Yesterday I listened to our local ESPN Radio personality say that he was looking forward to watching the attendance figures for the Miami Marlins head downward as the year goes on. There is no love lost between Evan Cohen, host of 760AM’s sports talk show from 4PM – 6PM here in the West Palm Beach area, and Marlins management. Cohen’s blasted the Marlins on several occasions for their lack of class and overall arrogance. In many cases he’s right. We’ve all had our issues with Loria and Samson. However, regardless of how you think the new park came about, the current management got it done.
I find the attendance issue ridiculous. There’s a reason why the Marlins built a stadium that will only hold 37,000. South Florida isn’t a mecca for baseball, or for that matter, any pro sport. It is an event-driven town. If the Miami Heat didn’t have Lebron James they’d have crowds similar to those of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. How do I know? I was there before the Heat became an “attraction.” If the Marlins play well they’ll draw crowds. If not, they’ll still draw bigger crowds than they did before. It’s a win-win for ownership. The announced attendance at yesterday’s day game was 23,168; very respectable when most of us were in school and at work. Take a look at the some of the supposed baseball towns in MLB and check out the numbers. The Chicago White Sox had a crowd of 11,836, the then 10-3 Washington Nationals drew 18,045, the loaded Detroit Tigers drew 30,029 for a game against the best team in the league; the Texas Rangers. The Toronto Blue Jays drew 18,976 against the Tampa Rays. The list goes on. Take a look at some of the New York Yankees home games so far this year and see the 10-12k empty seats for their games.
MLB has seen a decline in attendance specifically in those places where new stadiums have driven up the prices to the point where only the corporations can afford them. Here, however, the Marlins experience is very affordable, and now we see a game in the comfort of a retractable roof stadium with a view of downtown Miami.
The Marlins never thought they were going to sell out every game. The goal is 2.5 million coming through the gates in 2012. They’ve sold around 15,000 season tickets. MLB counts tickets sold, not actual turnstile entrants. If they average 25,000 per game that will bring in 2,025,000; a much higher number than in years past. With games against the Yanks, Red Sox, and other baseball powers, they will blow through that number and come close to their goal. Through seven home games the Marlins have drawn 206,096 with an average of almost 30,000. Of course the new park has a lot to do with it, but wasn’t that the point? Mind you, six of these games were played against the horrible Houston Astros, and a bad Chicago Cubs team.
To all of the media who still complain about the lukewarm pro sports market here in Florida, get over it! The Marlins did it right, and as long as they sell merchandise, concessions, and parking, they will be flush with money for years to come. My goal isn’t to make Loria a richer man, but it is to take my son to baseball games here in FL until the day I no longer frequent the planet.