The Chicago White Sox have slashed ticket prices for 2013 after attendance dipped below 2 million during a surprisingly successful 2012 season.
Although the team hasn't released complete numbers yet, the team announced it will drop or keep the same prices for 87 percent of season tickets, with 54 percent dropping by an average of 26 percent. Bleacher seats are dropping 32 percent and outfield reserved seats by 30 percent.
The White Sox commissioned a study during the 2012 season to examine fan behavior and why individual ticket sales were down despite an improved record. Sports consultant Rich Luker, who created the ESPN Sports Poll in 1994, used nine focus groups and 8,000 in-depth surveys of fans who bought tickets in 2011. Luker told ESPN Chicago his research showed that personal economics, fans' belief that the games were too expensive, and life changes were the biggest factors in fans buying fewer tickets in 2012, not team performance.
"Thirty percent of respondents said they went to less games in 2012 than 2011, while 20 percent said they went to more," Luker said in a phone conversation. "But the people who said they went to significantly less games was 3-1 against those who went to more games in 2012."
The White Sox listened to the numbers. Daily tickets will be cut to $20 in the lower-deck corners and $7 in the upper-deck corners for 2013, among other changes. The cost of the Sox's 27-game plan will drop by 25 percent. The team also cut parking prices to $20. Previously it was between $23 to $25 to park in the lots outside U.S. Cellular Field.
Despite a winning record under first-year manager Robin Ventura, the White Sox dropped below 2 million in attendance, 1.965 million, for the first time since 2004.
"We are listening to our fans, and these cuts are reflective of what they have said to us in our study," senior VP of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer told ESPNChicago.com. "(Broadcasts next season will) point out the great fan experience that is available at U.S. Cellular Field. We have to do a better job of satisfying our fans and selling what we believe is a great ballpark and team event. This is just the first step forward we will take to reach out to our great fan base."
The White Sox have drawn fewer fans every season since 2008. The team's peak in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field and all-time high of 2.957 million came in 2006 as a result of winning the World Series in 2005. The Sox's all-time high in attendance at old Comiskey Park was 2.136 million in 1984.
Next season, the Sox will have to deal with the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line closing down its Sox-35th stop as tracks are replaced. Around 15 percent of fans use the Red Line to reach U.S. Cellular Field, according to the White Sox.
ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg contributed to this report.