By John Strege
Attendance figures at the Waste Management Phoenix Open are staggering, 189,722 on Saturday alone and 563,008 for the week. But are they accurate?
Year after year, a friend from the sports public relations business questions the veracity of the numbers and uses the Rose Bowl as a benchmark. Seating capacity at the Rose Bowl is 92,542, which means that Saturday's Phoenix Open crowd could have filled that stadium more than twice over.
Does his argument have merit? A few years ago, I asked David Rauch, then the tournament director, how they arrive at attendance figures.
"We actually count cars [in the parking lots] and there's a formula that is apparently accepted in the industry on the number of people per car," he said. "We count the cars with aerial shots, and we're looking at it by acreage, each of the parking lots. There's an estimate of the number of cars per acre. You come up with the total [based on] the estimate of the number of cars and 3.2 people per car."
On Saturday, then, the parking lots had in excess of 59,000 cars. Moreover, Saturday's crowd represented nearly 4 1/2 percent of the entire population of the metro Phoenix area -- 4,263,236, according to the 2010 census.
"We feel pretty good about the numbers we're giving it," Rauch said back then. "Honestly, we get accused more often of lowering the figures than of jacking them up."
The debate surely will continue, but once you've been there and experienced the veritable sea of humanity you'll likely come away convinced of the validity of the tournament's estimates.