Sounders vs. Mariners - The battle for summer

The Sounders will be competing with a local team for much of the 2009 season. Both the Seattle Sounders of MLS and the Seattle Mariners of MLB will be playing through spring, summer and into fall. The schedule overlaps almost perfectly. And, of course, the two teams play next door to each other. Each will be fighting for the increasingly scarce entertainment dollars of the average Seattle citizen. The Mariners have been the regions most popular franchise for years, but incredibly, the Sounders have a very good chance at drawing more fans per game in 2009. Seriously.

How do I arrive at this seemingly outlandish conclusion? From the Sounders side, it's simple. With Qwest having a proposed MLS capacity of 24,500, and over 19,000 season tickets sold, it seems pretty likely that the club will sell out every game. If necessary, they might even open up some more seats (the Hawks Nest, to be specific), bumping the capacity to around 27,000. For this exercise, I'll play it safe and give the Sounders an even 25k, not counting friendly matches.

The Mariners, of course, have been trending in the wrong direction as of late. With last season being an abysmal failure by any measure, the attendence dropped to mirror that. For the first time since the magical 1995 season, the team drew less than 30k people - just over 28.5k, to be exact. They dropped by five thousand fans in one season. Now, unsurprisingly, changes happened for the M's over the offseason, including a new general manager who isn't a complete moron. And in the long term the club looks to be on the right track. But they aren't going to win this season, and a lot of fair weather fans have bailed on the club. The casual fan doesn't want to see a team that loses every year. And with the economy being in the toilet, another drop of a few thousand fans per game seems likely, putting the Mariners below the Sounders.

Of course this doesn't mean the support for the teams will be equal. That would be an insane suggestion. The MLB season has more than 5 times as many games, giving the M's a huge advantage in total attendence, and baseball (unlike soccer) draws historically well in Seattle. But for the Sounders to draw more fans per game would be a major victory, albeit largely a symbolic one. It would be a first in MLS history. And yet another sign that the club is primed for success.


Anonymous said...

One thing to add on to the discussion is the fact that the Sounders will be playing primarily on weekends whereas the Mariners play mostly on weekdays. And the Mariners unsurprisingly draw bigger crowds on weekends. Weekday games really restrict who can go see a game since people work on weekdays and are too tired or whatever after a day at work.

GOALSeattle said...

The Sounders consistently out-averaged the Mariners 1978-1982.

Ness said...

I knew someone would jump on that. I'm talking recent, relevant history. Over the last 12 years, the Sounders usually checked in at about 4k? 5k? The Mariners brought in about 8 times that. And you're missing the point, anyways - summer in Seattle has belonged to baseball for years. SSFC are taking steps to change that.

(It was '77 to '81 btw.)