It appears as if a 103rd consecutive championship-less season has finally exhausted the patience of Chicago Cubs fans.
The Cubs are mired in fifth place in the NL Central with a 30-44 record through Wednesday, June 22, kept out of the basement — both in the division and overall — by the Houston Astros, and their struggles are taking a toll at the box office. The Cubs are drawing an average of 2,548 fewer fans per game at Wrigley Field, the seventh-biggest decline in baseball, and are on pace to barely exceed 2.9 million fans, which would be the first time they’ve welcomed fewer than 3 million fans since 2003 and their lowest figure since 2002.
Even the Cubs’ sellouts are not as robust as they would initially appear. The Cubs drew the biggest three-game crowd in the history of Wrigley Field (126,283), when the New York Yankees made a rare interleague visit to Chicago last weekend, but Max Waisvisz, the owner of Chicago-based Gold Coast Tickets, said the seats were filled with people who paid far less than list price for their tickets.
“They were selling tickets at $15 apiece — their own premium ticket division was selling tickets at half of face value,” Waisvisz told TicketNews.
Waisvisz believes the Cubs’ woes at the gate go well beyond their poor performance on the field. The Cubs opened the season with the third-most expensive average ticket price, according to the Team Marketing Report, but a combination of their lackluster play and the still-stagnant economy has made it difficult for season ticket holders to sell those tickets and seeing the lovable loser Cubs — who haven’t won the World Series since 1908 — at historic Wrigley Field is no longer the hook it was a few years ago.
“People tell me they can’t see the economy getting any better,” Waisvisz said. “People can’t find the discretionary income. People’s 401K’s are now 101s and they’re just not spending like they used to.
“The [thought was the] words ‘lovable losers’ would keep on going, but it has finally caught up,” Waisvisz said. “I saw an interview with [new owner] Joe Ricketts saying this is great, when they lose they still sell the ballpark out. And now the fans are all upset about that.”
In addition, Waisvisz said the Cubs are alienating their season ticket holders by offering single game tickets at such reduced prices. “You don’t give any worth to your season ticket holders,” Waisvisz said. “You don’t keep the season ticket holders, you won’t have people going to your games.”
With the Cubs in the midst of another rebuilding project and the economy showing no signs of emerging from its funk anytime soon, Waisvisz said the Cubs will have to get creative — and generous — in order to lure fans back into the fold. In the meantime, ticket brokers and season ticket holders just have to hope to minimize their losses.
“The only way I can see them saving their season ticket holders is if they give them the months of April and May,” Waisvisz said. “All the people I talk to, the season ticket holders, [say] ‘we’re not renewing.’ There are going to be a lot of tickets out there. This impacts everyone.
“This is prime baseball season — this ain’t April and May, when we were losing the money. This is June and we’re losing the money. If we didn’t have the Yankees series, we would not have made back some of our losses. We’ll be lucky to break even over the baseball season, not including all the overhead we have.”