A couple of articles have come out recently about the A’s success and its’ translation to the overall attendance average. The articles certainly are credible and contain a great deal of statistics and research. However, they seem to be a bit overblown. The A’s have seen multiple peaks and valleys in their tenure in Oakland in regards to attendance. With that being said the ownership of the A’s, spearheaded by Lew Wolff, has said that the city of Oakland cannot sustain the type of fan base needed to field a consistently successful team with a healthy payroll. So which is side of thinking is flawed in their comments? Is it the ownership’s lack of faith? Or is it the fans lack of realization?
Starting with the ownership’s thinking of things there are certainly some valid points made. The peaks of the attendance have never occurred over a long stretch of time. This suggests that the fans do not have the motivation to come to the Coliseum during the down years, i.e. losing seasons. Obviously, the lower the attendance, the lower the revenue from ticket sales, merchandise, parking, concessions, etc. Less revenue roughly translates to a low payroll. Less revenue also means less money for the owners thus leading to unhappy owners.
Unhappy owners want to move their team to a place where they can thrive. These comments lead to an unhappy fan base. The fans think the team can thrive right where they are, just not necessarily in the facility they currently reside in. The numbers are beginning to back up those sentiments as attendance as gradually rose over the past few seasons culminating in a 10% increase last season including over 50,000 fans a game in the playoffs. Certainly the increase can be attributed to the Giants losing and the A’s winning, however there is more to it than just that.
There has been a rejuvenation of pride amongst the fan base. Seeing the Giants win two World Series in three years and the constant talk of relocation put the A’s fan base in a lull. However, after reaching rock bottom the only place to go is up. New ownership groups have sprung up with ideas of a stadium located in the city of Oakland, the most popular being the Jack London Square version (I personally am a huge fan of the shipping cranes in right-center).
Fan bases that go through this rejuvenation have the ability to be a constant fixture of sustainability. The Giants fan base went through the same hardships the A’s fan base has in the early 90s. Low attendance, run down stadium, losing teams. These all translated to an unhappy fan base. There was even a point of relocation talk in San Francisco (they would have moved to Tampa had it not been for A’s former owner Walter Haas). This all recovered after a new stadium was built and the team began winning. The Giants now have one of the highest attendances in baseball consistently every season.
When the question of attendance sustainability is risen/cited by ownership in their validation of relocation for the A’s the fans now have a voice to answer back. If a new stadium is built in Oakland the fans will show up in great numbers. Expect attendance to rise again in 2014 with another AL West banner to fly. Can the A’s sustain their growing fan base? The team across the bay is proof it can.