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Yankees attendance down in first 5 games

Empty seats are seen as the New York

Empty seats are seen as the New York Yankees play the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. (April 5, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

 If you have noticed more empty seats than ever at new Yankee Stadium so far this young season, you are not imagining things.

After selling 48,226 tickets for Thursday’s opener, attendance fell to 41,462, then 40,574, then 40,311 and 40,267 last night.

The Sunday game against the Tigers, Monday’s against the Twins and last night’s low also against the Twins were the first three at the three-year-old facility with less than 41,000 in paid attendance.

Overall, the team was averaging 42,168 through five games, down from 44,699 last year.

The actual number of people in the seats at any given time is lower than that. Some ticketholders do not show up — in many cases after trying to unload their tickets on the secondary market — and others seek warmth and / or food in other areas of the stadium.

Still, the Yankees already have sold more than 3.2 million tickets, on par with where they were this time last season. (The Yankees do not include in their totals tickets given to sponsors as part of their deals with the team.)

Also, their early figures are skewed by the unusually early start to the season. Early April traditionally is the most difficult time to sell tickets, and this season began on March 31.

Last year, the Yankees opened at home on April 13, and their second and third games were played on unseasonably warm days.

Twenty of their first 28 games are at home this season.

“Clearly, our overall ticket sales are very comparable to where they were last year, when we led Major League Baseball in attendance,” said team president Randy Levine, who added the bad weather has increased the number of ticketholders who stay home.

“We fully expect the people showing up to go back to normal levels as soon as the weather gets a little better.”

Like all teams, the Yankees face competition from their own ticketholders. Many fans buy tickets on the resale market, where prices often are far below those at the box office.

Four hours before last night’s game, tickets could be had for as little as 98 cents on StubHub.

Compared to many teams’ struggles, the Yankees’ relatively slow start is no big deal.

The Indians attracted 8,726 paid Sunday, the lowest for a game at Progressive Field, which opened in 1994. The Cubs drew only 26,292 at Wrigley Field Monday.

And this weekend, the Mets’ attendance will be watched as a referendum on fans’ feelings about the direction of the team.

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