Expanded-but-reduced capacity a test, opportunity for White Sox’s drawing power

Guaranteed Rate Field has been surprisingly lively for a park that’s allowed to host fewer than 10,000 fans.

In 10 days, it’s going to get a whole lot louder.

The White Sox announced that they’ll be expanding capacity to 60 percent starting May 24, and the initial crowds should be at reduced-capacity capacity of roughly 24,300, what with the Cardinals coming to town for three games. The Orioles follow for Memorial Day weekend, which will also be a non-standard drawing environment.

When June rolls around, the White Sox will host the Tigers, Blue Jays and Rays over the course of the first three weeks, and I’ll be curious to see whether the Sox sell out for those midweek affairs. Two Junes ago, a Monday-Tuesday series with the Nationals drew fewer than 17,000 fans, and even a Thursday game against the Yankees barely breached 25,000. A month later, a Monday-Wednesday series against the Miami Marlins drew fewer than 15,000 for the first two dates.

Setting aside the fact that I’m teeing up obvious attendance jokes, I’m more curious about how increasing the ticket limit while maintaining an imposed scarcity will affect ticket sales for these series. There’s an inertia component to attendance, in that the more tickets that are available, the less motivation there is for fans to act early, which creates the possibility they may never act. Scarcity, be it natural or synthetic, forces fans to think harder and move faster when it comes to securing tickets.

There won’t be a perfect comparison between the 2021 White Sox and any other team of recent vintage because they’re a first-place team that’s been years in the making. Previous instances of first-place Sox teams had the markings of flukes and finished as such. If the Sox had no attendance limits, I don’t think they’d be pulling in fewer than 20,000 barring some combination of a boring midweek opponent and awful-but-playable weather.

But would they average 24,300 for a midweek series against the Rays under more normal circumstances? I think they’re a year and a real postseason run away from having that kind of power. But if the Sox briskly sell out Tuesday nights hosting the Rays and Jays (including them because Canadians aren’t traveling this year), that represents two things:

  1. Real progress in terms of building excitement.
  2. An experiment in the benefits of selling out a smaller limit.

The first is cool, especially if you subscribe to the idea that Jerry Reinsdorf won’t spend money to make money, but will spend more money if he has more money to spend.

The latter isn’t as valuable to common fans. Ballparks have shrunk in capacity as teams seek to maximize dollars spent per fan, and generate revenue from developing the surrounding neighborhood, which could reduce the value in the stadium’s footprint. The White Sox, who created an opening to discuss a new ballpark by the end of the decade by reworking their stadium deal, will likely not be immune to such incentives. Hell, Major League Baseball may push the Sox in that direction, seeing as how it’s doing the same thing behind the Oakland A’s stadium efforts.

It’s not a real fun thing to think about, because the best thing about baseball is its abundance, and the ability for any fan to find a professional game most places around the country. Between the consolidation of the minor leagues and the mindset of providing a premium experience, such sentiments take a backseat to extracting money out of the fans who show up. Romance, it seems, is inefficient.

* * * * * * * * *

There will be a brief window during which the White Sox will send money the other way. In the same press release announcing the increased capacity, they also said fans who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine can do so at Guaranteed Rate Field, and receive $25 in cold hard Comiskey Cash.

Beginning May 24, the White Sox will offer two vaccination sites for fans located at Guaranteed Rate Field.  Every fan who receives a vaccination before a game will receive a $25 White Sox gift card for use inside the ballpark. The White Sox also will promote vaccinations to the public through scoreboard and public address announcements, in-game promotional reads by announcers, signs inside and outside the ballpark, the Dan Ryan message board and various social media platforms.

There’s a natural tendency for the already vaccinated to bemoan the lack of rewards for getting their shots early, but there’s solace in already having done your part. It’s also nice to see the White Sox, who cleared the 85 percent threshold for vaccinations among team personnel, to continue to encourage efforts among the greater public, which is a superior situation to the other team in town.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I applaud the Sox’ efforts at expanding vaccinations. They should think about offering a suite in a random drawing of vaccinated attendees. You could come back with with 19 of your vaccinated friends for a game on the next home stand. We have to keep putting carrots out there in order to push past herd immunity.


Getting vaccinated as soon as I was eligible allowed me to spend days with my grandma when I didn’t know if she would survive the pandemic. It’s allowing me to host my mother and sister, whom I haven’t seen in over a year. I am grateful. I think the cautious guidance on what a vaccinated person could do with low risk was preventing people from seeing the benefit.

I am glad teams are doing these promotions. Ohio is raffling off a million dollars a week, or something like that, to people who have been vaccinated. That’s fun.

Last edited 1 year ago by jorgefabregas

We just said goodbye to our vaccinated son. He was here for a week. First time we’ve seen him in a year. Thanks, Science!


Never got the vaccine i feel great.


Cool man


I’ve been seeing a lot more shiny new White Sox hats up where I live, about a mile south of Wrigley Field. I have to think and hope it will translate into more butts in seats at the park. Between the exciting nature of this team, the year we just all spent inside, and the overall jerkitude of the Ricketts, I think there are a lot of people in Chicago hungry to experience a team like this now.


Does anyone know why MLB teams went with the J&J vaccine instead of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines? It seems weird to risk your teams success (and the millions of dollars associated with that) on the vaccine with significantly lower effectiveness


I think they wanted to get to the 85% threshold ASAP and didn’t want players potentially facing side effects twice. They probably also figured that their players were low risk due to age and health.


But it does kinda seem to be backfiring if they’re going to lose players for a few days with asymptomatic, or low symptom infections. Or some cases I’m not sure infection is the right word if it’s only in the nasal passages.

Greg Nix

I don’t get this “personal decision” crap. If you’re professionally part of a team environment AND have exposure to the general public, that fundamentally changes the nature of the decision. You become a threat to the health of others in your workplace. Personally, I think all these teams should be requiring the vaccine absent a documented medical condition — and the “personal decision” option is that you can sit out the season if you don’t want to get it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Greg Nix

Well said!


You would be a great editor in China


Whoa cool are you Chinese? Didn’t realize the team had fans there.


Way easier for a guy with a guaranteed contract who has already banked millions of dollars to get philosophical about the vaccine compared to a pre-arb rookie making the major league minimum.

Or to put it another way, I’m guessing Yoan Moncada was feeling damn good about the extension he signed by the time the 2020 season came to a close.


The side effects are so overblown. Of the 10 or so people I know who’ve been vaccinated, I think one had a little tummy troubles for a day and one felt a little spacy.


My wife was laid low for a day. She couldn’t have taken the field that day. She had Moderna, which anecdotally in my circle has been harder than the others. My daughter, son, and I all had Pfizer with no issues.


I got the J&J, the next day I was a little groggy and achy but that was it. My arm was sore for almost a week, so that was the most irritating part.


Check out the comments on that tweet. There are a lot more Flowers fans out there then I’d expect.


Our thoughts go out to Pnoles on this emotional day for him. We know how he will miss his boy.


Root Cause

I advocated that the fans support the team when they provide a competitive group but not when they intentionally field a bad one.
(I get that we needed to rebuild. And I would support that as well so long as it started from the top to eliminate those who created the need for a mulligan)
Conversely, I hope that everyone responds this year and packs the house.

Last edited 1 year ago by Root Cause

I love the Sox stadium. And it’s been cool to see them make changes to it periodically to make it better and adapt to what people want. What a waste of money and resources it would be to build a new one. Regardless if they do or don’t however, they should consider having a section in the stadium like the Rockpile at Coors Field, a cheap place to see a game where you can decide on a whim to go without paying a ton of money.


I’d really only be in for a new stadium if somewhat game changing was in the cards.

Bulldozing McCormick Place East and building a new Sox stadium on the lake)


The old Michael Reese site is supposedly getting redeveloped at last. If the current plans don’t come to anything, that would be a fine lakefront stadium site.


If you couldn’t get a museum on the lake, you won’t be getting a new stadium. Plus, lakefront is a pain to get to without good public transit and having to go through the extra central area traffic. Works for a handful of football games but wouldn’t try it for baseball.


I never got vaccinated and i will not be ever. They can keep pushing it and bribing people with coupons and free fries. no thanks,i know your tricks. its my body my choice.


Lol ok bro, but if you get it and get really sick, don’t pull this Ted Nugent-style whining BS looking for sympathy. “Your choice” also means you take responsibility for your actions.