Heading into Friday night’s game, the Pirates had played 9 home games in 2012. Their average attendance in those 9 games (tied for fewest in MLB with Seattle) was 22,577, good for 23rd overall in the league and 15th of 16 National League teams.
So why did I title this post “encouraging”?
Over at Baseball Reference, there is a link that shows the 2011 versus 2012 attendance for the same amount of home games. After the first 9 games in 2011, the Pirates had an average attendance of 19,040. This has resulted in an increase of 3,537 fans/game at this same point as last year. Throughout all of baseball, there has been a year-over-year attendance increase of 1,351/game, so the Pirates still have a net increase of 2,186 additional fans over the league average.
The Pirates raw increase of 3,537 fans per game is the 7th highest in all of Major League Baseball. Some of the increase can be due to the opening series with the Phillies drawing a large amount of Phillie fans. But the Pirates have also had some cold nights and had to compete against Pens’ playoff games (sadly, not enough of them) in a few dates, so it probably evens out.
There is excitement about this team and what is being built. The fans that came back last year have continued to come back this year. Considering that April is perennially the worst month for attendance with the Pirates, due to kids being in school and the spotty weather, this is an encouraging trendline.
In 2010, the Pirates averaged 19,919 fans per game. This increased to 23,956 per game in 2011, a rise of 4,037 fans per game. If the Pirates can maintain just the 3,537 additional patrons per game that they already have built in, that would give them an attendance figure of 27,493 per game (this utilizes 71.6% of PNC Park’s capacity). Using last year’s figures, that would have put them 10th in the National League, right in line with Cincinnati.
Using the numbers from last year’s Incremental Value of a Fan article, each additional fan generates $29.30 for the Pirates. An additional 3,537 fans per game would garner $8.39M extra revenue for the team. Last year during the lead-up to the trade deadline and draft deadline, the Pirates used the spike in attendance-generated revenue to acquire Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee, plus break the bank on Josh Bell in the draft.
With the draft expense stream fixed this year, the Pirates could funnel this year’s attendance spike into the major league team payroll, if the team finds itself in the position to be buyers again.