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Moneyball? MLB Attendance Signals Modest Recovery

Thursday, 5 Apr 2012 | 4:38 PM ET
Mets Citifield
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Mets Citifield

Inspired by baseball’s opening day across the country Thursday, analysts at ConvergEX Group found an interesting correlation both Fantasy Baseball fans and Wall Street traders can appreciate: History shows MLB attendance mirrors consumer confidence.

So if Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s prediction proves correct, we should be in for a modest economic recovery this year. Selig said this week that total attendance will be up about 3 to 5 percent, according to Sports Business Daily.

“Declining since 2007, attendance is a sound representation of the still sluggish economy, since it is measured over a lengthy season and includes a broad national sample,” wrote Beth Reed and Nicholas Colas of ConvergEx. “Last season, average game attendance across the league was 30,344, which was up 0.7 percent from the prior year, but still shy of the all-time high average of 32,770 set in 2007.”

That year marked the onslaught of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and a subsequent plunge in economic activity, consumer confidence and stocks.

Selig’s mild expectations jibe with economists’ call for a continuation of a modest economic recovery. The government jobs report Friday is expected to reinforce these expectations by showing the March unemployment rate stayed flat at around 8 percent.

“The MLB fan base is primarily middle to upper–middle class Baby Boomers,” writes Reed in the report. “Attendance data gives insight into the stereotypical American family.”

To justify the surprisingly high correlation, ConvergEx cites data from Scarborough Sports Marketing that shows 60 percent of households that attend MLB games earn more than $50,000 a year, 61 percent have at least one child and 81 percent contain at least one college grad.

So if the “Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field or the new art deco digs of Miami Marlins Park start to look especially packed this summer, it may be time to upgrade your economic outlook.

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