Baseball is back, although judging by attendance numbers at Kauffman Stadium, the word hasn’t gotten out yet. Crowds have been noticeably sparse at the K this year, despite the team featuring some promising young players like Bobby Witt Jr. The team drew just 28,459 fans on Opening Day, their smallest crowd for the home opener since 1995, excluding the 2020 opener with no fans and the limited capacity opener in 2021.
Three times this year the Royals have drawn under 10,000 fans, including the Wednesday game against the Twins.
You can literally count the people here tonight. Really sad. pic.twitter.com/fvyXTJOTN0— Clubhouse Convo (@royalsclubhouse) April 21, 2022
Attendance in April is typically less than the rest of the year with kids still in school and colder temperatures, and this has been a particularly poor-weather month in Kansas City. The Royals are far from the only team with small crowds - their average attendance of 15,445 is still better than five other teams, including the pathetically small crowds in Oakland. And some teams have been buoyed by matchups - the Orioles are averaging 25,882 fans per game this year due to a three-game set against the Yankees.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Royals games have had very small crowds. Since Dayton Moore took over in 2007, there have been just ten home games where the Royals have drawn under 10,000 fans if you exclude games from April and May of 2021 when the stadium either had limited capacity or COVID-19 cases were still sufficiently high enough to discourage fans from attending games. Three of those games have been in the last few weeks.
Games under 10k fans at Royals games since 2007 (excluding April and May of 2021)
|May 2, 2007||Angels||9,697|
|April 27, 2009||Blue Jays||9,685|
|August 19, 2010||Indians||9,732|
|April 14, 2011||Mariners||8,811|
|April 21, 2011||Indians||9,279|
|August 17, 2021||Astros||9,748|
|August 19, 2021||Astros||9,884|
|April 11, 2022||Guardians||8,971|
|April 14, 2022||Tigers||9,595|
|April 20, 2022||Twins||8,969|
Keep in mind this reflects tickets sold, not actual butts in the seats.
There may be a few culprits for the lower attendance figures.
Resentment over the lockout
Owners put the season in jeopardy with a 99-day lockout, squabbling with players over an ever-growing pot of money. They ultimately reached agreement with players in March with a full season intact, but the ordeal likely turned off a lot of fans, or at least dampened any excitement for the season with a three-month transaction freeze.
On the other hand, April attendance overall in baseball is fairly strong. The league is averaging 26,890 fans per game, up slightly from the 26,361 fans they averaged in April of 2019, the last “normal” season. So it doesn’t appear that there is any league-wide hangover from the labor negotiations.
Kansas City weather is notorious for changing quickly, and it has been unusually erratic this April. Last night’s sparsely attendance Twins game can be attributed in part due to constant mist and the threat of showers all day. But the Royals have only had one home game with a first pitch game-time temp of less than 50 degrees, and they have drawn small crowds for even sunny games.
Fans love a winner, and the Royals haven’t been winning games! The club has had five consecutive losing seasons, and won just 74 games last year. A five-game losing streak early in the year also likely tempered enthusiasm for this year’s club, although they have won three games in a row since then. But this is far from the worst stretch of seasons in Royals history, and the team does show some signs of improvement with some predicting a chance of a winning season. Royals fans are kind of used to the team being lousy, why would that keep them away now?
Inflation has taken a bite out of many household wallets, and the rising costs to attend a game will be a factor for many. Parking is now up to $20, and you can pay over $30 with fees on some apps if you don’t purchase in advance. But if you look at the secondary market, the price to get in the stadium is actually pretty low now. The demand is down, and prices have gone down with it. You can still bring your own food and drink to the game (in a clear plastic bag), so a trip to the ballgame doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
Lack of TV exposure
The Royals are still on Bally Sports Kansas City, but if you’re a cord-cutter, it is increasingly difficult to find games. MLB TV subscribers will be subject to blackout restrictions, leaving DirecTV stream as the only stream-only option. Bally Sports is reportedly working on a stream-only app to be available for a monthly price, but that won’t be available until later this summer. In the meantime, there are thousands of Royals fans unable to watch games on TV through legal means. However, cable and satellite subscribers still make up a majority of TV viewers, and most of those fans can still access Bally Sports Kansas City.
Do you plan on attending Royals games this year? What has kept you from the ballpark? Is this a long-term trend or just an early blip?