Paying fans dwindle as Mariners' attendance hits new low

Paying fans dwindle as Mariners' attendance hits new low
Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen throws to first on a pick-off attempt of Cleveland Indians' Shin-Soo Choo in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game, which set a low attendance record.
SEATTLE - The Seattle Mariners won their game against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night - but chalked up a major-league loss in attendance.

Just 11,343 spectators were there to witness the victory, setting a new record-low at Safeco Field, which was built in 1999. The previous smallest crowd was 11,701 against Baltimore on May 31, 2011.

As recently as 2010, attendance at Safeco Field for a Mariners game had never dropped below 14,500. But several games have tumbled below that threshold since then.

The cumulative effect of all those spottily attended games has had its effect. In the entire 2011 season, the Mariners failed to bring in 2 million visitors for the first time in Safeco Field history.

But attendance woes aren't something that just started recently.

As a matter of fact, attendance at Safeco Field has been dropping for years, as the team has chalked up one disappointing season after another. Here is a snapshot of attendance over the past five seasons:

• 2007 - Total attendance at Safeco Field, 2.6 million. Team record: 88 wins, 74 losses.

• 2008 - Total attendance at Safeco Field, 2.3 million. Team record: 61 wins, 101 losses.

• 2009 - Total attendance at Safeco Field, 2.195 million. Team record: 75 wins, 87 losses.

• 2010 - Total attendance at Safeco Field, 2.095 million. Team record: 61 wins, 100 losses.

• 2011 - Total attendance at Safeco Field, 1.9 million. Team record: 67 wins, 95 losses.

If the trend continues, attendance at Safeco Field in 2012 could be less than half its size during the record-setting 2002 season, when the team sold 3.542 million tickets.

Fans cite several factors for the decline in paying customers.

• The Mariners losing record seems to get most of the blame among many fans. So far this year, the team has scored seven wins and six losses - above .500 but still not exactly inspiring.

• Ticket prices, while technically about the same as last year, are still higher for some seats on some days with the new tier pricing structure, especially on weekends.

• High concession prices, such as $20 for a beer and a hot dog.

• The still-lagging economy, which has forced many people to curtail their entertainment budget to pay the mortgage and grocery bills.

• Competition from other sports, including the Seattle Sounders, which has one of the highest attendance records in Major League Soccer.

And that pressure could become even more intense if an NBA or NHL franchise comes to Seattle.