No panic from Cubs ownership over slipping attendance


If you build it, will they come back?

Of course they will. They always do.

And that's what the Cubs are banking on as they wind down another losing season in their second multiyear rebuild in a decade.

In the meantime, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts isn’t panicking over slipping home attendance — which on Thursday fell to the lowest mark for a game since 2013 (not counting pandemic-related attendance limitations).

RELATED: Why Tom Ricketts feels 'really great' about 58-81 Cubs

And that seemed to indicate no immediate plans to diverge from the team’s bigger-picture rebuilding process and going on a reactionary spending spree on free agents — even against a backdrop of recent promises to be “aggressive” and to spend.

“Obviously, we’re going to have higher attendance when we’re winning in September and when we’re contending,” he said Saturday — when the presence of the Giants (with its swath of orange-clad fans) and a sunny Saturday afternoon boosted the announced crowd back to 40,086.

But even with that big Saturday crowd, the Cubs’ average home attendance this year is down 14.7 percent from 2019, the last full season without pandemic-related restrictions.

And while a lot of teams would love to have the Cubs’ average home attendance, if this year’s pace holds up over the final 10 home games, the final 2022 attendance (2.64 million) would be the team’s lowest since 1998 (2.62 million).

“We don’t want to go into September every year this far out,” Ricketts said. “We’re still gonna plan for the future. All we can do about that is just try to create a great Wrigley experience, [where] even if we’re having a bad season everybody has a great day at Wrigley Field. That’s all we can do. Adjust to that.”

In fact, the likelihood of selling a lot of tickets even in losing seasons was part of Ricketts family conversations as Tom Ricketts took the idea to family patriarch Joe Ricketts about 15 years ago.

But as for now -- as for how aggressive the Cubs might be and how much they might spend on free agents this winter for any reasons -- “The ball’s in Jed’s court when it comes to how and where he puts financial resources to work,” Ricketts said, referring to team president Jed Hoyer.

“He’s got a lot of flexibility. You let him do it. You let him decide what he wants to do,” Ricketts said.

“If he feels like it’s the right person at the right time, he has 100 percent support from me. And I’ll leave it to him.”

Both Ricketts and Hoyer have suggested promising signs this season and in the minors that might portend to improvement on the near horizon.

One first-year Cub, veteran pitcher Marcus Stroman, reiterated after Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Giants what he had said at least twice earlier this season:

“I think we’re close.”

Close enough that one or two key signings might springboard the team into a competitive 2023?

“That’s out of my control,” he said. “But I think we’re close. We have a great core, a group of young guys coming up. We add a few pieces and I think we can compete in the division right away.”

How much might that change the attendance trends and vibe at the Confines?

“It would be incredible,” Stroman said. “It’s been incredible this year, and we haven’t been rolling. I can only imagine being in a playoff run, playing well deep into the season and having the opportunity to play in the playoffs. I think this place would be rocking.

“I think this fan base deserves it.”

That is, after all, what they’re paying those premium prices for.

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