Everyone always likes to harp on the Marlins lack of fan support and often that criticism is fair. Now that the first home stand has concluded we thought it would be a good time to take a look at how this year's attendance is shaping up.
Through nine home dates, the Marlins have drawn 212,957 fans, for an average of 23,661 per game. That includes a crowd of 57,405 on opening day (the largest crowd year to date) and a season low crowd of 11,416 on Monday against the Phillies.
If they can maintain this pace, the Marlins will draw over 1.9 million fans this season, which would be their highest total since the 1997 season when they drew over 2.3 million fans (one of only two seasons - the other being the inaugural year - where they drew over 2 million).
It's tough to compare the attendance to the early part of the 2004 season because a number of things work against the 2005 season. For one, the Marlins were coming off their World Series win at the start of last season. Opening day was huge (although with 55,315 fans there were fewer in attendance than at this year's opening day).
What helps the 2004 numbers though are two weekend series in the first nine home dates, including a Saturday night game against the Phillies that drew over 40,000 (when the rings were presented to the players and different rings were given to fans) plus another 40,000 plus crowd two weekends later against the Braves. Taking that into consideration - that the comparable period in 04 featured two weekend series and big giveaways, it's fair to assume that the 05 Marlins are on track to increase attendance year-over-year.
If you compare the 2005 attendance to where the Marlins were early in the 2003 campaign, things look pretty good. After nine home dates in 2003 the Marlins were averaging fewer than 17,000 fans per game. And that was after fairly marquee series against the Phillies (to open the year), Mets, and Braves.
So despite the ticket price increases, the Marlins could be on track for a successful year at the box office - especially if they stay in the playoff race. Successful at least when you compare the numbers to what the Marlins have historically achieved.
If they maintain their current average of about 24,000 per game, the Marlins will likely finish in the bottom third of the league in attendance. The Nationals will certainly jump the Marlins this year (they have 20,000 or so season tickets sold and expect to draw 30,000 or more fans per game).
Marlins attendance will likely be up this year, and because of their higher prices, that will definitely mean more revenue. We're still not convinced though that they have a revenue maximizing strategy in place. Maintaining last year's lower ticket prices and bringing back promotions like the Marlins "dimes", which despite being technically illegal, were a great way to bring folks out to the ballpark, could attract more fans and generate more revenue in the profits.
Why should any of us care about the Marlins maximizing revenue? Well, if they do that, then they can start holding onto the likes of a Carl Pavano here or an Alex Gonzalez there, maybe a Josh Beckett or a Miguel Cabrera. It will be a sad day for Marlins fans everywher if/when we see all of those players in other team's uniforms.