Since the start of the 2019 season, the Padres have seen a decent increase in attendance. The arrival of exciting young prospects, as well as the signing of Manny Machado, have all likely contributed to this growing number of fans attending games at Petco Park. Here’s a look at how the Padres’ attendance has changed over the years in San Diego.
It’s been a season for the Padres in which they’re competing and still have a chance to compete for a wild card spot, which hasn’t happened since 2010. A new left side of the infield with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. has been quite exciting, in addition to rookies such as Chris Paddack and others on the mound. There’s an optimism about baseball in San Diego regardless of where the team ends up in the standings at the end of this season because quite frankly it’s been years since the Padres even had a chance to finish the season with a winning record. Has this excitement led to an increase in attendance, though?
Approximately halfway through the season, the Padres have drawn slightly more fans than they did last year. In the 41 home games that the team has played at Petco Park, the average attendance has been 28,143 — The average attendance in San Diego in 2018 was 26,837. That’s an increase in 1,306 fans per home game, which is somewhat positive. The team is on pace to draw 2,307,738 fans this season, a slight increase over the 2,147,000 fans they drew in 2018. It does seem somewhat disappointing in the context of how much the team has changed in this season alone in terms of actually being competitive, right?
This brings up the question of how much fanfare a team can realistically expect after spending significant money on a free agent, or trading for a star player. Signing Manny Machado is pretty much as big as it gets in baseball free agency, so there’s not much else we can ask for from the owners in terms of commitment to bringing a winning product to San Diego. This is not to say we’re giving them a pass, but rather to ask what else they could have realistically done during the offseason that was more exciting than bringing in a superstar such as Machado? With this in mind, why have the Padres only seen a small increase in their attendance numbers this season comparatively with the number of fans they drew to Petco Park in 2018?
Another strange issue facing the Padres is the fact that they drew 30,367 fans per game back in the 2015 season. The team brought in numerous veteran players before the season in the hopes of competing, which increased attendance. Why haven’t the fans attended games in similar numbers this year?
The first reason that comes to mind is the team’s performance. Although they have high potential, they’re currently only a game above the .500 mark. After so many years of losing, the team is not quite exciting enough to see a significant increase in attendance due to their rather middling competitiveness.
If the team wants to bring more fans to the games, it appears the Padres will have to win more consistently. That’s obvious with any team, but it’s especially true for a smaller-market team such as San Diego. For a team in a larger market, attendance tends to remain more steady regardless of the team’s record. This is much different than the situation in San Diego, especially in the context of the team’s consistent mediocrity over the years.
While it seemed like the Padres’ attendance would increase this season after the signing of Manny Machado and the additions of other exciting players, that hasn’t been the case thus far. Following the signings of two big free agents during the last couple of seasons, the Padres now seem largely incapable of signing yet another marquee player in the years to come. That reality has only become more clear when looking at the attendance numbers at Petco Park this season.
Although the attendance will almost certainly rise as the team likely competes for the playoffs in the next few seasons, the early returns this season are not quite as positive as we may have expected. Of course, we don’t know how much the Padres are making from selling Jerseys, etc. Perhaps the team is profiting significantly in other areas without publicly available data. The small increase in attendance is certainly surprising, and not the most positive sign moving forward.