TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Steve Chiotakis: Major League Baseball officially starts in just a couple of weeks.
But the economic fallout has led to some pretty anemic spring training attendance. Let’s bring in business of sports commentator Diana Nyad to talk about it. Diana, are these lackluster numbers a precursor to what we can expect in the stands this year?
Diana Nyad: Well Steve, if you look at some of the numbers and if you’ve watched any of the preseason games, you know, spring training over the last couple of weeks, I mean, there are vast areas of empty seats. The Angels, for instance, are averaging, usually during spring training down there they get about 6,000 people per game. This year, 3,000. So if that’s a precursor, as you say, to the regular season, then attendance is going to be down something. Let’s say it’s just down 12 [percent], 15 [percent], 20 percent. Of course, not only are we counting ticket sales. These teams count on 20 [percent] to 30 percent of their entire revenue comes from outright ticket sales. Then you add on top of that the parking, the concessions, the merchandise sales at these ballparks. So we can see, the math is pretty easy to do. If they’re going to be down, you know, that many numbers of people, they’re going to be down a lot of revenue this year.
Chiotakis: But Diana, tickets aren’t near as much as they are for other sports, NFL and the others. Doesn’t that count for something?
Nyad: No, it’s a good point, and it does count. I mean last year, the ’08 average ticket around the ballparks was $25, a couple cents more than that. I mean, the NBA has gotten up to close to $50 now, the NFL is at $72 now for an average ticket. But the difference in baseball is that it’s largely a family game. People are going with their entire family, they’re buying you know, the Cokes and the hot dogs and the T-shirts and everything. It’s costing them a fortune. So this year, you know, MLB is trying to do everything they can to make it a better deal for families. Some teams are offering free parking to get in. Some teams are offering, you know, one adult buys a ticket, to kids will come for free. You know, there are a number of family packages that a lot of the teams are doing.
Chiotakis: So how are the teams adjusting to this possible drop in attendance and ticket sales then?
Nyad: You know, there’s a few creative deals. I saw that the Twins, for instance, with the slide of the Dow Jones, have decided they’re actually going to mirror that slide to the ticket sales, especially in the upper deck. So if a ticket’s $21, if the Dow closes anywhere in the 6,000’s that day, they’re going to make that ticket $6. It closes in the 7,000’s, that ticket’ll be $7. And almost every team has some sort of creative promotional angle like that.
Chiotakis: Well who, Diana, stands to gain if baseball clubs aren’t getting the people in?
Nyad: You know honestly, the only silver lining I can see in all of this is that people are staying home. OK, if they’re not going to the park, they like the game, they’re staying home. So it could be that the television ratings will go through the roof.
Chiotakis: And plus there’s a new MLB network, too.
Nyad: There is a new MLB network, so you know, people can watch their own team round the clock instead of just watching the Yankees day in and day out — I didn’t say that, I’m a Yankee fan.
Chiotakis: Business of sports commentator Diana Nyad. Diana, thank you.
Nyad: Steve, thank you.
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