There are few words that make minor league operators cringe more than rainouts.
After all, having a dark ballpark too many times makes it almost impossible to finish in the black.
"It is a pretty fine line between revenue and expenses," Iowa general manager Sam Bernabe said last year when poor weather combined with Midwest flooding made a mess of the I-Cubs’ schedule. "Whenever you are taking dates out of a calendar, that is another opportunity lost to pay the bills."
Bad weather and baseball haven’t mixed for years, and teams having to give up a chunk of their schedule is an almost annual event. Flooding of the Iowa River, and frigid and wet conditions in the Northeast made last year a challenging one for several teams.
However with the economy taking a toll on sponsorship dollars, minor league clubs are clinging on to steady attendance figures—and can afford even less to give them up.
There is no such thing as a good rainout (no matter what Crash Davis says), but having one on the weekend is even more damaging. Need evidence? Take a look at the mid-week promotions teams are rolling out this season to keep attendance up before cashing in on big crowds over the weekend.
"That’s the name of the game," Double-A Bowie general manager Brian Shallcross said.
He should know. Though 20 games were rained out last weekend, no team has been harder hit than the Baysox. Bowie has already lost five games to rain. All five came during a late-April, early-May stretch that included 14 consecutive gamedays that featured rain (13 of which forced the team to pull the tarp during the game).
"It’s certainly been a struggle," Shallcross said.
It could have been worse. Only one of the rainouts came on a Sunday—the other four were spread out between Monday and Wednesday. In fact, the Baysox’s average attendance remains deceptively solid at 3,993 over 15 openings—good for fifth in the Eastern League.
Those figures are in part thanks to Bowie’s programs that draw school-aged children to the ballpark on field trips and reading-initiative nights. The true barometer for how the team’s season will fare comes when school lets out for the summer.
"There have been a lot of school programs that are mostly immune to economic pressures. We’ve had some success in them, so from that standpoint, April and May have been okay," Shallcross said. "What I am waiting to see is when school gets out, what will families do? There is a lot of talk about if people eliminate some discretionary spending that they will allocate those dollars to a cheaper option—like us. But there will also be some families that eliminate discretionary spending altogether. Our hope is that if more people are watching their pocketbooks, they will take a look at some affordable options. I hope we are in position to fulfill that."
The Baysox’s biggest concern has not been drawing families to the ballpark, but rather high-end customers who have filled the luxury suites at Prince George’s Stadium in the past. However the evaporation of corporate customers (ranging from government agencies to the housing and banking industries) have created several vacancies on the team’s suite level.
To compensate, Bowie is trying to attract nonprofits to rent out the suites for charity events—and the team has even toned down its club menu to make it more affordable. Where in the past they’ve hosted crab feasts in a suite that holds 75 people, they are now offering more affordable meals like pasta and salad.
"Big donors are losing their wallets, so now nonprofits are looking to partner with us to raise money," Shallcross said. "That’s a win-win situation, because they help put fans in the seats and we help them reach fundraising goals"
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog