No one can say.
But John Weber, the Phillies' vice president of sales and ticket operations, does say this: "We know at some point it is going to end. And that will be OK, but because of our fan base, we may not draw 45,000 or 44,000. But we will still draw 40,000 or 38,000. We will never fall that far down."
The Phillies have declared sellouts despite the empty seats at Citizens Banks Park that have been apparent at most home games and the fact that tickets are available on the secondary market at less than face value.
According to Weber, a sellout is calculated by tickets sold, not by the actual number of people who move through the turnstiles. No-shows count in the total announced attendance, but they might be evidence of some softening in the secondary ticket sales through brokers for certain games. Given that the ballpark has 43,651 seats and that comp tickets are deducted for the total, Weber explains that the Phillies "consider a sellout to be 43,300 to 43,400" fans. Standing-room sales are added to the total, which brings the total attendance to more than 100 percent capacity.
Last season, on the heels of signing Cliff Lee and while winning a club-record 102 games, Weber said the Phillies were at "103 or 104 percent" capacity - an average of more than 45,400. This year, Weber says, the team is still over capacity, but is selling "600 or 700 seats less than last year."
But he is quick to remind that the Phillies are doing extraordinarily well. "We are approaching 3.4 million tickets sold," he says. "I guarantee you that no team in baseball has that many tickets sold."
The Phillies lead baseball in average attendance at 44,980 through 28 home dates, and only the Phillies and Red Sox are at more than 100 percent capacity.
On top of their 28,000 tickets sold in season plans, the Phillies begin selling single-game tickets to the general public in February. While Weber says the team tries to unload that inventory as early as possible, if only because "you never know how a season may go," he says that the team still has tickets remaining for each home game left on the schedule, from the 500 that it holds back for game-day sales and to upwards of a few thousand. Consequently, there remain games when the streak could end.
Weber said there are certain places on the schedule each year where it could end.
"We just got through May, where we had 15 games in 18 days," he says. "There are always weather challenges early in the season."
But Weber indicated that the schedule in August could undermine the streak. "We have 19 games in August," he said. "People go on vacation . . . Almost every game, we have 40,000 sold already. But we should have some games where we have 3,500 tickets to sell . . . We just have so many games in August."
Two factors have accounted for the streak (which would have been unheard of at Veterans Stadium, which had more than 60,000 seats). Citizens Bank Park is a gorgeous stadium, and the team has played sensational baseball. According to Temple University professor Dr. Joris Dryer, who is with the Sport Industry Research Center and whose expertise is ticket sales, demand tends to drop off when a new stadium loses its novelty and the team begins to struggle on the field. Dryer said the novelty of a new stadium lasts "3 to 5 to 7 years."
"The Phillies have had both factors come together," he says. "But at some point the novelty of a new stadium wears off - people have seen Citizens Bank Park - and this year we are seeing the Phillies players drop like flies."
Dryer adds, "For the Phillies, it comes down to their key performers, if players such as Utley, Howard and Halladay come back and play at the level the fans are accustomed to."
Kevin White, of the Wanamaker Ticket Office, concedes that "key injuries have come into play." But he says the secondary market "is not far off from where it is in other years. It always starts out slow in April and May and starts to pick up when the kids get out of school in June, July and August.
"Demand and pricing is similar to where it has been in previous years. And I think with the position the team is in, July and August are going to heat up."
Does White see any indicators in the secondary-ticket market that the streak might be in jeopardy?
"No," he says. "I do not see it happening. I think if it was going to happen, it would have happened already. As I said, once the kids get out of school, it heats up."
The Phillies remain one of the most-searched teams on StubHub.com, spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer said, but added that she was unable to comment specifically because of StubHub's agreement with Major League Baseball. "We're the official secondary ticketing partner of MLBAM, who owns the rights to all teams' websites, which includes ticketing," she said in an email.
As of Monday night, nearly 4,000 tickets were available for each of the games this week against the Dodgers, with many tickets available for $15 or less.
Weber says the last time the Phillies failed to sell out a game was July 6, 2009 (when they beat Cincinnati, 22-1). Attendance that night was 41,548. Weber said that ended "a 20-game streak we then had going." Of the current one, he says that if the Phillies sell 42,000 seats in an unforeseen upcoming game and fail to continue the sellout streak, he says: "We are going to celebrate that."
When it does end, he added, "Hopefully, we can go out the next night and start another."
Contact Mark Kram at email@example.com