Photo of a poorly attended New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.

Image Credit: Sue - Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The New York Yankees are the most popular baseball team in the United States. This is common knowledge. However, the team’s declining ticket sales has baseball fans and league officials scratching their heads. The financial filings tied to the bonds sold to build new Yankee Stadium reveal that the New York Yankees organization has lost $166 million in ticket and suite revenue since opening the ballpark in 2009.

The 2009 Major League Baseball season would have suggested that ticket sales were healthy for the Yankees but there was an exception; the Yankees won the World Series that season. The Yankees have missed the postseason three of the past four seasons and no longer boast the league’s highest payroll. Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers have higher payrolls than the New York Yankees. According to owner Hal Steinbrenner, the team has struggled catching the interest of millennials (people ages 37 and younger). Or could it be that millennials are strapped for cash with thousands of dollars in student loans, a stale economy all while living in one of the cities with the highest costs of living in the United States. In an effort to better attract this demographic to Yankee Stadium, the team did away with more than 2,100 obstructed view seats in center field and replaced them with gathering areas for fans to stand and drink while watching the game. They also greatly reduced ticket prices to less than $15 for certain games. New to Yankee Stadium is the “Pinstripe Pass” which is a standing room only ticket that also includes a beverage. But will it be enough?

Compared to this point in the season in 2016, the Yankees are averaging roughly 4,000 fewer fans per game. The New York Mets average per game attendance has taken a huge hit this season as well. Many Yankees fans will tell you that they have been priced out of the New York Yankees experience; just as they did in ESPN’s “House of Steinbrenner” documentary. Although I don’t know why anyone would drive their vehicle in New York City, parking at Yankee Stadium is now $40. Beers are in the $12-$17 price range. The atmosphere at new Yankee Stadium is also much tamer than the atmosphere at old Yankee Stadium. A raucous and rowdy fan base creates a better fan experience; I don’t care what anyone tells you. Again, this mostly likely is attributed to ticket prices; home games at old Yankee Stadium were much cheaper.

Owner Hal Steinbrenner admits that the team isn’t afraid to spend money on big contracts like it always has. However, 2018 will mark the first time the Yankees have fallen below the threshold of the $197 million luxury tax bracket. The luxury tax requires teams with a payroll of $197 million plus to pay taxes that get redistributed to smaller market Major League Baseball teams like the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays. If the New York Yankees organization wants to keep people coming to the ballpark, spending less money on talent certainly isn’t going to solve anything.




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