Business of Baseball Report

A Ray of Hope for Anaheim

It appears that the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ recent denial of the city of Anaheim’s request for a preliminary injunction against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim wasn’t a complete washout for the city. While the team can continue to use “Los Angeles” in the team name, Justice David G. Sills offered a dissenting opinion that could give the city a chance at bringing down the Angels in court. The major point that Justice Sills made was that there’s no way to be in Los Angeles and Anaheim at the same time and that the contract between the Angels and the city precludes the use of another city’s name more prominently.

The Angels are playing coy and simply saying that their lawyers are looking at the opinion. Both sides will get their day in court on November 7, so stay tuned.

Interleague Play Brings in More Fans

Interleague attendance was up 11.5 % from a year ago. A major factor in this rise is the fact that the Nationals are now playing in Washington, D.C. The Nationals averaged 33,046 fans per interleague game, while the Expos brought in only 8,137 on average last year. Also of note is that attendance for the season has been up 1.9%, and through June 26, the average for all teams was 30,352.

Saving Stadium Face

The Washington Nationals are definitely getting a new stadium. The big question now is which backdrop should be seen when the fans look across the field. The two options under consideration are a northeast orientation, which would allow fans to see the Capitol, and a southeast orientation that would provide a view of the Anacostia waterfront. City officials prefer the Capitol view while officials from the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. obviously think the waterfront view is the way to go.

The final decision will come from the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, and the upcoming results of an environmental assessment will be critical to their decision. At the moment it appears that the commission is on both sides of the fence and might even propose a split view that would give fans a look at both the Capitol and the waterfront.

Nationals’ Attendance Problem

For their first 33 home games, the Washington Nationals sold an average of 32,019 tickets. This number is in line to meet their preseason projection of 2.5 million tickets. The problem is, only 24,679 fans on average are actually attending the game. This is resulting in an unused ticket percentage of around 23 percent, which is higher than the 15-20% most teams expect.

So while fans have bought tickets, they’re not buying hot dogs and souvenirs when they’re sitting at home. This shouldn’t put too big of a dent into the Nationals’ profits, but it does cause a shortfall with Washington, D.C. The city receives a 12% tax on parking services and a 10% tax on all food, beverages and merchandise. This shortfall not only could affect the city’s debt servicing, but it could also result in the city getting a lower bond rating than expected. Lower rated bonds means a higher interest rate, which means the city is out of pocket even more.

The no-shows are somewhat understandable. I remember people buying season ticket packages in 1999 for the final season here at Tiger Stadium. They didn’t necessarily want to see the Tigers play in 1999, but they wanted first dibs on tickets to the soon-to-be-opened Comerica Park. So while Nationals fans are forking money over to buy tickets, it’s not RFK that they’re interested in but the future waterfront park.

Steinbrenner Names Successor

On Independence Day, George Steinbrenner turned 75. While he’s not stepping down from one of baseball’s most coveted jobs anytime too soon, he did name his successor as owner of the New York Yankees last week. Son-in-law Steve Swindal will take over for Steinbrenner when and if he decides to step down from running the team. Swindal is already a general partner of the team.

Twins Stadium Bill on Hold

It seemed like such a logical progression. The Minnesota legislature called a special session to finish up the state’s budget. Also on the slate was Twins owner Carl Pohlad’s sales tax bill that would push the Twins’ new stadium prospects into reality. The problem is, you have to finish step one before you move on to step two. Before the holiday weekend, Congress couldn’t agree on a budget which caused a partial shutdown of the Minnesota government. Rest stops in the state were closed over the holiday weekend, and while state legislators have vowed to fix the problem by this weekend, it’s unclear whether that’s wishful thinking or not.

It will be interesting to see if the impasse causes any shift in opinion on the stadium bill. As far as the delay, Pohlad has waited this long so another week or two shouldn’t cause him too much concern.

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