It’s difficult to get away from the economic woes rending their way through the United States and beyond. Baseball, which commissioner Bud Selig used to think of as recession-proof, no longer is.
The wacky free agent market, which saw Ivan Rodriguez go from a 4-year/$40 million contract to a 1-year/$1.5 million contract with incentives, was either a much-needed market correction, or a sign of the times to come.
Cactus League attendance was down, and those that did attend games aren’t spending as much on concessions as they have in the past. Area hotels are reporting losses up to 30 percent. The Team Marketing Report came out today, and it shows that besides the Mets and Yankees, who have raised prices to help open their new ballparks, the other 28 teams have either held even or reduced their average ticket prices.
Several teams, including the Cincinnati Reds and the ever-cost-conscious San Diego Padres, are offering great deals on concessions for fans to come to the games. MLB.com has a Fan Value Corner, which highlights some of these great deals, designed to get fans to spend what precious few dollars they may have at the ballpark.
Still, even with the great deals, attendance is expected to be down, maybe by as much as 17-20%. What does all of this mean for baseball?
It seems reasonable to expect that fans, eager to get to the ballpark, may start shifting their attention to local minor league affiliates, who generally have much greater deals, and really great promotions. The Buffalo Bisons, the Mets’ Triple-A International League affiliate, has announced that they will be giving free Opening Day tickets to unemployed fans.
Will more minor league teams begin to see the success the Cincinnati Reds’ Single-A Midwest League affiliate Dayton Dragons have seen in the past two decades? It’s possible. Another option for economically-strapped baseball fans are the many independent leagues: The American Association, Atlantic League, Can-Am League, Continental Baseball League, Frontier League, Golden Baseball League, Northern League, and United League all provide reasonably-priced entertainment for baseball fans.
Many experts have pointed to the fact that Major League Baseball survived the Depression, and while I have no doubt that it will be just fine through this recession, that was a much different league than it is today.