The pervasive belief that the Cubs will sell out Wrigley Field no matter what is proof that legends can be strong enough to overcome facts. It also confirms Marquee Sports Network’s plummeting ratings, because anyone who actually watched the Cubs this season would have seen that upwards of half the fans at many games were dressed up as seats. As ownership’s commitment to fielding a winning team has waned, so has the interest from a fanbase thought to be as die-hard as Bruce Willis’s acclaimed Christmas movie.
It doesn’t help that the Cubs are one of the most expensive experiences in MLB, with an average cost of around $365 for a family of four to attend a game. That’s higher than any other National League team and second to only the Red Sox ($385) overall. Price elasticity wasn’t an issue when the Cubs were going to the NLCS every year, but the team is finding out that demand doesn’t remain static in the face of failure.
That wasn’t a concern for the lovable losers because success was so uncommon that fans actually reveled in the idea of waiting till next year. The Cubs went 39 years between postseason appearances before Ryne Sandberg and Co. broke the drought in 1984 and then managed to make it back five years later. Four trips in 11 seasons across the late 90s and aughts, including an actual series win, weren’t quite enough to spoil folks.
Then came that magical run of 2015-18 that featured a World Series victory in the midst of four straight postseason appearances. Some had theorized prior to the elusive title that winning would remove the mystique surrounding the Cubs, and they probably think they’re correct given what’s happened. While it’s true that the view of the franchise has changed, it’s less about the death of nostalgia and more about the birth of expectation.
It’s a loss of innocence, for lack of a better term, made all the more galling by the fact that ownership doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that fans’ naivete has disappeared. Most of it, anyway. There will always be fans for whom Cubbie-blue glasses will filter out all but the most positive visions of the team, and that’s perfectly fine.
What I’m driving at here is that the last few seasons have seen increasing numbers of fans opting not to renew their season tickets while those on the vaunted waiting list turn down opportunities that are coming with increasing frequency. But don’t just take my word for it, listen to what many other former season ticket holders have to say.
After quote-tweeting a note from one fan to his ticket rep, I ended up getting a bunch of replies expressing similar displeasure or just apathy. Felt like something worth sharing, even if it ends up being a little Buzzfeed-y.
Absolutely the same. They convinced me to cut back to nights and weekends last year instead of dropping completely, right after the Stroman signing…this year I told them I was totally out until they made an attempt to be competitive and obviously that’s not happening.
— Craig Moore (@CraigGMoore) December 11, 2022
Yeah I’m not renewing with the group I was part of because watching try hards is difficult. Food and beers are pricey too so I couldn’t justify it any longer
— Matt (@matted1125) December 11, 2022
I sent something similar a few months ago. Interesting to see so many others did the same. Wake up @Cubs
— Don Wojnicki (@DonWojnicki) December 11, 2022
This is pretty close to what our group wrote to our ticket rep in October.
Frankly, I hope the Cubs are getting TONS of these types of emails.
— Swaz_ee_land ☮️ (@Swaz_ee_land) December 11, 2022
Did the exact same thing.
— CandidCubs (@CandidCubs) December 11, 2022
We gave up our tickets after 2018, had other reasons, but the lack of a secondary market, that we weathered from 2010 to 2014, wasn’t appealing.
Intelligent spending, Jed.
— CubFanMike (@Cams322Mike) December 11, 2022
I’m late to the party, but it’s looking like I’ll be following suit.
— Blake Beard (@theblakebeard) December 11, 2022
This is just a sample of the replies I received, plus there are many more saying they passed on their chance to purchase. The primary driver of these decisions is cost, but not so much the significant amount of money it takes to secure the tickets in the first place. What concerns more and more people all the time is that the Cubs aren’t putting forth the same relative effort when it comes to justifying the investment.
It’s gotten difficult enough to even give away tickets you can’t use, and forget about trying to recoup any value on the secondary market. Between decreased demand and exorbitant fees from StubHub and other resellers, you’re guaranteed to lose money on all but the most coveted games. Thing is, turning a profit on even individual contests probably means selling to a fan of the other team who’s coming to town for the series.
The Cubs have said they only need Wrigley to be half full in order to break even on operating costs, so it’s not as though they’re in danger of going into the red or anything. But I don’t think merely breaking even is what Tom Ricketts wants to do, especially when decreasing interest and attendance extends to the area’s restaurants, bars, and rooftops. There’s a very simple solution to this, though.
All it’ll take for fans to start spending again is for ownership to spend in an effort to prove the Cubs are serious about winning. That’s it. Guess we’ll find out soon whether they’re willing to solve what has become a pretty serious issue.