I’m certainly not an economist or statistician, and I don’t have a thesis question in mind here. Rather, my intent is for these graphs to be a starting point for a discussion.
It doesn’t take an economist to tell that when the team wins more often, more fans will attend. This didn’t happen last year, for whatever reason. The Indians’ record improved slightly, but fewer fans turned out (just under 1.4 million).
PECOTA thinks that, as of today, the Indians will win 74 games in 2011, a 5 win improvement from the year before. Now, I’m aware of the problems with using simple linear regression to predict what a 5 win improvement would mean for attendance, but I’m doing it anyway. The sellouts of a decade ago skew the results, but these do suggest a latent enthusiasm for the team; there are exogenous factors at work that might also improve things, so I’m keeping that 2001 data.
This simple regression plots us at around 1.95 million fans in 2011 (the r-squared is, like, around .5). Yes, I think 1.9 million is a little high too, but a small bounce-back wouldn’t surprise me. I’m predicting 1.7 million attendees, and I'm completely making that up.
Attendance elsewhere in the division is somewhat cyclical, but trending upward. The attendance trend for the Tribe is not good, and we’re subject to wild deviations from the mean.
The Great Recession didn’t affect Cleveland’s other clubs too much at the box office, but the Tribe sure took a beating. I wish I had the time to adjust these figures for the relative costs to fans, which vary considerably between the different sporting events.
This is strictly an estimate—my estimate! Be very, very skeptical of this graph, which is for discussion purposes only. I obtained ticket cost data from various internet sources, like ballparks.com and cleveland.com, and my results were incomplete, so I had to guess. The Cavaliers did pretty well in recent years, and although they sell fewer tickets (only 41 home games), they've tended to sell for 250% more on average (although the secondary market activities around Cavs tickets indicates that these are incredibly overpriced and due for a correction next season).
Clearly there are other revenues streams for the three clubs, but I think of tickets sold as a fair proxy for fan interest. Is it crazy to expect there be a shifting of fan interest this season? One of these clubs is due for a shock, and it isn’t the Indians. It isn’t the Browns, either.