While national television advertisers may still be knocking on Major League Baseballâ€™s door (see MLB Sees Solid Early TV Ad Sales, Despite Recession), the league is bracing itself for a decline in attendance, according to todayâ€™s edition of the SportsBusiness Journal.
Baseball sources said that based on ticket-sales efforts to date, the league will likely draw about 75 million fans for the season, a sum that would be below the totals for each of the last three seasons and about 6 percent below the sportâ€™s high-water mark of 79.5 million in 2007. Individual clubs are in a day-to-day fight to stem against that or further declines by implementing a wide range of discounted ticket offers and delaying the start of single-game sales to dates closer to the start of the regular season.
As further reported, MLB executives are hoping that events ahead of the regular season, as well as adjustments at the club level, will, as Eric Fisher reports, flat the new up.
â€śThere are a couple of barometers that have left us guardedly optimistic,â€ť said MLB President Bob DuPuy. â€śSpring training attendance has been essentially flat compared to last year and the World Baseball Classic attendance went up [8.7 percent], even with the economy being the way it is and ticket prices going up a bit.
â€śWe see still a great deal of fan passion for the game,â€ť DuPuy said, â€śand the clubs have taken seriously the commissionerâ€™s message about pricing, as two-thirds of them have either held steady or declined, and shown a lot of creativity.â€ť
Normally a given, with the recession's shadow reaching across the league, it is newsworthy that full-season equivalent sales for clubs that did well in the postseason last year are pacing upwards. That includes the World Series champion, who have â€śboosted season-ticket sales by more than 15 percent and already has sold more than 2.5 million tickets for the season.â€ť Other clubs seeing some games for ticket sales include the Rays, White Sox, and Brewers.
On the downside, Oakland, St. Louis, San Diego and Detroit are feeling the economyâ€™s pinch, especially Detroit where the auto industry has been broadsided by the recession. According to Fisher, the Tigers â€śhave lost about half of their 2008 full-season-equivalent base of 27,000.â€ť
Finally, even if the recession were not in play, attendance would most likely be down due to both the Yankees and especially the Mets opening new ballparks with seating capacities well below their former homes. Fisher reports that the Yankees are still the league-leader for ticket sales posting â€śnearly 37,000 full-season equivalents soldâ€ť, while the Mets â€śare ahead of last yearâ€™s pace on sales of full- and partial-season-ticket plans and are well-positioned to again draw more than 3 million fans.â€ť
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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