Last year I was in a few discussions centered around income increases from competitive clubs. Thanks to the leaked docs, we now have data with relatively hard numbers attached. Because things aren't broken down very finely (and because I have real work to do), I'm just focusing on four numbers: attendance, gate receipts, concessions, and ballpark operations.
I'd love to post the spreadsheet I've worked up, but I don't know how, so instead I'll leave you to look up all the digits yourselves. The bottom line is that in 2007, the Pirates made $19.68 + $4.08 in admissions and concessions per attendee (on 1.75M attendance), and in 2008 they made $19.97 + $5.15 per attendee (on 1.61M). Ballpark operations (which are around $10 per attendee) were actually higher in '08 than in '07 (that may have been the year they repainted the steel, iirc), and certainly don't seem to be related in a linear fashion to attendance (which makes sense - all but the last 100 minimum wage employees come to every single game). Incidentally, the Mariners in Safeco Field have significantly lower costs on higher attendance; I'm not sure what to make of that, but it reinforces my sense that operations are only tenuously related to attendance.
Speculation for the future below the jump.
First, let's just do a straight line extrapolation: what happens if the team sells out every game? Using round numbers, that's 3M attendance, and revenues of about $75M (up from $40M in '07 and '08). Based on what seems to be the case with operations, I"m going to assume only a 25% increase in expenses, which gets us to $21M, for a net increase of $30M (the team nets around $24M right now). So the team could increase payroll by $30M if they thought the result would be sellouts.
But of course the team hasn't raised ticket prices in years and years. The year after the team passes .500, I guarantee that tickets go up. How much? Let's say an average increase of 20%, to $24/attendee (which is still low for the league). That puts a damper on the rise in attendance, plus means that concession spending stays flat (although in reality I bet that merch sales go up - people need their Pedro jerseys), plus they haven't won anything yet, so let's posit a 2.1M attendance. That gets them a net increase of $19M without a huge increase in attendance.
The next year - call it 2014 - they're division favorites, in a tight race with the Cards and Reds all summer. Sellouts, plus a bump up in suites revenues (no PR blowback, and companies are willing to spend for the hottest ticket in town), plus another 10% in concessions, and I could see a net PNC Park income of $72M, up from ~$24M now. Almost $50M in increased income, and that's before licensing, playoff money, and whatever other halo effects might accrue. Now, that's best case scenario, but it's promising, no?