The hot topic (well, mildly warm topic) this week — a week that falls just short of mid-July, thus still too far away from the start of Steelers training camp — has been a recent decline in attendance at 68,000-seat Heinz Field.
Why have less people been showing up to Heinz Field each and every week — according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, an average of 62,471 fans were in attendance last year, representing a nearly 2,000-person decline from 2016?
According to the Post Gazette, the Atlanta Falcons may have found one possible explanation and a bit of a solution. They slashed their concession prices just a bit in 2017, a move that generated better food and even merchandise sales during game days.
I get that concession prices are insane, and when you think about it, it really is amazing how we can be trained into thinking the cost of something is now reasonable (“$5 for a beer? Not bad!”), but there’s an even better way than lowering prices to combat this on game day:
I call it the “going three hours without food or drink” technique.
I know it might seem crazy, but you really can go a few hours without beer and nachos. I do it all the time. In fact, I did it just today. I’ll probably do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.
As a single man without children, I realize this is almost impossible to do if you attend a football game with someone who calls you “honey” or “dad.” But I also realize a few bucks off on a red Solo cup of beer shouldn’t make much of a difference when deciding if you’re going to get in your car and head on down to the North Shore.
Which brings me to the real reason I think attendance has declined just a smidge in recent years:
Going to football games is just a pain in the butt. It really is and, quite frankly, I can’t believe 62,000 people still do it on a weekly basis. That’s actually quite amazing.
I mean, by the time you pay for your ticket and parking, the price of which amounts to about five red Solo cups of beer in Pittsburgh, and eight red solo cups in Atlanta, you’re already out roughly $150 — and that’s if you go by yourself and your seat has a bird’s-eye view of the river.
If you go with significant others — people that, as I alluded to previously, aren’t about to utilize my “going three hours without food or drink” technique — you’re looking at at least $500 per game.
And let’s say that, by some miracle, you go with a few significant others that don’t want anything to eat or drink for a few hours (LOL!). What about all those other people in your row that want to eat and drink the entire game?
How many times do you have to stand up and let people by before you start raging on the inside? If you said “four,” that’s two times longer than it takes me.
What about all those people in the rows below you that don’t seem to realize there are fans above them trying to watch the action?
What about all those people--fans who have been double-fisting $8 red Solo cups of beer (or maybe those cups are black and/or gold)--who spend the entire three hours screaming “You suck!” and/or “Here we go Steelers!!!!!!!”?
What about the traffic coming home?
It’s all a pain in the butt, at least in 2018, when the alternative is a cozy man-cave, carpeting that doesn’t smell like beer and nachos, a nice recliner, plus a flat-screen, high-definition television you can buy for the price of one game-day experience.
Did Jesse James catch that pass against the Patriots? Who knows for sure, but I certainly had a better idea while sitting in my living room last December 17 than most of the fans at Heinz Field.
I got to see the play from every angle and in super-slow-motion.
That’s the thing most people seem to miss about attendance. Unlike baseball, basketball and especially hockey, football and television were made for each other.
So how can the Steelers get back those 6,000 fans that didn’t attend the past two seasons?
Obviously 13 wins might not be enough of an incentive.
The Steelers have sold out every home game since 1972 (sellouts are different than the turnstile count), so there’s no way the Rooney family will lower ticket prices anytime soon.
Let’s face it, you can have a better game-day experience at home while paying nothing than you can inside the stadium paying a king’s ransom.
I think we should just thank those 62,000 fans who show up to Heinz Field each week and hope to God they don’t finish their own man-caves anytime soon.