May 27, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; The Kansas City Royals present several on field activities in support of Armed Services Day before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
In lore there are references to 2 million pilgrims walking through the turnstiles at Kauffman Stadium year in and year out. We have not seen evidence of it since 1991, and it has been understandable given the atrocious teams that have called Kauffman home during that period of time. This year the old attendance plateau of old may be in play again. I mostly care because a quarter of million more fans in the seats equates to a nice revenue boost, and will hopefully help the team maintain the payroll at a respectable level, but I also believe that KC has been down for too long on both sides of the sports complex and wants a winner very badly. Go look at how big of a deal Sporting KC has become if you don’t believe me.
The last three years have seen rather consistent attendance numbers at 1.724, 1.740, and 1.751 million. You could call that growth, but of an extremely modest variety. The expectations this year were much higher going into the season, and it may be contributing to better attendance already. Through 9 home games in 2013 the Royals were averaging 20,773 per game, and so far through the same number of 2014 games the average is slightly higher at 21,569 filled seats each night. Sweeping Houston seemed to increase walk up numbers at least if the numbers quoted on the broadcast were correct.
What would it take for 2 million? After the abysmal month of May last summer there was a drop in interest as Royals fans are conditioned for an early end to the season. Toward the end of the season the Royals clawed back to a point where if squinted and turned your head sideways it looked like the playoffs could happen. There were just too many teams in between them and the wild card. To average the necessary 24,691 fans per game to get to the mark, the most important thing is to stay in the hunt for the entirety of the season. We need weekends like the last one of the season in KC last year where the average attendance was 28,770 and higher than any other non-Cardinal series of 2013 (Cards came for two days with avg. 31,290).
I think the other key to filling seats is going to be Yordano Ventura. If he becomes a spectacle, a la 2009 Zack Greinke, it will help boost attendance a chunk of the time without having to give away t-shirts or shoot off fireworks. Greinke was something to behold that year and you had games like July 3rd against the White Sox with 39 thousand fans despite the 33-46 record. Ventura could be a similar drawing point this summer if he continues to be effective.
This team has come slowly out of the gate and still managed to stay at the .500 level, so assuming that the offense warms up like it did last summer, I am optimistic they will hang around and be interesting all the way through September.. Due to that I will be tracking how the attendance behaves each home stand and trying to benchmark it to last year for comparison’s sake.