Times are hard in Arizona.
Those who moved here in the last five years are most likely watching their houses be sold for pennies-on-the-dollar at auction. The population has swelled, but the number of fans making Chase Field a destination seems to have tailed off over the years.
Some will blame the color change, the ousting of Luis Gonzalez or Jerry Colangelo, or the Richie Sexson trade (there are many). Some will complain that this team is not talented, just lucky. There are many who will complain that a game is too expensive.
All of these complaints are absurd on most levels.
Gonzo and Jerry needed to be let go. This team has more talent than any other in the majors. The D-backs tickets are some of the cheapest in the majors, and definitely the cheapest pro team in town. And now that the games are only available on cable TV (and not in HD, thank you very much Fox Sports), even watching the game on TV isn't free.
So what's the problem?
Whether it was Jerry's idea to market this team to kids 10 years ago (the first pitch ever thrown at Bank One Ballpark was by two young fans that Jerry picked out), or if that is just the way things are done when you start a new team, it made sense then.
Ten years ago we contended with the Cubs, Dodgers, White Sox, Mets, Yankees, and Braves for the fans' allegiance. Kids were fans of whoever their parents were fans of (or, if you were like me, you became a Dodger fan the second Kirk Gibson crushed Eckersley's slider over the wall because it made your Oakland-loving father agonize).
You liked who you liked because your family was from there, because the team played Spring Training near by, because WGN, TBS, or KTLA was broadcast on your cable TV.
Creating new fans by breaking old bonds is not going to work. The swell of fans when the Cubs and Dodgers come in to town is evidence enough of that. The team needed to make new fans out of youngsters.
Ten years later, we have a crop of high-school- to college-age-kids who have lived most of their lives rooting for the Diamondbacks. They may not remember much before 2001, but they are fans and they are loving the direction of the team today.
For those of us who were ignored (the adults) throughout the years, we are loyal and devout. We spend our money without so much as a thank you. We write letters, blogs, articles, make signs, T-shirts, wave flags, decorate, go on road trips with the team, sleep over at the stadium, and express our love in countless other ways.
We do all of this and continue to feel ignored by the D-backs front office.
We watch kids announce the players during the fourth inning.
We watch kids get EXCLUSIVE give-aways on Sundays.
We watch kids run the bases.
We watch kids get everything in the world without having to shell out a penny. The hat shuffle, the hot dog race, the stupid dancing things, the wave, the bobcat, the T-shirt toss, the guess the attendance, the give-away, the sandlot...It goes on and on.
We continue to cater to the kids.
Of course, the logic goes that if you can get the kids to WANT to go, the parents will bring them, bringing their disposable income. As far as I can tell, however, parents are coming less and less. The cost of attending the game is just too much for parents.
I don't have kids. Actually, I really don't like kids at all, and we don't plan on having them for a long time. So I guess I don't really truly understand the problem when it comes to people with kids.
I may be way off base, but when it comes down to it, the solution seems clear to me: WHY DON'T THE D-BACKS BABYSIT FOR YOU?
My friends with kids (those who don't disappear and find other couple friends with kids) tell me that babysitters are expensive. I'm not sure if this is true, but I figure $10 an hour is a fair amount of money.
If you leave for the game at six and get home at 10:30, that's $45 that you just paid the babysitter so that you could go out and buy a couple $25 seats and watch a baseball game.
If you bought two hot dogs and split a large soda while you were at the game and left the baby sitter $10 for pizza then you ended up spending ($45+$50+$5.50+$5.50+$5.75+$10) $121.75, not including another $10 for parking.
So for one night out without your snotty rugrat you had to shell out over $130. I can see how that would run you dry pretty quick, especially on a budget.
Let's look at the alternative: bringing your kid.
If you bring your kid (assuming you only have ONE), you now have to buy three seats. So that's $75 on seats. Now you have to buy an extra hot dog and extra soda. Another $5.50 and $3 for a childrens' soda.
You've now spent $100.25, not including the $10 parking. So you saved yourself $20 to bring your kid and, if you are like every parent I see, that $20 disappears every time the cotton candy guy or the rattle guy comes by.
On top of that, you inevitably have to visit the Sandlot area which causes you to miss at least five innings. You've now paid $150 to watch four innings of baseball and let your kid play at the playground.
Of course there are ways to be cheap about it—
Eat before you come.
TELL YOUR KID "NO".
Make your older kid babysit.
Buy $5 seats.
Park far west on Jackson at a meter where it is free.
Fifteen dollars is a cheap night out. The wife and I maybe buy ballpark food once a week. We usually buy a bottle of water from our guy on Jefferson for $1. Our seats average out to $15 per seat per game with the season tickets.
So that means we usually spend about $31 a game, even though it only feels like we spend $1 a game. This is easy for us but not for a family. It has to get pricey over the long run.
After I got married, I realized the real hit I was going to take was in buying TWO of everything.
I used to travel all the time, and one plane ticket for $200 wasn't that much to spend. Now, we have to budget for a trip because two tickets is now $400.
You see that in everything you do. Two movie tickets, two dinners, two seats at the game. Now try having a couple kids and you see the exponential increase in cost.
You get hit on everything you do. Ouch.
So here is my solution:
With each adult ticket of $10 or more, you can purchase a MINOR LEAGUE ticket for $5 for your kid. Additional MINOR LEAGUE tickets are available for $10. All-You-Can-Eat passes are available for $25.
For example, if dad wants to take his two sons, as long as dad's seat cost at least $10, he will pay $15 for both of his kids ($5 for one, $10 for the other) at an average of $7.50 per kid.
Parents will bring their kids to GATE E.
Gate E is a wonderful place because it allows for access to the park, a large concourse area, and access to the main offices.
Gate E now becomes the Kids' Gate. This is where parents bring their kids and drop them off with staff members. The kid is given an electronic bracelet here.
The RFID bracelet that is put on the kids can only be removed by the staff. This bracelet can be tracked and has information about the child, their parent and their ticket.
In the event that the parent needs to leave, the kid can be found immediately. In the event the kid gets hurt, the parent can be found immediately.
The parent can purchase an all-you-can-eat package with the ticket, or the parent can add a few dollars onto the child's account for s/he to make individual purchases. The bracelet will act as a debit card for the kids, allowing them to make their choices for purchases.
The kids are dropped at the gate and the parent continues on with their ticket into the stadium to enjoy their interruption-free game. Parents can stay and watch the whole game without dealing with a complaining child, and near-by fans will not have to deal with whiny children.
The kids are rounded up in the gate area until there are 20 of them. Once a group of 20 has accumulated (or a reasonable amount of time has passed), a worker takes them into the lobby and into the elevator up to the upper concourse. This helps prevent separation and ensures that kids get to where they are going.
The current Sandlot area will need to be redesigned. There will be a desk and an electronic gate that prevents people from coming or going without staff knowledge.
Inside the gate, multiple areas are set up. Baseball video games on Xbox and PS3. A ball pit. The current jungle gym setup. The hitting cages and sandlot areas. A movie area that shows different baseball-themed kids movies that alternate depending on the game.
And of course, a mini concession stand selling children's corn dogs, hot dogs, soda, ice cream, etc. Kids can use their bracelets to make purchases using the money that their parents added earlier in the night.
Baxter can visit this area and entertain the kids while they play.
This provides the solution to multiple problems. Parents are now only obligated to pay $5 for almost five hours of baby sitting. The parent can watch the game without worrying about their kids OR missing any of the game.
This also gives the stupid Rally Backs something to do that will keep them from annoying me and from tossing T-shirts every inning.
I honestly think that this is the type of thing that will make kids want to come to the game AND make their parents want to bring them. Attendance figures will go up and you will make those who like to sit and enjoy the game happy because they will not have their seat kicked, view obstructed, etc.
If the idea proves to be widely popular, the price can be adjusted accordingly. Get the kids out of the seats and start treating the fans like adults. Do decent give-aways and treat the the fans like they've seen a game before.
Derrick Hall, I hope you are listening.