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What Happens to Attendance After a New Ballpark is Built?

Sadly for the A's, it's not a cure-all.


Click to enlarge.

The prospect of a new ballpark is alluring, for all sides. The A's and their fans have been pushing for a new ballpark for years now, with the hopeful promise of more people in seats, increased revenue, and the fun of watching Billy Beane work with a league-average payroll. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way.

These graphs show the last ten new ballparks in baseball, from PNC Park in 2001 to Target Field in 2010. The lines for each graph correspond to attendance (gold line) and payroll (green line) for each year from 2000 to 2010. League average for both attendance and payroll is marked by the horizontal white line. The year of the new ballpark's opening is highlighted in gray.

Look at the gold lines. For a large majority of them, attendance shot up through the roof in the opening year, only to fall back down immediately. For some, attendance even fell back down to what it was before the new ballpark opened.

Obviously, there are more factors at play here than the ballpark, like team quality and market size. But for the A's, who seem to be banking their franchise's future on a new might not be the game changer that we think it'll be.

  • Both New York teams and St. Louis didn't have an attendance spike at all in their new ballpark's grand opening year. The attendance figures for those three were already very large, so I'm guessing the absence of a spike was mostly because there was nowhere for attendance to go but down.
  • The Nationals have two highlighted years. The first is when they moved from Montreal to Washington, where they played in RFK Stadium. They got their new ballpark a few years later.
  • Yes, the Yankees' payroll breaks the scale, and goes off the chart. That's on them, not me. If I zoomed out all of the graphs to fit New York's payroll, I'd lose a lot of the finer details.
  • Both attendance and payroll are on the same scale of standard deviations above/below the average.

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