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Sox projecting increase in paid attendance

(MCT) — It is more than a month before Opening Day and the Chicago White Sox are planning for larger crowds this season at U.S. Cellular Field – at least for those who will be paying to walk through the turnstiles.

But, as last season proved, even good baseball doesn’t necessarily lead to higher attendance.

The Sox are projecting 1,946,000 in paid attendance for the 2013 season -- an increase of more than 100,000 from last year’s paid attendance of 1,836,916.

That figure still is less than last season's total attendance of 1,965,866, the first time since 2004 that the total dipped below 2 million.   

The paid attendance figure includes tickets sold directly by the Sox and reported to Major League Baseball, but not tickets less than $3, those sold through bartering or that are complimentary.

Total home attendance is tougher to project, Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said. The past few years, the difference has been about 100,000 to 130,000 tickets, he said.

The figures were released Tuesday at a meeting of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns U.S. Cellular Field and manages its daily operations. Because paid attendance fell below 1,925,000, the Sox were not required to pay the public agency additional ticket fees beyond a base rent of $1,537,000, as required by a management agreement between the team and the agency. 

Sox General Counsel John Corvino said increased ticket sales help both the team and the agency, and the Sox continue to work on ticket promotions and flexible ticket options.

Last season, despite extended success in the regular season before coming up short of a playoff berth, the Sox had difficulty drawing fans. The situation stood in stark contrast to their North Side neighbors, as the Cubs regularly were at near-capacity despite carrying one of the worst records throughout the season.

“The White Sox are obviously very frustrated,” Corvino said.

The Sox previously have announced plans designed to revive attendance, including reducing prices on 87 percent of their full-season tickets and reducing parking. The ticket prices will be reduced by as much as 32 percent in the bleachers and 30 percent in the outfield reserved sections.

In 1991, the first season at U.S. Cellular Field, the Sox sold more than 2.9 million total tickets. Since then, more than 2 million tickets have been sold just nine times, including 2005 through 2010.

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