Yankee Stadium attendance off

NEW YORK -- Yankee Stadium average attendance in 2011 is down nine percent compared to last season.

Yankees team president Randy Levine says Stadium attendance has been affected by both the unseasonably cool April weather and more early-season home games.

"The fact that we've had this early April schedule has hurt us," Levine says.

Levine quickly pointed out that the team has already sold 3.2 million tickets, which he said is a "comparable number" to last year, when the team led baseball with 3.7 million tickets sold.

"Over the course of the season, we expect everything to equalize," Levine says. "But early on, the fact that the weather has been so bad [and] we've had so many games in April has hurt."

The Yankees started at home March 31 this season, two weeks earlier than the previous two seasons. They have played 11 of their first 14 games at home (two were rained out) and had two straight new Stadium record lows in early April. In a stadium that seats over 52,000, there was an announced crowd of 40,267 on April 5.

Average attendance through 11 home games this season is 41,685, nine percent lower than both 2010 (44,363) and 2009 (44,787). Overall, the Yankees rank third in attendance, behind Philadelphia (45,411) and San Francisco (41,795).

The weather has undoubtedly played a factor. The first-pitch temperature has been above 52 degrees for just three home games this season. It was 57 degrees on Sunday night when CC Sabathia threw out the first pitch against the Rangers. It was also 57 on April 4 for the first pitch of the Yankees-Twins game. Average first-pitch temperature has been 50 degrees.

The Yankees sold out on the coldest day of the year thus far, but that was on Opening Day against Detroit when it was 39 degrees at first pitch. There was an announced crowd of 48,266. On Saturday, first-pitch temperature was 46 degrees and rain fell for the final five innings. The announced crowd was 41,876.

"This is just the problem of April baseball, especially when there's bad weather," Levine says.

The Yankees, who led baseball in average attendance (46,491) last season, aren't the only team to suffer at the gates so far in 2011. According to a recent USA Today story, six teams have played in front of the smallest crowds in their respective stadium's history.

For most home games thus far, the number of fans in the stands appears to much smaller than the announced paid attendance.

Levine says the Yankees have between 36,000 and 37,000 season ticket holders. Some of those fans have chosen to stay home. The Yankees also do not include in their announced crowd the tickets that are included in major sponsorship deals, which typically total anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000.

Another reason why it looks like there are fewer fans in the stands? Some at the Stadium have chosen to watch the game inside in a bar or restaurant in the stadium.

"They're here, but they're sitting inside watching the game on TV," Levine says.

The Yankees also haven't sold a significant number of seats to walk-up customers. Those numbers will increase, Levine says, when the temperature rises.

"We fully expect everything to get back on line once the weather gets nice, once May comes around, and we'll go from there," Levine says.

Levine admits that the low attendance has affected concession sales. But he insists that "both on hospitality side and the ticket side the expectations are, we are going to hit all of our targets."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.