York Revolution attendance drops 3 percent during 2015 season
If there have been any consistencies in the York Revolution's attendance figures over the past nine seasons, it's been the annual up-and-down pattern in which fans come out to games at Santander Stadium.
After that, there are hardly any similarities with how many fans flow through the turnstiles in a given season.
In 2015, that trend continued. York saw a 3-percent drop in its attendance figures from 2014. In 68 openings during the 2015 season, the Revolution drew 259,989 fans, an average of 3,823 fans per game, about 52 percent of the 7,312 total capacity, which includes the lawn area. That came on the heels of drawing 3,937 fans in 2014.
"We were up 5 percent last year and we were down about 3 percent this year," York team president Eric Menzer said. "The attendance has kind of fluctuated over the last five or six years. I'd rather be up, but all-in-all, considering a pretty crummy start to the season, it's not a bad result. We lost one of our biggest nights of the year to a rainout on the night Darryl Strawberry was here, so all-in-all, I'd rather be up than slightly down, but I don't lose a lot of sleep over a 3-percent drop."
The reasons: From an outsiders' viewpoint, it would make sense to blame the down year on the team's bad first half of the season. The Revs went just 24-46 in the first half, the worst record in the entire Atlantic League. That lack of competitive baseball may have led to fewer fans coming out to games, especially when you consider last season, when York was a playoff-bound team, which kept fan interest high throughout the season.
However, that isn't the only reason to blame for the lower attendance. Weather always has an impact on how many fans come out to games, and for the first month of the season, the temperatures stayed relatively cool, keeping crowds a bit smaller. There was also the rainout that Menzer mentioned when Strawberry was set to be in attendance for "Family and Faith Night," which, according to Menzer, had the largest advanced-game ticket sale of the entire season. He also cited the final week of the season, when York finished the year on a seven-game homestand, while going head-to-head with the York Fair, not to mention high school, college and pro football.
Perhaps the biggest difference, however, came in group ticket sales, which are the driving force behind boosting attendance numbers. According to Menzer, the average family of four that comes out to a game on a given night doesn't have a tremendous impact on the overall attendance figures. But, what does are the large groups that do attend games.
In 2014, P.H. Glatfelter bought every ticket to a Revs game to celebrate the company's 150th anniversary. Those types of events don't happen every year, so York has to find other ways to fill its ballpark.
"You know what? They don't do that when they celebrate their 151st anniversary," Menzer said. "So, honestly, how the team plays, the weather, the fair, a one-time bump from a company that buys every ticket in the ballpark on a Saturday night. ... All of these things go together, and to give credit or blame to any one of them will just drive you bonkers."
Where they rank: The Revs ranked fifth out of eight teams in the Atlantic League. Their average attendance of 3,823 was just 243 fans per game less than the league's average attendance of 4,066.
York also ranked 86th out of 375 independent league, minor league and Mexican League teams, according to ballparkdigest.com. Right above the Revs at No. 81 were the Lancaster Barnstormers, also part of the Atlantic League, at 4,073 fans per game. At No. 72 were the Harrisburg Senators, the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals, who averaged 4,371 fans per game.
It's easy to compare York against its closest competition, but both Lancaster and Harrisburg are larger markets than York. Menzer, instead, likes to see how his organization stacks up against other teams in markets comparable to York and, in a lot of cases, the Revs outdrew those teams.
"We look at Lancaster; we look at Harrisburg; we look at Southern Maryland," he said. "We look at other communities. We looked at the Delmarva Shorebirds, whose attendance is significantly lower than ours and they're in a community not that dissimilar to ours. We do better than the team in Chattanooga, for God sakes. I look at it like, 'How is York doing better than Lincoln, Nebraska, or Chattanooga, Tennessee?' Those are big markets and it gives me a good feeling when I look at those."
Ahead for 2016: Menzer isn't shy about what his ultimate attendance goals are. Every year, he sets his sights on averaging more than 4,000 fans per game, a mark that hasn't been reached since the 2012 season.
For most minor-league franchises, large draws are based on promotions and attractions. Some of York's largest crowds in 2015 came out to watch the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo, or when the team held an eating competition early in the season. Those types of experiences are what draw fans to the games.
But, outside of that, there are a lot of other variables, such as weather and other local events, that Menzer and the team can't control. However, Menzer does believe that if the Revs are to get back over that 4,000-fan mark in 2016, it'll come down to group outings, or season ticket and partial season ticket plans.
"Our group sales, our season tickets and all of our mini-plans, are actually the bulk of our ticket sales," he said. "If I was going to say what are we going to do better to get there, I'm going to say do a better job on group sales. That's what we would do. ... We're just going to keep plugging along."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker
Following is the annual average attendance for York Revolution games at Santander Stadium since the team's inception in 2007.
2008: 4,351 (+17%)
2009: 4,126 (-5%)
2010: 4,155 (+0.9%)
2011: 3,904 (-6%)
2012: 4,084 (+4.6%)
2013: 3,740 (-8.4%)
2014: 3,937 (+5.3%)
2015: 3,823 (-3%)