Will the Blue Jays 2013 Performance Affect 2014 Attendance?


Jun 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher

Josh Thole

(30) and home plate umpire Paul Schrieber (43) ask for help on a call during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Blue Jays won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2013 Toronto Blue Jays have been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, and Brandon Morrow have missed significant time. R.A. Dickey has been ineffective, and Josh Johnson has been even worse. J.P. Arencibia is striking out both at the plate, and on a Public Relations front. In short, the season has been miserable (aside from those 11-games of bliss back in June).

Despite the fact that the Blue Jays have failed to meet even the most pessimistic of expectations, the fans have passed through the turnstiles at a pace not seen in the SkyDome in years. Despite the season of continual disappointment, the Blue Jays have managed to draw an average of 32,007 paying customers per game, an increase of over 18%.

The reasons behind the increase in attendance are quite obvious, the acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, and R.A. Dickey generated buzz around the franchise that combined with the NHL lockout had fans at a fever pitch. The preseason favourites not just in the AL East but for the World Series, the Blue Jays expected a bump in attendance, and according to Rogers executives, a huge boost in T.V. ratings.

While the boost in television ratings has failed to materialize (the Blue Jays have in fact seen ratings decline by 9%), the increase in “stadium love” has materialized, and in fact persisted despite the Blue Jays hobbling to a 45-55 record thus far into the season.

If one makes the extrapolation that the attendance increase is fuelled mainly by fans that were not attending games last year, the increase could be attributed to “jumping on the bandwagon”. But if it were simply jumping on the bandwagon, how can we explain the sustained higher attendance in spite of the sustained awfulness displayed by the Blue Jays? After all, the Blue Jays were in a much more favourable position at this time last year (despite the obviously less talented roster).

One theory thrown out by the Globe & Mail in a pretty sorry excuse for journalism (would of it been that hard to find one female that is actually a Jays fan? I think not) is that the Blue Jays are now “cool”. The patio formerly known as Windows is a hot spot to hang out; the Globe & Mail quoted one unfortunate fan as follows:

"“I’m not sure we’re actually watching the game, to be clear. … It’s the best patio in the city, the best people-watching in the city.”"


I personally have been to around 20 Blue Jays games this year, and am confident that the individual quoted above is in the minority. From what I’ve seen, most fans at Blue Jays games have indeed been there to watch the game (and boo players for no reason/do the wave at awful times). Plus, I don’t care how good a patio is, there’s no way I’m paying $11/beer for an entire night to “people watch”.

That brings me to my theory, as harebrained as it might be. As mentioned above, the Blue Jays were expected not to just make the playoffs, but to make a run in those playoffs. Jays fans that had for years had to fight tooth and nail to get a ticket to the home opener foresaw a similar battle brewing over those inevitable playoff tickets.

I (foolishly) had a similar thought process during the offseason after the new additions. I live just down the road from the

Rogers Centre

SkyDome, and planned on going to a number of games anyways. Instead of my usual routine of heading down just after game time to scalp tickets on the cheap, I would splurge and get a flex pack. Now I have access to playoff tickets before the general public! I’m so smart!

If what I suspect is true, and from what I’ve heard anecdotally, I was most certainly not the only person to have this thought process. Flex packs (packages of 15, 20, or 40 tickets) reportedly sold at levels not seen in years in Toronto. Eager fans that would normally check out a couple of games  a year upping the ante to check out the new look team, and bask in the glory of an AL East title, only to get first dibs on the first Blue Jays playoff tickets in 20 years!

But then this happened. Anything and everything went wrong, and the Blue Jays are sitting 13.5 games back of the AL East lead. Now those once optimistic fans that bought tickets with the playoffs in mind are stuck with 5, 10, 15 games left in their flex pack with little or no hope remaining for the 2013 season.

Will they still attend the games? More than likely, baseball is still enormously fun to watch, even if it’s a bad team in an even worse stadium. Would they have bought the tickets to these games if they had known what kind of shape the Blue Jays were going to be in at this point? That I’m not so sure of.

Come this offseason, the scores of people that purchased these multi-game packs for the first time expecting to be watching a contender are going to be asked to renew those packages, but after sitting through this misery that has been this season, will they actually?

The more rational of us in Blue Jays land can take a step back and realize that good teams have bad seasons, and bad teams have good seasons, that’s just baseball. Anything and everything has gone wrong for this year’s iteration of the Blue Jays. They have the talent, and with some offseason adjustments they should be back and ready to contend in 2014.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, a quick look through the world of Twitter will show you that a large portion of the Blue Jays fandom appears to  indeed lack that ability to rationalize.

But what does this really matter? Well when Rogers opened their pocket books this past winter, they did so in expectation that they would field a contender. As mentioned above, they had expectations that having a contender playing in the concrete confines of the Dome would put more butts in the seats, and eyeballs on the television screen. While attendance has gone up this year, television viewership is down, so if attendance begins to sag back to previous levels, could Rogers start to rethink this spending spree?

This is all just wild speculation, even if they don’t pre-sell tickets for the 2014 season like they did in 2013 all it will take is a couple of winning months to have the bandwagon back at full capacity. But if the Blue Jays struggle again, and attendance starts to dip? Then things might get interesting (on the other hand MLB’s new TV deal giving each team somewhere around $25-million/year kicks in so really, they can just suck it up).