San Diego to generate attendance figures anywhere close to Philadelphia’s numbers. However, a steady stream of years with 2.5 million fans will put the Padres at leafy in the upper half of all baseball attendance figures.
Next question: how likely is it for the Padres to reach 2.5 million in attendance consistently? The fact is, San Diego has drawn more than 2.5 million in four of their eight years at PETCO. In their first season at the new park, the team drew over 3 million. Prior to their move downtown, the Padres drew more than 2.5 million just twice.
The club can feasibly draw more than 2.5 million consistently. They just need some key ingredients. First they need to cut down on day games in the middle of the week. Second, they need to utilize the park for non-baseball celebrations after the game such as a weekly concert series. Finally, they need to be a winning team.
San Diego is a vastly different city than Chicago. Sure, San Diego has a laid-back atmosphere, but they hardly have the rabid fan base seen on Chicago’s north side. Where the Cubs can fill Wrigley any time of day, San Diego struggles with their day games. In 2010, the team moved their day games later to 3:35 PM. It allows the team to attract more fans who get off work early in day. Yet, a move to night games during the week should capture the largest number of fans. It just makes more sense when you consider school schedules for children and work schedules for adults.
The Tampa Bay Rays have set the stage for in-season concert series. With the new ownership group in Tampa took over, they focused on getting better acts to play after games. While the results were modest, the concerts certainly attracted more fans. The key is bringing in acts that fans want to see, brining in acts that will attract fans and make them want to stay after the game. The team has to appeal to both the young crowd and the older crowd, something they really haven’t done yet.
The most obvious fix is success. The team saw some of its best attendance numbers in years they were successful. 2004 of course was a special year because of the new park. I would not expect the Padres to draw more than 3 million anytime soon. However, sustained success will almost guarantee a bump to at least 2.5 million per year. The problem the team has had with success is in how spectacularly they flamed out in their failures. Success is great, but it is often negated when the bad seasons are so horrible, the product is virtually unwatchable. The Padres need to avoid that. If they are not going to have a winning season, they must stop losing 90 plus games. In my Wins+ article, you can see the Padres rank slightly better than average in their good years, but they rank far below average in their bad years. When they are bad, they are really bad. This team needs not only focus on success and making the postseason, but it needs to focus on stopping the bleeding in bad seasons. An 83 loss season is so much better to stomach than a 91 loss season or a 99 loss season.
These suggestions aren’t groundbreaking. They aren’t radical either. Each is very achievable is the team chooses to do so. Attendance may not be a problem now, but isn’t it better to be proactive than reactive. I never want this team to be linked with a move again. The threat of the Padres moving has come up too often in the franchise’s history for the team not to focus on what they can do now to ensure attendance is high. A few simple (except for the success part, winning in a small market is never simple) adjustments will help the team attract more fans to the park.