The Diamondbacks put themselves in a unique situation heading into 2012 having shocked just about everyone in the baseball world on their way to 94 wins in their 2011 campaign- a 29 game improvement from their 2010 A.J. Hinch experiment when they mustered just 65 wins. Perhaps the sudden spike in success even caught the fans off guard, never fully allowing them to get behind the team and players after consecutive 92 and 97 loss seasons?
Whatever it was, the Diamondbacks didn’t see much of a jump in attendance following their success a year prior- even with an exciting playoff series against the Brewers. The Diamondbacks finished 13 of 16 in National League [home] attendance, beating only the Padres, Pirates and Astros.
Here are the team’s last six seasons in attendance at Chase Field:
2006: 2,091,685 (14 of 16) Home Record: 39-42 Overall: 76-86 *Tied for last place (3-way)
2007: 2,325,249 (13 of 16) Home Record: 50-31 Overall: 90-72 *1st in N.L. West – Lost in N.L.C.S
2008: 2,509,924 (11 of 16) Home Record: 48-33 Overall: 82-80 *2nd in N.L. West
2009: 2,128,765 (11 of 16) Home Record: 36-45 Overall: 70-92 *5th in N.L. West
2010: 2,056,697 (13 of 16) Home Record: 40-41 Overall: 65-97 *5th in N.L. West
2011: 2,105,432 (12 of 16) Home Record: 51-30 Overall: 94-68 *1st in N.L. West – Lost in L.D.S.
2012: 2,177,617 (13 of 16) Home Record: 41-40 Overall: 81-81 *3rd in N.L. West
As you can see, the success and disappointments of the Dbacks haven’t changed the attendance all that much over this six year span- never sitting higher than eleventh or lower than 14th in attendance in the N.L. In my opinion it’s because the club has struggled to be consistent over multiple seasons. The fans have definitely seen some good times as the Dbacks won the West in 2007, then swept the Cubs in the Division Series before falling to the red hot Rockies in the League Championship Series in less-than dramatic fashion. But 2008 was a disappointment, just as 2012 was following their 94 wins in 2011.
Phoenix is a unique city in that a large amount of their residents are transplants who arrived in the valley of the sun already enamored with a sports team from their home town. Hence why you’ll go to a Cubs game in town and have more fans for the away team. So while some cities can afford losing seasons without losing fans, the Dbacks are not one of them. It’s been an uphill battle for President Derrick Hall and the organization as a whole and they’ve done everything possible to make the fan experience a memorable one.
One thing that fans cannot use as a crutch for not going is that it is too expensive. In fact, the Dbacks have some of the cheapest tickets in the sport (or ANY sport) and avoid raising ticket prices whenever possible. They offer $1.50 hot dogs at all games, $4 beers and a whole menu of value items that make the family experience much lighter on the budget. The stadium is one of the nicest in the major leagues, includes a kid zone with a mini-field for kids to play baseball and a jungle jim that rivals any city park around. Generally speaking the product on the field has been fun to watch over the last three seasons as they’re eleven games over .500 at hitter friendly Chase Field.
Another added bonus that probably goes unnoticed to most is the 6:40 p.m. start time as opposed to 7:10 p.m. like most stadiums. I appreciate this more now that I have a two year old as it pretty much ensures we will always be out of the ballpark before 10 p.m. or even home by that time. A 7:10 p.m. start means we aren’t getting home until 10:30 or later and basically means we’d be leaving early. ~sidenote: we left early from one game (of about 20) all season and the team battled back from a five run deficit in the sixth to have Ryan Roberts hit a three run walk-off homerun to win it. Doh!
If the Diamondbacks can offer a consistent product over more than one season and continue to produce all-star players from within their farm system they should see an increase in attendance during the coming years- something Mr. Hall and Ken Kendrick deserve in my opinion. How they manage the organization and how the players produce will be the underlying factor but the fans can be a part of their successes by showing their support attending games when possible.
Hometown hint: For the best seat in the house for the best bang for your buck: Section 316 row 1-15 seats 9-13. Tickets are $14-$18 each (depending on opponent, night of week) and you have a dead center view from home plate to the outfield.
Follow me on Twitter at @ndougherty313 and our team at @venomstrikes.