Phillies on Pace to Draw Fewest Fans Since They Played at The Vet

Citizens Bank park has drawn just over 27,100 fans per contest so far this season. Phillies games are lonelier than they've been since 2002.

Empty seats at Citizens Bank Park

SO LONELY: Empty upper-deck seats at the start of Tuesday night’s Phillies game against the Marlins. (Photo | Dan McQuade)

It was the top of the first inning. The Marlins had a man on with two outs. Mike Morse fouled off a pitch; there were now two strikes. The big screen at the Phillies game exhorted the fans: “Get loud!” There was scattered applause.

We are just seven home games into the 2015 season. Citizens Bank Park feels different. The opening day crowd of 45,549 seems so long ago already. Last night was Dollar Dog Night, yet there were few long lines for discounted dogs. (Tony Luke’s and Campo’s were still packed, however; I am convinced CBP’s cheesesteak outposts have long lines even when the stadium is closed.)

Despite the gorgeous weather last night, the attendance for the Phillies’ 7-3 win over the Marlins — for Dollar Dog Night and Jackie Robinson Day (observed) — was just 21,993.

It wasn’t even the smallest crowd of the season. The Phillies drew just 19,047 for a Friday night game against the Nationals on April 10th. That was the smallest crowd in Citizens Bank Park history. The first Sunday game of the season drew 30,094 — or four thousand fewer fans than last year’s Sunday opener.

The Phillies are averaging 27,186 fans this year — on pace to be the lowest total since Citizens Bank Park opened. It would be the smallest per-game average since the team drew 19,977 fans per contest in 2002, the penultimate year of Veterans Stadium. But that number will probably drop: Average attendance right now is buoyed by the 45,549 that showed up for the season opener against the Red Sox. Attendance does tend to go up in the summer, but not by that much.

It’s no surprise the Phillies aren’t drawing any more — they haven’t had a winning season since 2011, and they posted identical 73-89 records the past two seasons. But it’s a sharp decline from the heady days of Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies were in the top-10 in home attendance every season between 2007 and 2013. They led the league in 2011 and 2012. The Phillies still drew 37,190 a game in 2013. Through seven home dates last year, the Phillies drew 30,364 per game. They finished with 29,924 fans a game.

Citizens Bank Park attendance, per game
*Through 7 home dates

And it’s not like the Phillies are going to get any better this year. Five of eight position players who started last night’s game are hitting below .215 — all worse than the career average of Mario Mendoza.

The Phillies even had a Groupon deal this year. It’s no longer available, but the Groupon page says “over 90” were purchased. Even deals for Phillies tickets don’t appear to be selling so well.

There are advantages to an empty Citizens Bank Park, however. Fans had plenty of elbow room at the stadium last night. They could stock up on as many dollar dogs as they wanted without having to wait in line. One 400-level section along the third base line did not have a single fan sit in it all night. There was plenty of room to watch the game from the concourses. Tickets are easy to walk up and get. Eleven seasons in, the stadium is still a fantastic place to watch a baseball game.

But something seems different. We were spoiled by the years of good teams. The fans in attendance last night were as boisterous as they could be. But baseball games in South Philly are a lot lonelier nowadays.

On the plus side, Ryan Howard hit his first homer of the year last night!

Follow @dhm on Twitter.