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RedEye Suggests Bulldozing Sox Park

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jul 18, 2012 8:20PM

Photo by Edwin Araos

First it was the Wall St. Journal's Rich Cohen suggesting that we take the wrecking ball to Wrigley. Now it's the RedEye suggesting that we demolish the Cell. Alex Quigley believes the answers to the Sox attendance problems lie with the park itself, and the solution is to start over. While we think his idea is a bit tongue-in-cheek, he does address a big issue for the South Siders.

The White Sox are in first place in the AL Central, 10 games over .500. Yet their home attendance is lower than all but four teams—Toronto, Houston, Seattle and Cleveland. Three of those teams are cellar dwellers. As Sam Abernethy noted, that means even the Pittsburgh Pirates are outdrawing the Sox... though to be fair, this generation of Pirates fans still find a first place team to be a bit of a novelty.

So why is attendance flagging despite a winning team? As Quigley pointed out, the park is easily accessible by expressway and Lake Shore Drive with ample parking, and there's also the Red Line, Green Line and Metra Rock Island line for those who want to take transit or avoid parking fees. Getting there isn't the issue.

Weather also hasn't been much of a factor. There has been little rain to speak of this spring and summer, so those who don't want to risk getting caught in a downpour have had little to worry about. Sure, there's been some heat but most of the games are at night after it's cooled off a bit and there's always plenty of beer available.

Is it ticket prices? While the Sox have cut ticket prices by almost 30 percent on average and the team's Fan cost index (that includes food, etc.) is down 14 percent, it still costs more to attend a game at U.S. Cellular Field than the Major League average. The Sox have offered special pricing and discounts for tickets as well as "dynamic pricing", but between that and the tiered pricing for premium, standard and value games it's become almost as confusing as trying to get the best deal on airline tickets.

For example, during the team's next home stand against the Twins, tickets for Lower Reserved seats (sections 100-107, 157-159) will run you anywhere from $18 to $41 depending on which of the three games you choose to attend. While the Monday night might seem like a bargain at $18, does the person who wants to attend Tuesday's game feel ripped off paying more than double? Of course, those same seats during a weekend set with the Angels will set you back between $42 and $56. What happened to the same seat costing the same price for every game?

When one has to do the math and calculate whether it's worth X more to see a certain team or go on a specific day of the week, it becomes all too easy to just decide that the 50-inch TV in your living room, a six pack of Two Brothers in your fridge and delivery pizza is a better option.

We'll be honest that we haven't investigated how much flexible pricing other teams are using to set their ticket prices, so we're not sure if that's really the culprit. But whatever the cause, it's hurting the team.

With attendance down, Sox GM Kenny Williams has less money to work with. For a team that's perhaps a piece or two away from a legitimate shot at the World Series, he may have to sit on the sidelines if he can't take on more payroll for the stretch run. Kevin Youkilis was a great addition, but given the injury situation a starting pitcher might be required, and a battle tested closer would be nice, too.