Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opening weeks of the 2018 season. Comparatively, through six games at PNC Park, attendance numbers seem to be suffering as well.
So it poses the question, are fans scared away by the inclement weather or are they speaking with their wallets about their disapproval of this past controversial offseason? Honestly, i’ll use the cop out answer; it’s both.
It’s quite obvious that the weather has been brutal for baseball so far. Cold temperatures, snow, rain, you name it, it has affected the Pirates schedule thus far. Three games have been postponed already and the team had to play a doubleheader on Opening Weekend in Detroit.
For the Pirates home opener, they drew a crowd of just 30,186, the lowest since 1982. While it was a balmy 40 degrees that day, the days following weren’t much better. In the next five games, they failed to sell more than 15,000 tickets. Even in the mid-2000’s and on, a weekend series versus a divisional opponent would draw some of the largest crowds of the season thanks to catchy promotions, cheap tickets, and the ever wonderful PNC Park.
Currently, no one can knock the Pirates for not playing exciting baseball through the first stretch of games. After winning their first four, they were the last remaining undefeated team in baseball. After finishing the homestand with a 7-2 record, they sit atop of the division.
Through those six home games, an average of 16,143 (96,805 total) fans found their way to the North Shore to watch the Bucs. In terms of average attendance, the Pirates rank 27th out of 30 teams, with one (Chicago Cubs) not having a home game yet.
While it’s far too early into the campaign to compare previous seasons, things seem to picking up where 2017 left off. In all of last year, the Pirates averaged 23,696 fans at home games for a total attendance of 1,919,447. From 2013-2016, PNC Park averaged no less than 28,000 strong. Of course, those were the best years that some Pirate fans have seen in a lifetime.
While most fans don’t like to have to wear a parka and scarf to the ballpark, it’s also a rather obvious statement that fans want to watch a winning team. If you have watched even one game so far, you know there is zero doubt that the 2018 Pirates are better than last years squad.
Looking forward, the weather will get better (fingers crossed) and with better weather will come more people. Pittsburgher’s love baseball, we have seen that many times in recent years.
That’s why I also believe that if the Pirates can remain competitive in the NL Central, some disgruntled fans will begin to cross the picket lines and in droves.
While Pittsburgh is an amazing city with plenty of options for entertainment, it is difficult to think of a better place to be on a warm summer night than at PNC Park. By season’s end, I expect average home attendance to be around 26,000.