Cardinals Business Report: Attendance and the Halo Effect


Our latest feature endeavor on Redbird Rants is the Cardinals Business Report. It will run the first Friday of each month beginning today. We will cover some of the business aspects surrounding the team. Baseball is a game, but it is a huge business, and one that is thriving. The St. Louis Cardinals are in the position that all sports teams envy, defending champion. The initial year or two that follow a championship lead to increased cash flows among many revenue streams called the Halo Effect.

The Cardinals have the added benefit of being an excellent draw in the first place. Surprisingly, the overall home attendance figure for the team has increasingly decreased since the 2008 season. It was especially low compared to previous seasons in 2011. This is hard to believe considering the allure of possibly watching Albert Pujols play his last games as a Cardinal in Busch Stadium III. It also comes as a surprise considering the excitement during the final month of the season. Below are attendance figures for Busch Stadium III since being opened in 2006.

As you can see the attendance figured dropped considerably last season. They also dropped two places in the rankings among MLB teams. The allure of the new stadium plus a World Series run paid dividends in 2006. In 2007 we can see the results of the halo effect from winning a World Championship the previous season. For some teams the halo effect is seen just by making the playoffs. A perennial contender and team as popular as the Cardinals needs a little more than a simple post season appearance and they got it in 2006.

In 2007 the attendance gain was 4.25% from 2006. Not only do teams benefit from an increase in gate revenues, but they feel an uptick across all stadium revenue streams as well as team merchandise sales. If more people are in the stands, there are more cars to park, there is an increased number of fans buying food and beverages (probably at a higher rate too) and there is more merchandise purchased in the stadium. Season ticket holders will also increase by virtue of the popularity of the team’s success. You’ll note that even in the second season after the World Series victory, the attendance was higher than the season they won it all. From there, as is expected the team suffers a small decline each season.

Getting back to the 2011 drop; I’m still uncertain why they were not able to at least maintain a figure in the 3.3 million range. They had the full 81 home dates but lost a total of 6.3% in attendance. I would have guessed if I didn’t see the figures that the attendance would have jumped a bit with the prospect of losing Pujols and the importance of the games down the stretch.

Back in November, the club announced an slight increase in ticket prices. The increases are not across the board and represent a 2.8% increase in the average ticket price. A little more than half the 21,000 season-ticket seats will remain the same for this coming season. At the time of the announcement Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said the increases had nothing to do with trying to have enough funds to pay Pujols.

More than most likely the increase is in place in order to ride the wave of the halo effect. It is a nominal increase, especially when compared to the San Francisco Giants’ increase of 10.4% for their average ticket price in 2011 after they won the 2010 World Series. The increase in price plus the anticipated increase in attendance is a revenue boon for the team. Here is a look at the attendance increases from the four teams who won the World Series after the 2006 Cardinals.

So, the World Series run could not have come at a better time for the Cardinals. With a large decrease in attendance last season, the expected increase in attendance due to winning the World Series will certainly help in some fashion if the trends displayed hold true. Will the increase be offset by the departure of Pujols? Maybe, but he didn’t seem to help the draw last season. Plus, there are plenty of reasons for fans to come out to Busch this year in addition to the defense of the championship. They have a new manager, a new pitching coach, Adam Wainwright returns, Carlos Beltran is a member of the team and the fans get to witness the growth of the younger Cardinals player.

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