Checking In on the Padres’ Attendance Numbers

Credit: SD Chronicle

Credit: Delaware North

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.

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Conrad Parrish
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.

6 thoughts on “Checking In on the Padres’ Attendance Numbers

  1. You nailed it when you wrote that fans go to see winning teams. That 2015 team was expected to win, the 2019 team isn’t, and is exceeding expectations just to still be on the fringe of the wild card. If this team finishes above expectations, say 80 wins instead of the 75 their talent level would most likely produce, then they can expect to see another increase in attendance for next season.
    But the larger picture is that baseball teams are very profitable, and owned by very rich men. So attendance figures are really just not all that important.

  2. In using average game attendance for 41 games this year, vs. average game attendance for 81 games last year, you’re mixing apples and oranges. I’ve been keeping track, and the Padres have drawn an extra 105,682 this year over last year’s attendance for the first 41 games. That’s an extra 2577.6 per game this year. Last year’s team had pretty low attendance until school let out in June, and was better through September 30. That was especially impressive, with the team going 29-48 the last three months of the season.

    The proverbial bottom line is that the Padres have to draw 2.6 million-plus to get their payroll up to mid-level, around $130 million, and that’s going to take a per-game average of over 32,000. This year will be an improvement, but the visiting Orioles, Rays, and Red Sox will have to draw big crowds. Boston can do it with a weekend series, and Atlanta comes in right after the ASG, but the Dodgers, Rays, Orioles and Cubs are midweek series. There will have to be a second half wildcard run for the weekend series with Colorado (twice) and Arizona to draw late in the season.

  3. One thing that needs to be looked at is the scheduling by Major League Baseball. They do a terrible job of putting together a schedule that makes fans want to go to the games (Yes I know people will complain about the cost of going to the games, but my argument is the scheduling). My case in point 1st weekend the padres played the Giants a rival team that always has a good turn out, well its opening weekend of course its going to have a good turnout so why put them up against a team that will have a good turnout? Their home weekend series so far have been in 4th week against the reds, 6th week against the Dodgers, 8th week against the Pirates, 10th week against the Marlins, and 11th week against the Nationals. I don’t know about you but the Dodgers and Nationals would be the only teams I would like to see. Now here is the kicker during the week, games played Monday through Thursday, they played the D-backs, Rockies, Mariners, Mets, Dbacks again, Phillies, and Brewers, I would love to see all of these games only problem is I work during the week and don’t have 5+ hours it takes to go to a game (Think about driving, pre-game, the game itself, and driving home). Now lets look at a team like the Dodgers who are number one in attendance. Their home weekend series have been Dbacks, Brewers, Pirates, Nationals, Phillies, Cubs, and Rockies. Other than the Pirates I would love to go to all of those games. MLB really needs to put thought into who plays where and when rather than just trying to get all the games done.

    1. Kellen – By passing on the Pirates, you missed seeing a great, competitive team. They are strong offensively and never let the Padres off the mat.
      All teams offer something, or someone, to see. I’m sorry your favorites aren’t here on the weekend, and that you have to work, but I’m sure the Padres appreciate when you do come to a game.
      The bigger issue I see is, San Diegans don’t get too excited about baseball even when the team is in the hunt. I still remember back to 2010 when we were trying to win the NL West in September and going to a midweek game with 17,000 in attendance. That was pitiful ! You can only give away so much “stuff” that people don’t need. As our only major sport, Padre baseball should be attended better. Of course, every game is televised, which I think cuts into attendance as well

      1. Wow Paul your comment missed the mark completely. You’re sorry I have to work? I’m pretty sure 90+% of fans have to work, so are you sorry for all of us? That’s why I made my comment.

        1. I think your comment was about scheduling and that you didn’t like the teams that come on the weekend. I know that a lot of fans that I meet at the games (during the week) are retired

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