As opposed to 2008 (above), the Phils are mediocre on the field, with empty seats and sinking TV ratings that are a much bigger problem for the future

By Lewis Gould

If you’ve been to a Phillies home game this year or if you’ve watched one on television, you’ve probably noticed something that you haven’t seen in a long time – big swaths of empty blue seats.

For a franchise that set sell-out records, led the NL in attendance from 2010 to 2012, led all of baseball for 2011 and 2012, and has had over 3 million people at games for the past 8 years running, CBP has felt empty recently.

All those blue seats contribute to how we experience baseball at CBP. On the one hand, the place feels a bit sadder. It reminds us of days long gone when the team was bad and the Vet was cavernous. The stadium is quieter. But, on the other hand, it’s more comfortable not being packed in, lines to the bathroom and concessions are shorter, and parking is easier.

But what about the effect on the team? In particular, what do those empty seats mean to the team’s bottom line? And, just as importantly, what does the diminished interest mean to the TV ratings, which Comcast SportsNet releases on a sporadic basis?

It’s obviously way too early to know, but we can do some basic calculations to make a guess here. This year, the Phillies drew 444,081 people to their first 15 home games — an average of 29,605 — ranking them 12th in MLB. Last year, the Phillies packed in 75,000 more people after 15 games.

There are a lot of assumptions here, but based on this difference, the Phillies can expect to have a total attendance this year of 2,368,159 people. The simple explanation is that the first 15 games from this year saw a 21.4% drop-off in attendance from last year. Stretched across the entire season, that drop-off will mean 21.4% less attendance this year than last year’s 3,012,403, an average of 37,190, eighth-best in MLB.

That’s a loss of 644,244 fans in the seats this season. At an average ticket price of $37, the Phillies are going to lose just under $24 million this year if the current pattern continues. That’s a lot of money. And it’s before taking into account all the other things those 644,244 fans would spend their money on — parking, concessions, and souvenirs.

Going back two years is even more worrisome. In 2012, the Phillies had 272,692 people attend the first six games and 3,565,718 attend the entire year. Comparing the first six games this year to 2012, the Phillies are 31.8% lower than that year, which works out to a loss of 1,133,113 fans over the entire year. Using the same $37 per ticket average price, the Phillies are set to make just under $42 million less this year than in 2012.

These are some stark numbers. The Phillies are stretched to the limit on payroll but are going to lose $24 million (and more!) this year because not as many fans want to see the product the organization is putting on the field.

With the Comcast money coming in, maybe this won’t matter. But, no business likes to lose any money, let alone $24 million. And fans have to hope that attendance patterns change or that other money will make up for this loss as the team tries to get better into the future.

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