MLB: 10 Easy Ways to Improve Attendance
Major League Baseball is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the United States. In most stadiums, they're filled to about 70 to 75 percent capacity for the majority of a season.
However, even though attendance has grown steadily since the MLB strike in 1994, there still are stadiums that are finding themselves pretty empty.
So the challenge is: While big market teams such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York are constantly selling out games, how does MLB make attendance rise in some of its smaller markets such as Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Toronto?
Lower All Prices
When I was growing up in Minnesota, the second I could drive I wanted to go to a Twins game. In my financial world, paying $17 for a ticket and $5 for parking wasn't a big deal. However, then I tried to convince my family to come to a game with me.
Aside from the embarassment of my sarcastic screaming of "Oh my God, it's Joe Mauer!" for about 20 minutes, the real pain for my family was the price to go to a ballgame.
For a basic family of four, taking everyone to a ball game will come with several expenses.
First, there are the cost of the tickets, which may not be a big deal to a single person; but multiply that $17 by four and it winds up costing $68. Then there's parking, where, depending where you're at, could be jacked up to as much as $20. Throw in snacks and souvenirs, and it's a pain on the wallet.
Lowering the overall price of taking a family to a baseball game would be able to fill more ballparks.
Schedule More Promotional Days
My mother always used to tell me that her favorite word was four letters long and started with the letter F. That would be "free." What were you thinking?
Booking more promotions would be an easy way to bring fans to the ballpark. If ticket prices won't be lowered to reasonable levels, why not give the ticket buyer some bang for their buck?
It doesn't even have to be a bobblehead of a player only half the crowd in attendance has heard of. It's possible to have an entire event at the conclusion of the ballgame. An example would be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim running a concert series on a bunch of Saturday night home dates.
People love S.W.A.G. (stuff we all get), so owners should give their fans more of it. They'll wind up seeing a spike in their attendance.
Add More Playoff Teams to October
You have to feel bad for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates. They haven't had a winning season since 1991, and after seeing ownership jettison promising player after promising player, the Pirates haven't been able to fill PNC Park.
Part of this is because the Pirates have been really bad since 1991 (yes, I know last year showed promise, but hang in there). But, if the Pirates were able to put a semi-competitive team on the field, the presence of one dominant division would snuff their efforts out.
That's where baseball has added a second Wild Card team to the playoffs. Since it's not official yet, it's included on the list, but five teams will keep fan interest for a longer period of time. If the team remains in contention through August, the fans will start showing up.
It's a simple equation. The longer your team is in it, the more fans will walk through the gates.
Install a Salary Cap
As a Minnesota Twins fan, I have to say that it was pretty disheartening to see the Detroit Tigers sign Prince Fielder.
In my mind, the door to go from "first-to-worst" in the AL Central was starting to open no matter how delusional it may sound. Victor Martinez shredded his knee in a postseason workout. Fausto Carmona was found to be Roberto Hernandez Heredia.
With the White Sox rebuilding and the Royals being the Royals, things were looking up.
$212 million and nine years later, the Twins look to be in quite the pickle. Look, I'm a die-hard Twins fan and will continue to go to games even if Fielder dents the giant "Minnie and Paul" sign at Target Field several times this season. However, other Twins fans may not be as devoted.
It's especially a problem in the American League East where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have thrown around money like "Pac Man" Jones at a strip club to solve their problems. (Again, this year has not been par for the course with both teams trading assets to fill holes.)
A fan in Toronto looks at this and says their team can't compete. With a salary cap, it may level the playing field and once again keep more teams in contention.
Install a Salary Floor
While seeing your rivals spend insane amounts of cash is annoying for baseball fans, seeing your team trying to build a bargain basement roster is just as frustrating.
The Miami Marlins have been the prime example of this throughout their history. For years, the Marlins have refused to spend money and have had the lowest payroll in all of baseball.
While they did win two World Series with this strategy, it was more of a tip of the cap to the front office than it was the owner.
After MLB confronted Loria about the issue and encouraged him to spend more money a couple seasons ago, he has spent uncontrollably this season with the addition of the new Marlins ballpark scheduled to open in 2012.
However, we could be looking at a situation similar to the one in Minnesota where, after two successful seasons at Target Field, the Twins have cut their payroll by approximately $17 million this offseason.
A salary floor would help prevent this and give fans the illusion that teams are trying to field a competitive roster.
Replace the Last Remaining "Old" Stadiums in Baseball
While Tropicana Field may be the only place in baseball you can pet a Sting Ray, fans today seem to want more bells and whistles with their ballpark.
Referring to my childhood again, I watched Twins games in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The place had rats that seemed to be lifting weights. You could also see the markings from the Vikings games that had been played earlier in the week. The Dome wasn't meant for baseball.
The excitement of many Twins fans when Target Field was finally built meant a huge rush in attendance. It will bring the same thing when the Marlins open their new stadium next April.
While building an entirely new stadium in places like Tampa isn't the easiest thing in the world, it would bring more people to see the Rays play.
With apologies to our female readers, the addition of cheerleaders would help spike attendance across MLB.
Women sure can get their fill at a baseball game. Don't even think about telling me that women don't get a little bit excited when Joe Mauer is walking up to the plate. I mean, if they weren't there would not be as many "We Want Mauer in the Shower" signs at Target Field.
With baseball being the only professional sport where the coach has to wear a uniform, cheerleaders may be quite the distraction. However, they would certainly be worth it.
Give Tickets to the Less Fortunate
Part of this solution is already in place at most MLB stadiums across the country. The concept is to give tickets to an organization that an athlete supports and bring people who normally wouldn't be able to see a baseball game to the stadium.
For example, the Minnesota Twins have a group of people that are called by several names. Justin Morneau has "Morneau's Mounties." Former Twin LaTroy Hawkins had "The Hawk's Nest" when the team played at the Metrodome.
It's not that hard to give tickets to a good cause, and it would help a lot more people experience the game of baseball.
Make Stadium Experiences More Social Media Friendly
Whether you like it or not, social media has become the best marketing tool for sports teams to use to try and get people to the ballpark. However, sometimes the park may be in an area with a bad signal or low coverage. That's where adapting to social media demands come in.
Most ballparks are starting to install wi-fi at the stadium, which helps fans start spreading the word about a game. If the ballpark also worked to add more cell phone coverage to the area, that would help as well.
The more people talk about a game, the more people will become interested and want to check one out. That's the power of simple word of mouth...or tweet?
Show Player Stats from Other Games at the Stadium
As lame as it might sound, some people don't want to go to sporting events because they want to track how their fantasy team is doing.
The National Football League realized this problem before last season and made teams start displaying player stats from other games on their scoreboards so fans could keep up to date.
Even if fans didn't play fantasy baseball, it would be a good idea to show what is going on in the game beyond the score. The technology behind scoreboards has changed so much recently that it would become as simple as typing in a couple of keystrokes and displaying it on a giant screen.
Giving the fans as much information as possible while at the ballpark would prevent some people from staying at home and increase attendance.