Filling the Lyric Little Bandbox, 2023

What will 2023 Fenway Attendance Look Like?

  • Sellout streak Is back baby (37k per game)

    Votes: 2 1.0%
  • Tough ticket (34-36k per game)

    Votes: 14 7.2%
  • Verdugo bobbleheads ain't exactly flying off the shelves (30k-33k)

    Votes: 102 52.6%
  • In the room the women come and go / Talking of Jeff Manto (26-29k)

    Votes: 57 29.4%
  • Armagideon Time (under 25k)

    Votes: 19 9.8%

  • Total voters
    194

Bernie Carbohydrate

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A few years ago I was texting with a non-New Englander friend who was headed to Boston summer as a tourist. My buddy, not much of a baseball fan, had the usual list of attractions he hoped to line up for himself and his family: Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, Tea Party Museum, Duck Boat…and of course taking in a Red Sox game. In the 21st century, Fenway had become an attraction independent of the fortunes of the Red Sox, of interest even to non-fans looking for a quintessential Boston experience. Every season between 2004 and 2019 the Sox sold at least 2.8 million tickets – over 34k per game, with sellouts and near-sellouts most nights.

An oldster like me knows that there was no way “go to Fenway Park” was always in the top ten of the typical tourist’s list. When I was coming up it was easy to walk up on the day of the game and get a $5 bleacher seat to see Ralph Houk’s squad stumble through a loss to the Orioles. Prior to 2004, Fenway rarely sold out. Here is the total attendance for playoff seasons from the Bad Old Days:

2003: 2.6m (note that this is the year park capacity went from 34k to 36k)
1999: 2.4m, 30k per game
1995: 2.1m (only 72 home games that season, so that translates to 30k per game),
1990: 2.5m (31k per game)
1998: 2.4m
1986: 2.1m (26k per game)
1975: 1.7m (21k per game, back when Fenway held 33k total)
1967: 1.7m

The pre-Impossible Dream 60’s teams had poor attendance, and no team in the 70s broke the 30k-per-game barrier, not even the ‘78 team.

In the 80s Fenway was usually at 75% capacity (the best 80’s season was 1989, with 2.5m tickets sold, 30k per game, in support of an 83-79 team anchored by Clemens, Lee Smith, and Nick Esasky (!?!).

In the 1990s, attendance crept into the 80% capacity range, but the relative highs and lows were not related to on-field performance. For example, the ’92 squad (73-89) brought in 2.4m, but the ’98 team (92-70) could attract only 2.1 million.

Over in the How Long Will Chaim Last thread, a few posts mention waning attendance as a potential factor in Bloom’s eventual demise, with Lose Remerswaal pointing out
And the stadium was already less than full the past couple years and the resale market is already tanked
Lose is right. Leaving out the Covid (2020-2021) seasons, the 2.6m who went to Fenway in 2022 were the fewest since the 2001 season. It appears the Fenway-as-attraction effect isn’t ironclad. Other disappointing Sox teams (2012, 2014) still sold out nearly every game, but now it appears the front office can’t run a bad team out there and expect sellouts.

So how many will pass through the turnstiles in 2023?
 
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TapeAndPosts

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For what it's worth, the Red Sox weren't alone in having low attendance in 2022. MLB-wide, this past season was worse than any year from 1998-2019, with an average of 26,566 fans per game.

Presumably a little of that is due to interest still rebounding post-Covid, but actually overall MLB attendance has been trending downwards for 15 years. Numbers peaked at 32,696/game in 2007, diminished to 30K/game from 2009-2016 and had dropped down to 28,203/game in 2019, with every year from 2016 to 2019 worse than the one before.

So it's not just the Sox facing a different attendance landscape. The Sox long sellout streak was surely partially about the attractions of Fenway and the (mostly) good teams, but it also coincided with the post-Sosa/McGwire attendance boom, and evaporated as MLB attendance overall started to decrease.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/majors/misc.shtml
 

streeter88

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Great TS Eliot reference.

I wonder how TV revenues will be impacted. If I am John Henry, and look at the team assembled thus far, I would begin to worry who will keep tuned in, and how often the Red Sox will be on national TV. And anyway, who are the name brands in the promo for Sunday Night Baseball?
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Student 9’s help get the numbers up into the low 30’s.
This is an excellent point. I expect them to, bring back Family games, too, where you can get four tickets for a fixed price somewhat south of face value. Maybe include a hot dog and drink for each seat in that.

Beyond the traditional come ons, maybe they could update old promotions and do Dollar Beer Night or Death to EDM night?
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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Great TS Eliot reference.

I wonder how TV revenues will be impacted. If I am John Henry, and look at the team assembled thus far, I would begin to worry who will keep tuned in, and how often the Red Sox will be on national TV. And anyway, who are the name brands in the promo for Sunday Night Baseball?
Do the Sox receive any additional money for appearing on national TV games?
 

tims4wins

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A bunch of early responses in the how long will Chaim last thread were basically, it depends how 2023 goes.

I think it depends heavily on how April and May go. Early season is going to be rough, given the weather. But if the Sox are 20-30 on Memorial Day, there's going to be a lot of empty seats once it gets nice out.

Of course, seats sold aren't the same as the number of fans in the park. But I think it's going to look pretty empty for a lot of the season.
 

bankshot1

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If I was a tourist coming to Boston in the spring of '23, I'd take the Fenway tour in the morning, but save my real shekels for either the Celts or Bruins tickets. More bang for the buck. That's where the real excitement is going to be from April-June. Sadly Fenway's going to be quiet and Sox fans almost as indifferent as Sox ownership seem to be towards the '23 team.
 

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If I was a tourist coming to Boston in the spring of '23, I'd take the Fenway tour in the morning, but save my real shekels for either the Celts or Bruins tickets. More bang for the buck. That's where the real excitement is going to be from April-June. Sadly Fenway's going to be quiet and Sox fans almost as indifferent as Sox ownership seem to be towards the '23 team.
Except Celts/B's playoff tickets will be considerably more expensive and plenty of people still prefer a day at the ballpark to a night at the arena. Plenty of tourists will still go to Fenway for a game.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Except Celts/B's playoff tickets will be considerably more expensive and plenty of people still prefer a day at the ballpark to a night at the arena. Plenty of tourists will still go to Fenway for a game.
Agreed. Fenway is historic and unique-ish. The Garden is generic. And tix are much easier to get to springtime Sox games
 

yeahlunchbox

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They averaged 32,409 last year, so between baseball's falling popularity and an underwhelming to bad offseason depending on how you view their moves so far, I can't see attendance being higher than that. I voted 30-33k, but I could see landing in the upper range of 26-29k depending on how the season shakes out.
 

brandonchristensen

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Are season tickets still impossible to get? I remember in the 2003-era Sox you had to basically be handed one down from a family member dying to get a season ticket. Similar to being a valet in Vegas.

Has that changed with the waning interest?
 

RG33

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Agreed. Fenway is historic and unique-ish. The Garden is generic. And tix are much easier to get to springtime Sox games
Yes, living in Southern California as a Bostonian, when the topic inevitably comes up, like 80+% of the time people mention their trip to Boston, how much they loved the city, and how, of course, going to Fenway was one of the highlights.

In 17 years out here I’ve never once had someone say “I went to a Celtics or Bruins game in Boston. . . . . “
 

Max Power

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Yes you can get anything except the weekend plan, but the benefits are kind of crummy for anything but full season and weekday ones. You can buy half a season and you're only guaranteed one game per playoff round. There's no value in buying a half season of tickets that always go for under face value on the secondary market if you're not getting a full strip of playoff tickets.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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They averaged 32,409 last year, so between baseball's falling popularity and an underwhelming to bad offseason depending on how you view their moves so far, I can't see attendance being higher than that. I voted 30-33k, but I could see landing in the upper range of 26-29k depending on how the season shakes out.
I think that number is tickets sold, not bums in seats. I know my friend I used to share tix with had lots of trouble getting rid of them last year.

I expect some folks who ate tix last year might be less likely to buy them in 2023.
 

voidfunkt

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I used to go to 10+ games a year with friends... since 2019 I'm going to about 1 game a year. For my friend group its really a mix of comfort, price, and interest. The tickets are expensive, for some of them it's a giant pain in the ass to get into Boston, and also the product is pretty "meh". We're more likely to go to a bar these days and watch a game casually because it's cheaper, more comfortable, more convenient, and we don't have to police our language the same way you do in Fenway with all the kids around.

I really can't underscore the "product is meh" part enough tho... it's not just the Sox, it's baseball as a whole... it's not fun anymore and it's really competing with a lot of more interesting choices for my fellow Millennial friends.
 

bankshot1

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Except Celts/B's playoff tickets will be considerably more expensive and plenty of people still prefer a day at the ballpark to a night at the arena. Plenty of tourists will still go to Fenway for a game.
Playoff tickets for the Bs and Cs more expensive than sitting in freezing Fenway in April watching a last place team? I hadn't thought of that.

The point was the Sox start of the season will likely coincide with a pretty big slug of buzz for what looks like legit shots for championships for both occupants of the Gaaaahden. The Sox run the risk of being a distant afterthought by Patriots Day that even the Globe won't follow them. And tickets to games @ America's favorite ballpark may be so discounted by May faithful pilgrims from Tampa and Baltimore might engage in a northern Crusade and outshout the locals.

The last point might be hyperbolic.

Might be.
 

Max Power

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And tickets to games @ America's favorite ballpark may be so discounted by May faithful pilgrims from Tampa and Baltimore might engage in a northern Crusade and outshout the locals.

The last point might be hyperbolic.

Might be.
It's not. That already happened a lot over the last couple seasons. There are more visiting fans than I've ever seen before and they're generally louder than the locals if the Red Sox are losing at the end of the game.
 

dynomite

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I really can't underscore the "product is meh" part enough tho... it's not just the Sox, it's baseball as a whole... it's not fun anymore and it's really competing with a lot of more interesting choices for my fellow Millennial friends.
You had me until here.

I know I’m in the overwhelming minority but I find baseball incredibly “fun” right now, the Red Sox aside.

There’s young superstars across the league, from Tatis Jr to Soto to McClanahan to Wander to Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt, the Orioles kids and basically the entire Braves roster. Maybe that’s relatively standard, but there’s a lot of exciting young talent in the game.

We just witnessed a 62 HR season, even though the arguable best player in the sport is a Japanese phenom who is playing two ways at the same time better than anyone in the history of the sport, including Ruth.

And on top of that, Pujols just capped off one of the greatest careers ever with a magical 700 HR finish on the Cardinals, somehow.

There’s juggernaut super teams but also plenty of smaller and mid market teams contending with them like Cleveland and Toronto and Tampa and Seattle and Philly and Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Oh, and after hating it at first I love the Manfred Runner in extras — it instantly makes these regular season games dramatic and strategic instead of just waiting around for a solo HR.

There are obviously issues remaining — robot umps, ownership problems, the CBA issues, etc. — but as a baseball fan things seem to be going pretty well to me.
 

Tony Pena's Gas Cloud

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I don't think the offseason moves the needle much either way. The piss and moan "I'll never go this year" crowd is currently loud and obnoxious, but I have a feeling if you wave face value tickets at them, they'll still attend. The gates lose one Yankee series, but the Cardinals and Dodgers should more than make up for that. Some games against teams that rarely visit Fenway will draw the "completist" crowd and some fans from out of town. Imo, sales will be stagnant, and if there is a drop it will be right in line with the overall decline in all of MLB.
 

The Gray Eagle

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You had me until here.

I know I’m in the overwhelming minority but I find baseball incredibly “fun” right now, the Red Sox aside.

There’s young superstars across the league, from Tatis Jr to Soto to McClanahan to Wander to Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt, the Orioles kids and basically the entire Braves roster. Maybe that’s relatively standard, but there’s a lot of exciting young talent in the game.

We just witnessed a 62 HR season, even though the arguable best player in the sport is a Japanese phenom who is playing two ways at the same time better than anyone in the history of the sport, including Ruth.

And on top of that, Pujols just capped off one of the greatest careers ever with a magical 700 HR finish on the Cardinals, somehow.

There’s juggernaut super teams but also plenty of smaller and mid market teams contending with them like Cleveland and Toronto and Tampa and Seattle and Philly and Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Oh, and after hating it at first I love the Manfred Runner in extras — it instantly makes these regular season games dramatic and strategic instead of just waiting around for a solo HR.

There are obviously issues remaining — robot umps, ownership problems, the CBA issues, etc. — but as a baseball fan things seem to be going pretty well to me.
Sorry to nitpick one minor thing out of your post, which I totally agree with (except for the Manfred Man, which I dislike) but it grates on me greatly to see Toronto referred to as a small or mid-market team. The city population according to Wikipedia is almost 3 million, and their metropolitan area has over 6 million people, about a million more than Boston's. And their actual market is basically the entire country of Canada.
Philadelphia is also a huge market, with a population of over 5 million and a metropolitan area population of almost 6 million.

The only reason the Red Sox are considered to be a bigger "market" team than the Blue Jays or Phillies is because our cheapskate tightwad owners have spent two decades outspending other teams who are in larger actual "markets".
 

8slim

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Sorry to nitpick one minor thing out of your post, which I totally agree with (except for the Manfred Man, which I dislike) but it grates on me greatly to see Toronto referred to as a small or mid-market team. The city population according to Wikipedia is almost 3 million, and their metropolitan area has over 6 million people, about a million more than Boston's. And their actual market is basically the entire country of Canada.
Philadelphia is also a huge market, with a population of over 5 million and a metropolitan area population of almost 6 million.

The only reason the Red Sox are considered to be a bigger "market" team than the Blue Jays or Phillies is because our cheapskate tightwad owners have spent two decades outspending other teams who are in larger actual "markets".
The perception of markets has been perverted in baseball. People refer to Tampa as a “small market team” but they are objectively not. Tampa is the 13th biggest market in the US. And they are adjacent to Orlando, a top 20 market.

The Rays “market” struggles are entirely of their own making. They play is a dilapidated pit set in the worst possible location. Years ago they should have built a retractable roof stadium on the west side of Tampa. That would have made their games accessible to an significantly larger amount of the population down there.

The markets that are truly “small” are the ones that are ranked 30 and higher: KC, Cincinnati, etc. There are too many teams referred to as “small market” that really aren’t at all.
 

8slim

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As for this topic, I think it’ll depend on April/May. When I was a kid in the 80s, attendance at Fenway was pretty sparse in those months, but then it’d perk up post-Memorial Day. Even when the team wasn’t great weekend games were usually near sellouts, and weeknight games were pretty well attended. Then things would fall off post-Labor Day if the team was out of contention.

I suspect this year could see a pattern similar to that. Except if the team is flailing at Memorial Day I imagine tickets to summer weeknight games will be easy to come by. Weekends will always draw since that’s when folks from the outer regions of New England, like me, tend to go.
 

Murby

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Presumably a little of that is due to interest still rebounding post-Covid, but actually overall MLB attendance has been trending downwards for 15 years. Numbers peaked at 32,696/game in 2007, diminished to 30K/game from 2009-2016 and had dropped down to 28,203/game in 2019, with every year from 2016 to 2019 worse than the one before.
This is what fascinates me as teams continue to throw out insane-stupid-level contracts. This isn't sustainable, yeah?
 

teddywingman

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The perception of markets has been perverted in baseball. People refer to Tampa as a “small market team” but they are objectively not. Tampa is the 13th biggest market in the US. And they are adjacent to Orlando, a top 20 market.

The Rays “market” struggles are entirely of their own making. They play is a dilapidated pit set in the worst possible location. Years ago they should have built a retractable roof stadium on the west side of Tampa. That would have made their games accessible to an significantly larger amount of the population down there.

The markets that are truly “small” are the ones that are ranked 30 and higher: KC, Cincinnati, etc. There are too many teams referred to as “small market” that really aren’t at all.
And that's why that team needs to be in Montreal. An AL East team in Montreal is what needs to happen.
 

OCD SS

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This is what fascinates me as teams continue to throw out insane-stupid-level contracts. This isn't sustainable, yeah?
It probably depends on inflation. When you adjust for the present day value of money, these contracts are worth a lot less and a previous poster showed that if you compare at a normalized standard, they’re basically in line with the value of Manny’s contract (so that, despite increased revenues coming in to MLB teams). Teams are just using a financial loophole to sign players for total dollars that will simultaneously cost them less while lowering or avoiding CBT penalties.

I think it’s safe to say that the issue isn’t that this is going to bankrupt any teams, it’s more that it shows how much revenue is coming into the game and what teams can actually afford to spend.
 

walt in maryland

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Sorry to nitpick one minor thing out of your post, which I totally agree with (except for the Manfred Man, which I dislike) but it grates on me greatly to see Toronto referred to as a small or mid-market team. The city population according to Wikipedia is almost 3 million, and their metropolitan area has over 6 million people, about a million more than Boston's. And their actual market is basically the entire country of Canada.
Philadelphia is also a huge market, with a population of over 5 million and a metropolitan area population of almost 6 million.

The only reason the Red Sox are considered to be a bigger "market" team than the Blue Jays or Phillies is because our cheapskate tightwad owners have spent two decades outspending other teams who are in larger actual "markets".
I hear you, but the Red Sox' "market" is all of New England
 

Max Power

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Sorry to nitpick one minor thing out of your post, which I totally agree with (except for the Manfred Man, which I dislike) but it grates on me greatly to see Toronto referred to as a small or mid-market team. The city population according to Wikipedia is almost 3 million, and their metropolitan area has over 6 million people, about a million more than Boston's. And their actual market is basically the entire country of Canada.
Philadelphia is also a huge market, with a population of over 5 million and a metropolitan area population of almost 6 million.

The only reason the Red Sox are considered to be a bigger "market" team than the Blue Jays or Phillies is because our cheapskate tightwad owners have spent two decades outspending other teams who are in larger actual "markets".
Population size is only half of the equation. There are 15 million people in Istanbul, but you're not going to make much money plopping a major league team there. Interest in the sport varies widely across geographic regions. Locals just don't care much about their teams in Florida. It's probably a function of spring training sites and historic fandom, but it doesn't seem like something that's going to change any time soon.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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… Locals just don't care much about their teams in Florida. It's probably a function of spring training sites and historic fandom, but it doesn't seem like something that's going to change any time soon.
Interesting idea, but is it true? Are you only talking about MLB? Looking at the NHL, a transplanted sport that didn’t exist in FL when I was a kid, the Panthers were in the bottom third or so in attendance last year, but that was still higher than three Canadian teams, a couple of CA teams, and New Jersey, among others. The Lightning were #1, because they’re great, but doesn’t that show that local fans in Tampa/FL can support their sports teams?
 
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biollante

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I think I went to the June 21, 1986 game v the Orioles. Attendance was 35,707 and I got SRO tickets which were great not like now where they suck. Clemens threw hard and the game was a blast. Not too many women went to games back then now games are full of them (biggest change in the last 35 years or so). Great memory. Time was 3 hours and 1 minute. Take me back to when the game made more sense.
 

Ale Xander

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You had me until here.

I know I’m in the overwhelming minority but I find baseball incredibly “fun” right now, the Red Sox aside.

There’s young superstars across the league, from Tatis Jr to Soto to McClanahan to Wander to Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt, the Orioles kids and basically the entire Braves roster. Maybe that’s relatively standard, but there’s a lot of exciting young talent in the game.

We just witnessed a 62 HR season, even though the arguable best player in the sport is a Japanese phenom who is playing two ways at the same time better than anyone in the history of the sport, including Ruth.

And on top of that, Pujols just capped off one of the greatest careers ever with a magical 700 HR finish on the Cardinals, somehow.

There’s juggernaut super teams but also plenty of smaller and mid market teams contending with them like Cleveland and Toronto and Tampa and Seattle and Philly and Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Oh, and after hating it at first I love the Manfred Runner in extras — it instantly makes these regular season games dramatic and strategic instead of just waiting around for a solo HR.

There are obviously issues remaining — robot umps, ownership problems, the CBA issues, etc. — but as a baseball fan things seem to be going pretty well to me.
McClanahan? Come on, he’s a great pitcher but no one is coming to see him. And Tatis Jr destroyed a lot of the demand to see him play, if the card market is any guide.

But many great pointsbmade in your post.
 

Kliq

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Population size is only half of the equation. There are 15 million people in Istanbul, but you're not going to make much money plopping a major league team there. Interest in the sport varies widely across geographic regions. Locals just don't care much about their teams in Florida. It's probably a function of spring training sites and historic fandom, but it doesn't seem like something that's going to change any time soon.
Wealth is also a factor. The Greater Boston area is one of the wealthiest metro areas in the country, which means plenty of corporate sponsors, plenty of people to buy expensive tickets and merchandise, and the number of Fortune 500 companies located in and around Boston has plenty of business people and corporate outings taking place at Fenway Park.

There are other outstanding factors such as historical success, and things like college students moving to Boston and going to Red Sox games/getting into the Sox, and taking that interest elsewhere, not to mention all the Ex-Pats spread out across the country. All of that contributes to a fanbase beyond the raw population size of the metro area. The Green Bay Packers are one of the most popular, well-supported NFL franchises and they play on a remote, freezing Great Lakes shipping outpost barely bigger than Quincy.
 

Big Papi's Mango Salsa

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I went with the 30k-33k, just because I think that is the most reasonable projection, at least in terms of fans in the stands (not tickets sold).

Overall, I don't think this is going to be a good year for the Red Sox, absent some major moves coming in the trade market that just seem to be against what Bloom is ostensibly trying to build in the 2025-27 window. So you're going to lose the casual fans. However, that also means that a bad team on the field (relative to the rest of the AL East) will likely drive down secondary market ticket prices, and that's when people whom love the Red Sox even if they hate how they're being built (*raises hand*) will be able to find dirt cheap tickets in the secondary market, and as such probably end up being able to go to MORE games than when ticket prices are $65 a pop for something decent and not sitting behind a pole.

There is also of course the chance that Bloom hits on more than half his bets and we have a season similar to 1996 and finish around 85-77 (last season would have made them 1 game out of the last wild card with that record), and that would continue to get decent attendance from casual fans and should at least continue to sell face value tickets / get people whom have them to show up through the end of the year. I chose 1996 because you really have to go back a loooong time to find a Red Sox team with so little top tier talent as this one has. But 33 Clemens to 34 Sale, 28 Vaughn to 26 Devers seem like decent enough comps, and 30 Story should be a good bit better than 29 Valentine, as well as some of the youth coming up (Nomar got about a month, 26 Sele was a 95 ERA+ pitcher, etc).

The really cool thing is that some random relief pitcher on the squad will probably have a son that goes on to be a generational talent at quarterback three decades later, so that will be fun.
 

singaporesoxfan

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Some relevant facts from a Reddit thread on ticket prices in 1975 vs today:
  • The population of the metro Boston area has risen from 3.2m in 1975 to 4.2m in 2022 (30% increase), while Fenway Park's seating capacity only rose from 33,400 in 1976 to 38,800 in 2007 (don't think it's changed since) (16% increase) Source: MacroTrends and Baseball Almanac
  • Median family income in the U.S. rose from $14k in 1975 to $89k in 2021 (636% increase). Source: St Louis Fed Even if you adjust for inflation look at real median family income in the US, that rose from $63k in 1975 to $89k in 2021 (a 40% increase). Source: St Louis Fed
  • Average attendance at Fenway went from 21,900 (66% capacity) in 1975 to 32,400 (84% capacity) in 2022 (and that was a dip from the 35-37k average attendance in the 15 years pre-COVID i.e. 90-95% capacity). Source: Baseball Almanac
Compared to way back when, there are now many more Red Sox fans with much more wealth and much more interest in attending games in-person at Fenway, trying to get a seat at only a slightly higher capacity Fenway Park. So whatever the attendance (my guess is that it'll be similar to 2022), I don't think we'll see much change in ticket prices.