In August, September, and October 2015, it was one of the most raucous and rowdiest stadiums in Major League Baseball. In 2016, it was one of the hottest tickets in town. Last year, even with a struggling team, the Blue Jays still drew 3.2 million fans to the Rogers Centre, which was the best overall attendance in the American League.
In 2018? Not so much.
With a fledgeling team on the field, the Blue Jays are seeing fewer fans walk through the turnstiles at Rogers Centre this year. Given the club’s 26-33 record and the fact they’re currently 10 games out of playoff spot, people aren’t flocking to see Jays games like they were a few years ago.
Average attendance is down 27% at Rogers Centre compared to last season. In 2017, the Blue Jays averaged 39,554 fans per game. This year, they’re bringing in 28,733 fans for every home game; a difference of nearly 10,000 seats per home game.
The Blue Jays haven’t had a drop in attendance that drastic since the mid-1990s after the strike-cancelled 1994 World Series.
These attendance figures are a far cry from the Blue Jays’ 2015-2016 playoff drives. The carry-over effect of those playoff appearances caused a huge boost in attendance in 2017. But after a subpar 2017 and an abysmal start to their 2018 campaign, through the team’s first 29 home games, more fans are choosing to stay at home.
The most well-attended game of the season was on Opening Day against the New York Yankees, when 48,115 fans filled the stadium. Just four days later, the Blue Jays saw their lowest attended game of the year, when just 16,629 bothered to show up to see them play the Chicago White Sox.
In terms of average attendance, the Blue Jays are more on par with their attendance numbers of 2012 – the season prior to the blockbuster trade with the Marlins and the deal to acquire Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the Mets – and 2014.
Following a disastrous 2013 season when the Blue Jays were pegged as World Series favourites, only to fail miserably, average attendance shot up by 5,394 fans. Fans scaled back in 2014 after a disappointing last-place finish and 74-88 record by the Blue Jays in 2013.
|Season||Blue Jays Average Attendance|
Television numbers have also decreased in 2018. A few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see TV numbers over one million viewers for a regular season game. Now, they’re down in the 300,000 viewers range.
#BlueJays national TV number dipped into the low 300,000s on Sunday afternoon. Another reminder for those of us in this business how fickle the world of sports can be. Will be interesting to see if viewership can rebound post NHL/NBA Canadian playoff runs. #sportsbiz
— Paulo Senra (@paulosenra) May 22, 2018
April and May are traditionally tough months for the Blue Jays to sell tickets. Another reason for the drop in attendance? The Raptors and Maple Leafs were in the thick of their first-round playoff series this year, which pushed the Blue Jays down the priority list of must-see sporting events in the city of Toronto in April and May.
But make no mistake, with the Blue Jays’ playoff chances fading further and further into the abyss, these attendance numbers are likely to plummet even further. Even a potential call-up of the Blue Jays’ prized prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may not even save them now or boost attendance at the Rogers Centre this year.
A pair of games against the New York Yankees after nine games on the road should help their season average. But after that, we’re likely to continue to see a decline in bums in seats for as long as the team struggles.
These attendance numbers reiterate that the only surefire way to pack the Rogers Centre game after game is to have a winning team on the field. Giveaways at the ballpark and gimmicks will only bring in so many fans. Having a team in contention will always pack the park in Toronto.
Unfortunately, contention is a far-fetched scenario for this particular cast of characters on the 2018 roster. Unless they completely come out of nowhere and have a second half like they did in 2015, attendance numbers will continue to decline the rest of the season at the Rogers Centre.