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Your Eyes Aren’t Lying, Sports Attendance Numbers Are PDF Print E-mail
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Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 09 May 2013 13:29

I worry for the revisionist history that is now being made and will be chronicled in books about sports. Those researching to make a case for or against the popularity of one or the other will look to attendance figures as a way to say how many fans went to view games as they happened in ballparks, stadiums, and arenas at the time. Those that may have actually been at a particular event will have a different view than what is published. They’ll see more empty seats than history reports.

This is not some objective matter (although the amount one sees isn't an exacting science). The fact is, the announced number at virtually every pro and colligate sporting event is vastly higher than the actually number of fans that are there.

Since the ‘90s, Major League Baseball has counted “paid attendance” or the number of tickets sold, rather than how many people were actually at the ballpark. This coincided with the adoption of revenue-sharing. The logic works like this: what really matters to the owners and the league is how much ticket revenue is generated that then counts towards revenue-sharing totals. At least MLB doesn’t count comps, VIPs, and media as other leagues and colleges do, but that doesn’t mean MLB doesn’t count deeply discounted tickets in the announced paid attendance figures just the same as one that is paid at full price.

So, to the owners and the league, the matter is one of tracking the ledger. The problem is, they’re more than happy to use the numbers to paint a different picture. Here’s the first sentence of a press release last year touting overall attendance health (bolding by author):

Major League Baseball announced today that the 30 Clubs drew 74,859,268 fans in the 2012 regular season, representing the game’s highest attendance since 2008 and the fifth best single-season attendance in Baseball history.

This simply isn’t so. What happened was nearly 75 million tickets were sold. Not that many attended.

In fact, numbers have swirled about that no-show rates can be as high as approx. 17 percent. If that were true, and we apply it to MLB’s totals for the 2012 season, we get this:

17% of 74,859,268 tickets sold = 62,133,192 actual fans attended

It’s this difference of approx.12.7 million fans that is at issue. You could make a case that MLB (and for that matter, the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLS, et al) should announce in the box score the actual number of fans that attended the games. After all, the paid attendance figure is really only for internal purposes, so keep the numbers that way… internal. The reason that the league won’t announce actual numbers is that it would be a PR nightmare. As it stands, there have been several games that have had paid attendance announced at under 10,000. Reporting actual attendance of around 8,000-8,500 a game would be a massive black eye.

In fairness, not every ballpark sees no-shows. As mentioned, MLB does not count comps, VIPs, or media in the paid attendance figures. In the case of some clubs that are seeing wild popularity, a ballpark can be over capacity with nothing but standing room only available. Those SROs get counted as “paid attendance” as one has to purchase a ticket to get in.

Still, this is more the exception, not the rule. There are far more ballparks with less people in them than announced as opposed to more. So, your eyes aren’t lying, the box score is. The leagues will rationalize this as a change that needed to take place for accounting purposes, but you can darn well believe that if the numbers somehow came out negatively so, they’d not use them. They numbers announced at each game prop up the attendance numbers… history be damned. Just try to remember that in the future when you read books on a given sports popularity. Ghosts in the seats don’t count.

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Marlins Tarp Upper Section of New Ballpark Due to Low Attendance PDF Print E-mail
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Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 14:58


Early yesterday, we reported how in just the second year of a new ballpark, the Miami Marlins were on pace to potentially see the largest attendance drop between first and second year for a new facility. Based on dumping of player payroll after lavishing money in the 2010-11 offseason the Marlins could see a decline of more than 38 percent, which would break the record held by in-state neighbor, the Tampa Bay Rays from 1998 to 1999 (see the table showing the 23 ballparks opened since 1991).

Now comes word that due to the drop off, the Marlins will be tarping off the upper deck of the ballpark opened just last April. According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald:

The upper bowl will be closed for six dates in the team’s nine-game homestand that begins next Tuesday. Fans can sit only in the lower bowl for games May 14-16 against Cincinnati and May 20-22 against Philadelphia. The upper bowl will remain open for May 17-19 games against Arizona.

Marlins representative P.J. Loyello said the team has not decided whether to close the upper bowl for all Monday through Thursday home games, and decisions will be made before each home stand.

Jackson notes what we were already thinking on this: it means less staff to support the upper bowl, meaning not only are the Marlins seeing lagging attendance, they’re about to put some seasonal workers at the ballpark off the clock, meaning the Marlins will save money on staff costs.

The Marlins are not the first to tarp off part of a ballpark due to attendance concerns, but are far and away the earliest at doing so. The Oakland A’s do so in their multi-purpose stadium that they share with the Raiders (53,200 capacity for the Raiders, while the A’s knocked seating capacity to 34,077 after tarping off 20,878 seats), as have the Tampa Bay Rays (tarping off  5,000 seats in the upper deck of Tropicana Field). The Marlins also did so prior when they were in Sun Life Stadium, sharing the facility with the Dolphins. Clubs do not need clearance from Major League Baseball to artificially constrain seating capacity.

Fire Sale Killing Off Potential Businesses Around Ballpark

In related news, while the idea of ballparks as key economic drivers is something that we’ve often said is simply not true, the fire sale moves of the Marlins have exacerbated the problem. Charles Rabin reports for the Miami Herald:

Now, more than a year since the Marlins first opened the gates to the new Little Havana ballpark — and four years after city and county leaders crowed that building the stadium would be an economic shot in the arm for the area — not a single business is operating in the 8,500 square feet of retail space available in three of the four garages fronting the ballpark.

“Obviously, the Marlins didn’t help in regards to their off-season moves,” said Miami Parking Authority Chief Executive Art Noriega, whose semi-autonomous agency manages the garages. “Then everything went ice cold.”

The report goes on to say that chain Marco’s Pizza had a letter of intent to sign a lease but when owner Jeffrey Loria conducted the salary dump last year, the business pulled out.

A week after the November trade, leasing agent Arthur Stevens of Terranova Corp., the firm hired by the city to lure clients to the ballpark, expressed concern about Marco’s Pizza making good on its letter of intent to sign a lease.

“Marco’s is very concerned about what this will do to future attendance,’’ Stevens, who has since left the firm, wrote to the city’s public facilities director, Henry Torre. “Just thought you should know, I’ll keep you posted.”

Marco’s cut and ran.

Two months later, in January, Stevens again expressed concern over a client, this time a national restaurant chain named Firefly.

“While we want to do the deal with the Marlins, their investors are worried about the negative impact that the new Marlins team will have on overall traffic, attendance. One of their investors has contacts within who continues to hear not so good things,” Stevens wrote Henry in an email.

A few weeks later, Firely opted out.

We know the Marlins like living on welfare, and there’s documents to prove they never were in need of the free ride they got from the taxpayers for the new ballpark to begin with. As to Loria saying the players that were signed and promptly unloaded weren’t working out, it makes us ask, when exactly did the Marlins lose their minds?

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Why the Miami Marlins Could See a Historic Attendance Plunge PDF Print E-mail
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Ticket & Attendance Watch
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 06 May 2013 13:31

Jeffrey Loria

Today on Baseball Prospectus, I delve into the Miami Marlins self-inflicted attendance woes (see Bizball: The Marlins Sinking Attendance). The early decline could rate as historic by the end of the season as they could challenge the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the worst attendance decline in the second year of a new ballpark. As I write for BP:

In poll after poll, column after column, Jeffrey Loria is ranked as the worst owner in all of North American professional sports.

Loria is bad for fans, but he treats himself and the partners in the club well. He and club president David Samson were able to bamboozle politicians and taxpayers in Miami-Dade County to the tune of $500 million for a brand-spanking-new ballpark on the former site of the Orange Bowl. They opened up last season in that freshly minted stadium after being the darlings of the 2011 Baseball Winter Meetings, at which they signed SS Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million deal, starter Mark Buehrle to a four-year, $58 million contract; and closer Heath Bell to a three-year, $27 million deal with an option for 2015. All told, the Marlins splurged $191 million at the meetings, and it could have been more, as it looked for bit like they were going after Albert Pujols. Imagine that.

In mid-November of last year, the club promptly moved Reyes (2013: $10M, 2014: $16M, 2015: $22M, 2016: $22M, 2017: $22M, 2018: $22M club option with $4M buyout), Josh Johnson (2013: $13.75M), Buehrle (2013: $11M, 2014: $18M, 2015: $19M plus a $4M deferred signing bonus), John Buck (2013: $6M), and Emilio Bonifacio (who is arbitration eligible this year), and $4 million (or potentially more) in cash to the Blue Jays for Yunel EscobarHenderson AlvarezAdeiny HechavarriaJeff Mathis, minor-league pitchers Justin Nicolino and Anthony Desclafani, and minor-league outfielderJake Marisnick. All told, the Marlins stripped $163.75 million off the books, and the baseball world screamed “fire sale” at a club that at one point was featured on Showtime’s “The Franchise” and had Ozzie Guillen as its manager. Loria had done what Loria had always done before: make rash decisions, all of which soil any chance of creating goodwill in the community. And the Marlins, in their best Stuart Smalley, looked at themselves in the mirror and said, “Doggone it, people like me.”

With that as the backdrop, I made some predictions before the season started on Twitter that weren’t that much of a leap to make. I said the Marlins wouldn’t sell out a single game this season (since Opening Day wasn’t a sellout, chances are good they won’t get one going forward), and added that they would see largest drop in attendance for a second-year ballpark among all MLB stadiums built in the last 25 years.

As of today, the decline would be 31 percent below what the club ended with last season. But, they are currently averaging 18,864. As of May 5 of last season, they were averaging 30,681, down 11,817 from the previous year, or a decline of 39 percent.

So, it’s very possible the Marlins could end worse than the Rays. It’s early, and anything could happen, but odds are good the Marlins aren’t going to get any better in the standings and Loria certainly didn’t make any extra friends in the offseason.

Below shows every new ballpark built under the Selig tenure. It shows the average attendance prior to the new ballpark opening in the old ballpark; average attendance in the first year of the new ballpark; the winning percentage in the first year of the ballpark; average attendance in the second year of the new ballpark, and finally; the percentage of increase or decrease from the opening year in the new ballpark. As of now, the Marlins are averaging just 92 more per game than their last year in Sun Life Stadium that they shared with the Miami Dolphins, was never designed for baseball, and had no roof.



Year Opened

Yr Prior Attendance

Yr. 1 Avg

Winning % (Yr 1)

Yr. 2 Attendance

% (+/-) Yr 1 to Yr 2


White Sox

U.S. Cellular Field








Oriole Park








Jacobs Field








Ballpark in Arlington







First place in AL West before work stoppage


Coors Field









Turner Field







Won NL East


Tropicana Field








Bank One Ballpark







Mariners *

Safeco Field















Won NL West


Comerica Park








Enron Field








Miller Park








PNC Park








Great American Ballpark








Citizens Bank Park
















Busch III







Won WS


Nationals Park








Yankee Stadium







Won WS










Target Field







Won AL Central

Marlins **

Marlins Park







2013 thru 16 games

* Not full season
** Current (5/6/13)

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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A Futurist View of Major League Baseball in 2113 PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 108
Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 28 April 2013 19:15

Robot Playing Baseball

I probably should have written this article last year. Being that I was weaned on Rush, that forward look at MLB would have been 2112. We could have talked about how the Temple of Syrinx player payroll of $1.5 billion was over the $1.2 billion salary cap, but they said, “Don’t annoy us further, we have our work to do. Just think about the [batting] average. What use has they for you?”

But, the vision didn’t come then. It came today. I was standing on the edge of my toilet hanging a clock, the porcelain was wet, I slipped, hit my head on the sink, and when I came to I had a revelation! A vision! A picture in my head! A picture of this! It’s baseball 100 years from now!

Bud Selig is Still Commissioner of Baseball

No, Selig is not immortal, but after they brought Ted Williams back to life (he’s playing for the Yankees, as is half of today’s line up), the league’s owners scrambled and did the same for Selig. “As I have said many times, I plan on retiring when my contract is up in 2116. I have moved the A’s and Giants issue about the Athletics moving to San Jose back on the front burner,” but as Selig added, “These things take time, and I don’t believe in rushing.”

The Bullpen Hover Cart

As Doc Brown foresaw with the DeLorean, a hovercraft will become standard travel in the future. Longing for a retro feel at the ballpark, the bullpen cart will make its return, with a modern touch… they’ll hover. “Clubs were worried that driving the cart on this Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia that, whaddaya know from Caddyshack, actually worked, would be damaged by driving over it,“ said one exec off record. “Even though we cut off pot smoking at the end of the 7th inning, we still need to harvest that stuff as it’s a key revenue driver, especially in San Francisco.”

The World Series

Baseball has yet to make its way back into the Olympics, but MLB finally got a World Series. After expanding to 52 teams, with the last being Montreal, the league reaches around the globe. Reached for comment, NFL Commissioner Tim Tebow II, chuckled, “We’re expanding the NFL beyond the moon to Mars next year. Baseball has a ways to go.”

The Bandbox Becomes the Norm

After the Cubs completed the renovation to Wrigley Field, the rest of the league continued to look around and say, “You know what? Size really doesn’t matter. Small ballparks, do.” In 2113 the average ballpark size will be under 5,000. The reason? Television will be so good, you can play archives of FOX games and punch a holographic image of Tim McCarver. Why would anyone want to see games live?

CBA with RoboUmps Not Reached

The 2113 season will get underway but only after a tentative extension of the CBA between the Robo Umpires Association (RBUA) is reached. “We get a bum rap for showboating and getting into it with the players, but when we’re only missing about half as many calls as the human umpires once were, we’ve got a mechanical leg to stand on.”

Every Ballpark Has a Retractable Roof

With pressure to ensure walkups, in the future all ballparks will have a retractable roof. Made of special holographic material, even when it rains, inside it will look as if it’s sunny. The last club to go this route was the Padres. “We can’t take any chances. Even though it’s been at least 30 years since our last rainout, taxpayers knew that if we weren’t competitive with the other clubs in the league, we were going to have to relocate to Brazil,” said the CEO of PETCO Family and Life, the corporate owner of the club.

Public Executions for the Wave during the 7th Inning Stretch

The Wave will become a capital crime. Anyone caught trying to start it during a game is rounded up and publicly executed in center field during the 7th inning stretch. The olde hymnal, “Walk” by Pantera is played.

Artificial Limbs Are the New PEDs

A player received a season long suspension after testing positive for an artificial limb made to look like it was human but in reality had the power of a gorilla. “These players have to understand, our testing is accurate and we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to gorilla arms,” said Commissioner Selig. “We had our suspicions when the player in question had 45 home runs in 50 at bats.” The MLBPA is appealing.

All Games Are Now Under 2 Hours, Yankees and Red Sox Contracted

Baseball, finally realizing they had a problem with the length of games being too long, takes drastic action and contracts the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Hall of Fame Opens “Hall of Shame” Wing Focused on Loria

People are not perfect, and so goes baseball. After much deliberation, the Baseball Hall of Fame opens a new “Hall of Shame” wing highlighting the worst the game has endured. “It seems only fitting that a large portion of this new display focuses on Jeffery Loria,” said the head of the HOF. “We’re very proud to have this antique home run structure that was in centerfield at Marlins Park be the centerpiece.” According to sources, it took several old drawings and 10 peyote caps for architects to reconstruct it.”

The Cubs

The Cubs finally win the World Series after 204 years of drought. It is declared a national holiday. Baseball fans weep, and talk about how great the game still is. It hasn’t really changed. From the US to territories in the outer quadrant, fans still love the game.

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Change to Business of Sports Network: Biz of Football, Basketball, and Hockey Shutting Down PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 13:06

Business of Sports Network

The Business of Sports Network is undergoing a restructuring that will see several independent sites closed down.  The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball, and The Biz of Hockey will soon close as independent sites. These URLs will remain associated to the Business of Sports Network. The Biz of Baseball will not be affected, and will remain in its current format.

Following the site shutdowns, a new site that covers all sports under one location will be created. Documents and other artifacts that were on the football, basketball, and hockey sites will then be moved there.  Content from The Biz of Baseball will also be repurposed or summarized in this new site location,

We believe that in doing so, not only will we continue to provide support for basketball, football, and hockey, but branch into all aspects of sports business under one portal, allowing ease of access and continued growth.

We want to thank all those that have continued to support the Business of Sports Network, and we look forward to providing this fresh, new website in the coming days.

Best regards,
Maury Brown
Business of Sports Network
Bizball LLC

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Padres CEO Tom Garfinkel Goes the Extra Mile After 'Rain Man' Comment PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 22 April 2013 21:36
Tom Garfinkel

We have all made mistakes. We have all said something we wish we hadn’t. Very few of us have done so and upset millions. Such was the case with San Diego Padres CEO Tom Garfinkel. Speaking to approx. 50 season-ticket holders the day after Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke hit Padres left-fielder Carlos Quentin with a pitch, resulting in a mound charging, bench-clearing brawl that left Greinke with broken left collarbone. Garfinkel, admittedly still emotional after the brawl, let out a gaffe.

"He threw at him on purpose, OK?" Garfinkel told the season-ticket holders. "That's what happened. They can say 3-and-2 count, 2-1 game, no one does that. Zack Greinke is a different kind of guy. Anyone seen 'Rain Man'? He's a very smart guy."

It’s here that the story veers into social awareness. It’s here that I broke a cardinal rule as a member of the media and became part of the story.

Fans can see athletes, execs, and media as automatons. That we're all ego with no heart. That we live to serve the machine and that because it's our business, you check your emotions at the door. We have family, lives and feelings. Remember that as both Garfinkel and I learned a lot about it.

As an autism awareness advocate and parent of a child on the spectrum, Garfinkel’s comments struck a nerve. Being a caregiver to one with autism is hard enough. Having an exec make the comment, and having the season-ticket holders laugh was rubbing salt in the wound. “Rain Man,” of course, was an autistic savant. April is International Autism Awareness month. And the day before the brawl was Autism Awareness day at PETCO Park. It added up, and the seething turned into a boil.

As I have done on occasion when I’m going to write a scathing column, I reach out to the VP of Media Relations at MLB. “Be prepared, I'm going to rip this guy a new one,” was the message. I called Garfinkel out on Twitter, demanded an apology for all of us in the autism community, and in a sign I had completely lost all professionalism and objectivity, called him an “asshat”.

I had seen Garfinkel’s comments as just another exec that was out of touch. I immediately erred on the side of someone that was in a position of power and would use that to avoid accountability.

I was wrong.

For the rest of the day, I got message after message from Garfinkel apologizing. As we went back and forth he talked of his kids and how our story had hit him, not as an exec that made a gaffe in front of the press, but as a father.

I was still leery. Conditioned by those looking to do damage control and spin, I wanted to believe it all true, but still wasn't 100%. I told him I appreciated the personal messages, but this was about others and I was wanting to hear that a public apology was coming.

“I will,” Garfinkel wrote. “I'm struggling with the words. They will be my words not a PR persons.” He then added, “You don't know me and have no reason to think I am anything but an 'asshat.' But I feel terrible and I am truly very sorry.”

I tried to explain life with a special needs child. As I have done far too many times, I went through trying to describe something that is very hard for one that hasn’t experienced it. My wife had spent the morning trying at the optometrist’s to get my son to go along with an eye exam. He was having nothing of it. Redirection, coaxing, bribing with treats, all were in vain. As I explained to Garfinkel, “He has no idea what’s occurring. There’s no way to communicate that this is something to help him. In his mind, someone is shining a bright light in his face and without knowing what the reasons are for it, is wanting it to stop. It's drove my wife to tears. The comments about 'Rain Man" added to the situation.”

As the dialog continued, so did the words of apology.

“Your emotion sparked up the dad in me and personalized just how insensitive my comments were. I feel terrible about it.”

It went beyond me. Garfinkel called the media. He went on XX1090 with Darren Smith. He apologized publicly through the media outlets. And, he wrote those personal words he had been struggling with via Twitter:

“Hearing from parents who have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and being a parent myself, I have learned a lot today.  I am deeply sorry for my insensitive remarks. Separately, I'd like to also personally apologize to anyone affected by Social Anxiety Disorder.”

It’s here when one has certainly done more than enough to apologize for a wrong. It was clear from our communication, the reaching out to the media, and his messages on Twitter that he was remorseful.

But, he went further.

“Call me,” he messaged, and gave me his number.

It was later in the evening by this time, and when we did connect on the phone, I told Tom that it had to have been a rough day. "It was one of the toughest. But your story really hit me," he said. I was certainly not blameless in all of this, and said how sorry for how I conducted myself, especially for the gratuitous “asshat” statement. He said I had nothing to apologize for even though I clearly did and regret it to this day.

Over the course of about 20 minutes, we spoke, not as baseball executive and media member, but as two people that had learned a lot over the day about something larger than sports; it was about family and the human condition. I was not prepared for the call in its complete honesty. I can only say this... his was as emotional and as heartfelt an apology as one could get.

"I don't know what I was thinking."

I said, "Well, us special needs folks are a bit hypersensitive, sorry about that. I don't think you were malicious."

"I don't know why I did it. It was a bad day…. I just want to apologize to you and your wife," was Garfinkel’s reply.

As I said at the beginning, we have all made mistakes. The difference for this man was he did it and it splashed across newspapers coast-to-coast. We seem to now be in a society where it's always someone else's fault. Few, especially in a position of power, feel the need to be accountable. Tom Garfinkel took that head on and I personally gained an incredible amount of respect for him.

I should never be part of the story, but I broke that rule. I needed to be a fool and play that role of championing personal accountability. I found out that, at least for this man, he never needed the prodding.

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Why the Wrigley Field Renovations Matter PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 14:43


The renovation to Wrigley Field helps the players as much as the fans
(Click to see in larger view)

As baseball fans, the vast majority like their game experience to remind them of the “good old days.” Whether it was the retro movement spawned by the creation of Oriole Park at Camden Yards or the continued love of baseball oldest ballparks, that idea that you’re in a place that “feels” like an old historic place, resonates.

So, while the prior ownership of the Red Sox talked of building a new Fenway Park, when John Henry, Tom Wener and Larry Lucchino purchased the club, they chose an expansive renovation to baseball’s oldest ballpark, not going after new. Ten years later, the ballpark has many modern amenities found in brand new stadiums while being able to retain its sense of history.

Tom Ricketts isn’t stupid. He certainly had to see what the Red Sox had done with Fenway Park when he and his family ponied up $845 million in August of 2009 to purchase the Cubs, Wrigley Field, and other assets. For Ricketts, the renovation had to happen; it was going to be the “how” that mattered.

Just a few months shy of 5 years after the purchase, the Cubs are preparing to do $300 million in renovation to the second-oldest ballpark in the league based around private funding from the Ricketts family. In exchange, a “framework” has been agreed to by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward) and the Cubs that includes not only the updates to Wrigley Field, but a two-story Captain Morgan Club on Addison Street with a merchandise store and space for a visitors clubhouse and a number of opportunities for the Ricketts family to invest outside of the stadium, including a hotel that will accommodate 175 rooms, 75 parking spaces, food and beverage, retail and a 40,000 square foot health club, and a pedestrian bridge with public access over Clark Street connecting the hotel and plaza. All-in-all, $500 million will be poured into Wrigley Field and the Wrigleyville community.


The Ricketts family will be permitted to construct a building at the north end of the Triangle property to house Cubs offices, a hotel meeting space, as well as a plaza that will be managed by the team, retail shops and a kids zone. The Cubs will further be allowed to reconstruct the Brown Parking Lot on Eddy Street. These projects will go through the planned development and other formal approval processes with community input.

In addition, the Cubs will be allowed to place signage along the hotel, the office building, and the plaza to accommodate significant advertising and sponsorship opportunities.  Included in this sign package will be a four screen video board within the plaza that, in addition to advertising, will allow the Cubs to broadcast Cubs games and ‘Movies in the Plaza’ for the community.

There’s significance in all of this. As was the case with Fenway Park, ownership (and the assumption is, with the league’s blessing) initially pushed for the vast majority of the funding to come from the public. While the deal is not 100% private (the Cubs are seeking tax breaks for renovation that come with Wrigley being a historic landmark), it is a substantial shift for deals that have been borne almost exclusively on the backs of the taxpayers (see the Marlins and Nationals stadium deals).

As with any deal of this magnitude—and especially in light of Wrigley Field’s uniqueness in being located in the heart of a residential area—there are requests that have been asked for, and granted as part of the framework reached.

The agreement will allow the Cubs to extend beer sales to the end of the 7th inning or 10:30 pm, whichever is earlier; and will permit the team use of Sheffield Avenue for weekend home games between Memorial Day and Labor Day beginning two hours before a game and ending at the end of 2nd inning. In addition, the City would vacate a parking lane on Waveland Avenue for Cubs to build a new exterior wall.

According to a press release by the City of Chicago, changes include:

  • A new parking plan for Wrigley Field which will call for 1,000 free remote parking spots with a shuttle to Wrigley Field. The Cubs, Alderman’s office and the Chicago Department of Transportation will jointly develop a marketing and awareness campaign designed to educate fans to use remote parking or other transportation alternatives, such as bikes and the CTA.
  • Additionally, there will be new Clark Street traffic lights to control game-day traffic and the Cubs will work with the City and community on a new public safety plan, which will provide 30 additional safety personnel outside the park after games for the safety of nearby residents.
  • Finally, the Cubs will contribute to the School Street Play Lot funding effort and make annual contributions each of the next ten years for public projects benefiting the community agreed upon by both Alderman Tunney and the Cubs.
  • In terms of the makeup of Wrigley Field, the proposal will call for a video board in left field  as well as a right field sign in the style of the existing Toyota sign. The Cubs will work with the city on placement of both signs to minimize impact on nearby rooftops to the extent consistent with the needs of the team.
  • The Cubs would also receive the ability to install signage inside the park, including the seating bowl, in locations which do not impact rooftop views.
  • The proposal allows the Cubs 40 night games for baseball with mechanisms in place, such as a special City Council ordinance, to allow for additional night games including times when required by Major League Baseball’s national television contract. This complement of 40 night games does not include the playoffs or other games excluded under the current ordinance. The framework will also allow four concerts per year to be authorized by special ordinance, six 3:05 starts on Friday afternoon, as well as greater flexibility for offseason and smaller events at Wrigley Field.

These changes allow the Ricketts family to not only work toward recouping funds, but having those revenue streams live on. The sticking point is the video board and how it impacts the Wrigley rooftop businesses. What was once just people hanging out windows or sitting on the roofs of homes across from the ballpark have turned into a massive cash-cow business. When the leaching became more than a bit of Americana and more a big business, in 2002 the Cubs, under former ownership of the Tribune Co., along with Major League Baseball, sued over copyright infringement. The sides settled in 2004 and an agreement was reached the rooftop owners would pay 17 percent of the gross revenues collected to the club. In exchange, these thirteen rooftop owners became "Official Rooftop Partners". Now, with the Cubs looking to build a new video board, the group is saying that they are willing to go to court to keep their views of the ballpark intact for duration of the 20-year contract they reached.

But, there’s the likelihood that some type of an agreement on the design will be reached (although one wonders if matters get too heated if the Cubs would like nothing more than to pay a cash settlement and then construct The Great Wall of Wrigley) that will satisfy both parties.

What’s key here are not only the increased revenues to fill the coffers (and, one assumes increase player payroll), but an upgraded facility for the players, as well.

Wrigley is known for not exactly being “state of the art” in terms of the clubhouse and the amenities that players are now accustomed to. As an example, the batting cages are not behind the dugouts, but rather under the right-field bleachers. So, while other teams have the ability to go back and take a couple of whacks during a game by taking a few short steps back behind their dugout, at Wrigley it requires going out to the far end of the ballpark to make it happen.

As part of the renovation, the Cubs will completely rebuild of the clubhouse, and add batting tunnels right behind the new expanded dugouts. So, one could say that the renovation to Wrigley Field not only provides additional financial resources, it adds resources that directly impact the players’ ability to be performance ready.

So, the renovation matters from several perspectives. There will be less taxpayer dollars in play. With the Ricketts family providing the funds it allowed them to get concessions which will allow them to maximize not only the ballpark, but invest in Wrigleyville. It will make the ballpark more enjoyable to go to, not only for the fans, but for the players as well as the facility will see upgrades for the Cubs players.

What the ownership of the Red Sox knew, so soon will the ownership of the Cubs. The renovation to Wrigley Field is expected to take 5 years.

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Preparing for MLB's First Openly Gay Player PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 12 April 2013 13:45

MLBWhether there has been a change in how society sees it, a change in momentum, or that that some athletes have grown weary of having to hide who they are, we are on the cusp of seeing an athlete on an active roster in professional sports admit publicly that they are gay. Fans on either side of the issue can take their stance, but it’s not a matter of if, but when. As machismo goes, professional sports may be at its zenith, and therefore when the time comes that a player on the active roster, it will be seen as a watershed moment.

NBA veteran center Jason Collins broke that barrier when he admitted to being gay in Sports Illustrated. It has been reported that four players in the NFL will come out and say that they are homosexual in orientation. The NHL and its players just launched the highest profile initiative by partnering with You Can Play Project, an advocacy group that is working to stop homophobia in sports.

So, how will baseball fair? As a sport that now sees movies such as “42” and Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, the parallel of breaking societal views on homosexuality is one being drawn. Baseball may not see the first openly gay player, but the league is preparing for the day that it happens by working with GLADD, an advocacy group for LGBT people.

“MLB and its Clubs have a working relationship with GLAAD to promote proactive messaging regarding tolerance, and have used in-stadium announcements as a key platform,” said league executive spokesperson Patrick Courtney. “MLB and the 30 Clubs will continue to work with GLAAD on a broader campaign.”

In some senses, the media covering sports has been ahead of this curve. Whether it is transgenders ESPN’s Christina Kahrl, or former Baseball Prospectus sabermatrician turned political analyst Nate Silver, who is now with The New York Times and has recently said he is gay, there has been a shift going on for some time in sports. The difference is how an openly gay player is received by his peers within N. America’s Big-4 sports. Times may have changed, but there’s little doubting that there will be ridicule not only by players on opposing teams, but potentially within a player’s own clubhouse. The league will be looking closely at that matter and, as was the case with Robinson and other players that broke barriers prior, trying to get to a point where the focus isn’t off the field, but on.

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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After 820 Games, Sellout Streak Ends for Red Sox at Fenway Park PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 16:58

Fenway Prediction

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone likes to have their predictions come true. That’s certainly the case here. While each year writers look to predict the final outcome of MLB’s regular season, I’ve tried to look at attendance trends to see what may occur during the season.

The Red Sox were one of those cases. After missing the playoffs in the last day of the 2011 season, the whole “chicken and beer” fiasco, the firing of Terry Francona, the gaffe and ensuing train wreck of hiring Bobby Valentine as Francona’s replacement, the sheen of the 2004 and 2007 World Series wins for Boston have worn off. Throw in a rebuilding phase, and it was time for the Fenway Park sellout streak to come to an end.

The question, really, was when? It seemed certain to be this season, but when in the season was what we all wondered.

Today is that day.

After selling out Fenway on Opening Day, the streak ends today. It started May 15, 2003 and continued through April 8, 2013, spanned 794 regular-season games and 820 games at Fenway Park, including the postseason.  It is the longest record of its kind in major professional sports for the regular-season, and for the regular season combined with postseason play.  The club has averaged 36,605 tickets sold per game during this period. (Fenway Park’s seating capacity was only 34,807 in 2003, when the streak began.)

The previous record in Major League Baseball was 455, set by the Cleveland Indians between 1995 and 2001, when they won six consecutive Division Titles and two American League Championships.  Red Sox fans surpassed that total on September 8, 2008. The longest professional streak in all major league sports, including postseason play, was formerly held by the Portland Trailblazers at 814 games.

While the game has not yet started, the club acknowledged that the streak has ended releasing a statement with thanks from the executive ownership.

“The streak is a reflection of a phenomenal period of baseball in Boston and of America's greatest ballpark,” said Red Sox Principal Owner John W. Henry.  “But more than that, it is a testament to the baseball passion of New England fans. As we close the book on this incredible era, we look forward to another with a renewed certainty that the next couple of generations of Red Sox fans will also be enjoying baseball at the ever magical Fenway Park.”

“We have all experienced a wonderful combination of compelling baseball, a revitalized ballpark, and an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality,” said Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. “I’d like to thank publicly our players, coaches, managers, our architects, our designers and construction workers, and our front office and day of game ballpark staff. Their work, together, connected with Red Sox Nation—passionate fans who helped take this team and this park to these heights.  It is these fans to whom we are most grateful.”

“We are proud of this historic achievement,” said Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino. “Over the past ten years, more than 30 million, many among the most sophisticated baseball fans in America, have purchased tickets to see games at Fenway Park. Never in that period was there a crowd less than 32,000.  No other club in Major League Baseball can make that statement. That speaks volumes about the constancy and dedication of New England baseball fans.”

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Will the Changes to Safeco Field, or the Team Be the Hit for the Seattle Mariners in 2013? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 08 April 2013 22:34

New Mariners Video Board

Mariners Video Board

Size matters... The new video display at Safeco Field is currently the largest in the league,
but will it be a distraction over the game?

There were big doings for the Seattle Mariners this off-season, but it wasn’t so much in free agency and trades as it was for Safeco Field. As Opening Day commences, the biggest change you see (other than the oddness of seeing the Houston Astros as an American League team), is the fact that a new video display consumes the entire right center-field. This display, now the largest in all of baseball, would take up three-quarters of the outfield. The other less noticeable change are the walls have been pulled in.

In terms of the wall moves, the biggest difference is 17 feet in left-center, from 390 to 378 feet. The deepest part of the field now moves from 409 to 405. And for the most part of the wall moves, the latter shift in of 4’ is about the extent of the change.

Another change is the left field in-game scoreboard has been moved up above the wall creating a new small fan viewing area. This builds off what has been exceptionally popular in the centerfield viewing area known simply as “The ‘Pen.”

But, it’s that video board. That massively huge change that has everyone on Opening Day talking before first-pitch. For those that have never been to Safeco Field, the old video board was, well… very 2000. No HD. No massiveness. No hoopla. Tonight, it’s “Mariners in HD.” This isn’t just trimmings for the fans. It instantaneously allows the Mariners additional real estate to display advertisers. And, because it’s video, the real estate is not confined to paper and paint, it offers more flexibility as digital marketing. While the Mariners have had this with the ribbon boards that wrap.

The thing that I had wondered was with this massive presence in the right-center, would it be a distraction? Would it become larger than the game? Would the Mariners become an afterthought in favor of “Mariners HD?” The answer is no. In-between innings the board is eye-popping and hard to ignore. During the game, the graphics are a warm green showing game stats with only the bright white of advertising logos jumping out. For 2013, Safeco Field looks as good as ever. The team looks improved. That aspect of the organization is still a work in progress.

Maury BrownMaury 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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.

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Should MLB Force Jeffery Loria to Sell the Marlins?

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