The Mets will put individual game tickets on sale Nov. 18, and they have been selling season plan renewals at a healthy clip, portending a 2017 in which they likely will see attendance rise for a fourth consecutive season.
But how high? After drawing nearly 2.8 million in 2016, might 3 million be within reach for the first time since Citi Field’s inaugural season in 2009 drew nearly 3.2 million?
“You’d like to think it’s possible; it would be nice to get there,” said Lou DePaoli, the team’s executive vice president and chief revenue officer. “That’s a magic number for baseball teams: 3 million.
“Look, we’d like to do more. We’d love to do 3.4 [the stadium’s approximate maximum]. That’s what we shoot for here. Realistically, that’s probably not going to happen this year . . . We just have to keep growing. That is the bottom line: Just continue to show growth.”
That has not been a problem for the Mets since they bottomed out at 2.1 million in paid attendance in 2013. Attendance is on the upswing, thanks most recently to a second consecutive playoff berth for only the second time in franchise history.
DePaoli declined to get into detail about sales, but he did say the renewal rate for full and partial season plans (available for 20, 40 or all 81 games) “is almost exactly to the penny where we were a year ago at this point, but you have to remember, it’s on a much larger [base] number [compared with 2015-to-2016 renewals].
“Last year we wound up being up 9.91 percent in our attendance, coming off of 18.11 percent the year before. That’s two strong years of pretty solid growth. Eventually you start running out of additional tickets to sell. You can’t keep growing at that same rate. But our goal always is to keep that ball going forward.”
The Mets announced their promotional schedule on Monday and it again strongly emphasized weekend games. For now that remains the focus, not less well-attended weeknight games.
“On the weekends we’re playing to roughly around 90 percent capacity; it’s not 100 percent,” DePaoli said. “Until we can get to that point where we really feel the weekends can take care of themselves, we’re going to keep pushing the weekends.
“That’s when people have told us through, at this point, tens of thousands of surveys that they want to come on the weekends. So we’re going to continue to push on the weekend because it makes sense for the fans and for us . . . From a marketing standpoint basically you’re fishing where the fish are.”
Every major-league team gets 39 weekend dates, 13 each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and they must be maximized.
Speaking of weekends, the Mets will continue to eschew 1 p.m. start times for Saturday games, opting instead for late afternoons and nights.
“All of the data of actual results from 1 o’clock starts, at least at our ballpark, and in all of the survey data, people say 1 o’clock is their least favorite,” DePaoli said. “It’s the hardest for them to get here.”
Having a winning, interesting team helps, obviously, but the business side cannot rely on that.
“When we build our budgets and things here we try to take a look at growing the business regardless,” DePaoli said. “If the team all of a sudden won 65 games, that might be a little bit tougher.”
The Mets surpassed the Yankees in television ratings last season, but the Yankees still held a (shrinking) lead in paid attendance, drawing just under 3.1 million in 2016, their lowest total since 2000.
They recently announced changes at Yankee Stadium that will reduce seating capacity but add the sorts of open areas for socializing and food and beverage consumption that other modern facilities feature, including Citi Field.
DePaoli declined to speak specifically about the Yankees’ alterations, but he said, “If you look around baseball a lot of teams have gone to it . . . It’s that standing room where everybody has access to a great place to go and hang out instead of sitting in your seat. You can get up and walk around, mingle with people, maybe there’s some light hors d’oeuvres.”
He noted the popularity of the inaugural year of the “Coca-Cola Corner” in the upper deck in rightfield at Citi, formerly known as the Pepsi Porch.
“It’s the same exact real estate since we opened the ballpark, but last year there were so many more people up there because there was so much more activation,” he said, referring to cornhole boards, a bar and such. “It just became the place for people to hang out, and it was the same real estate that pretty much went unused.
“People would be there but it wasn’t like a hangout. People came to the ballpark last year specifically to go to Coca-Cola Corner and hang out.”
Of course, such changes mean fewer people actually watching the game.
“It’s how people are consuming the game,” DePaoli said. “As much as I like to watch the game and you like to watch the game, look, my wife or my kids or some of my guests, they’re on their phone the whole time.
“But what they’re doing is they’re following the game on their phone. They’re taking pictures of a player coming up. They’re shooting video and posting it on social media. So they’re helping us get the word out.”