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1.3 Million Major League Baseball Seats to Go Empty Every Day

Douglas A. McIntyre

COVID-19 will cause Major League Baseball teams to play in empty parks. That means 1.3 million seats will be empty across the league on any given day that all 30 terms are playing. Each seat represents a ticket sale. Most ticket sales mean food and drink sales, and income from parking.

The 1.3 million seats grow much larger across the entire season. Not every seat is occupied every game. During the 2019 season, total attendance across all games was 68.5 million. This is 70% more than the number of people who live in California.

Ticket sales are about 30% of the total revenue of MLB. That, in turn, represents total sales of $9.4 billion. The figures show how badly baseball revenue will be damaged if the season has to be played in empty seats across the whole season. That will not happen. The “entry seat” model could, however, last through the 4th of July. The All-Star Game, in the middle of the season, will be played on July 14. That means that almost half of the season’s gate receipts will be gone.

Of course, when the ban for baseball attendance is lifted, many people will be anxious enough about COVID-19, that they will not return to stadiums for months. That will erode gate receipts further.

Two factors will influence how much each team will be affected financially. The first is the stadium capacity. The largest stadium by seats is Dodger Stadium at 56,000 followed by Yankee Stadium at 53.200. The smallest is Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Devil Rays, at 42,700. The next factor is how many seats are full. Attendance compared to seats is as high as 80% in some and as low as 30% in others.

Fortunately for some teams is that they have billionaire owners who can last out period of low attendance. This includes John W. Henry, a hedge fund manager, who is wildly rich. He owns The Boston Red Sox. Christopher Ilitch, another billionaire owns The Detroit Tigers. Other teams face financial difficulty because they rely on annual revenue to support their teams financially.

There will be 1.3 million available seats which are empty on opening day. No one knows how long that will continue.