The Yankees’ ticket and suite revenue reported to bondholders dropped for the sixth straight year in 2015, down 30 percent since the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009.
Among other factors, the loss of superstars Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera has taken a toll on attendance and revenue, according to team president Randy Levine.
Rivera retired after the 2013 season, and Jeter retired after 2014. Last year, the Yankees’ first without both players, they averaged their smallest per-game crowd in the seven years at the new Yankee Stadium. That number — 39,922 — still ranked fourth in the majors and first in the American League.
Levine said the Yankees have been undergoing “a bit of an adjustment period” without the star power of Jeter and Rivera and other mainstays of their championship teams.
“There was a real identification with those players who were great players and won a lot of championships,” Levine said. “They were big stars, big attractions. There’s no doubt about it. I think the fact that they all retired in a period of time had an impact.”
According to the team’s latest financial statement, ticket and suite revenue was $276.9 million last season. That figure includes $36.6 million in postseason ticket sales. Some buyers purchase tickets for the entire postseason and then have the option of a refund or credit for games not played. The Yankees played one home playoff game last season, losing to the Astros in the Wild Card game.
The filings provide a partial view into the team’s overall financial picture because they do not include concessions, parking, advertising and national and local TV and radio contracts.
When the new stadium opened in 2009, the team totaled $396.9 million in ticket and suite revenue. That number was helped by the allure of a new building and the Yankees’ 27th World Championship.
The Yankees’ ticket and suite revenue figures come from end-of-year financial reports they file every February with a municipal bond regulatory body as part of their deal to use tax-exempt bonds to finance the construction of Yankee Stadium. The Yankees file the reports to show they have enough revenue to make their annual bond payment, which was $80.6 million this year.
Despite the six straight years of declines, the Yankees still are averaging more revenue than when the team played at the old stadium. According to bond documents, the Yankees averaged $143.5 million in ticket and suite revenue during the past 10 years at the old stadium. In 2008, the stadium’s final season, the Yankees totaled $266.9 million in ticket and suite revenue thanks to 4,298,543 in total attendance.
Last year the Yankees drew 3,193,795 fans. While experts say the Yankees’ 2015 attendance and ticket revenue still rank among the best in Major League Baseball, they also represent a drop from what the team was reporting as recently as 2012. That season, the Yankees reached the American League Championship Series and drew 3,542,406 and reported $352.9 million in ticket and suite revenue.
This season the Yankees are averaging 38,457 tickets sold per game through the first 25 games. While that remains first in the American League and fourth in the majors, it’s down from this point last year when they were averaging 39,894, according to baseball-reference.com. While that remains first in the American League and fourth in the majors, it’s down from this point last year when they were averaging 39,716, according to baseball-reference.com. Levine said the team’s poor start and the colder-than-normal spring weather are factors.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said recently that he’s been encouraged by early season ticket sales, which he said are up from a year ago. He also said season ticket sales are “slightly up” for the first time in four or five years.
Experts say the challenge facing the Yankees is that they’ve trained their fans to expect a winning team with big-name stars all across the field.
“Winning with flair and personality is important for the Yankees,” said David Carter, executive director of University of Southern California’s Sports Business Institute. “If they win without buzz, people might not always pay attention because the market is so big and there’s so much competition for that dollar.”
Joel Maxcy, head of the sport management department at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said, “Star power matters more to the Yankees than other teams just because they’ve trained people that when they pay New York City prices, they want to see someone famous.”
That’s why Levine believes the Yankees “are unlike most other teams” because they do not believe they can afford to go through an extended rebuilding process. “We don’t have time to do four or five year rebuilding efforts,” Levine said. “And I think we’ve been successful in doing that.”