Business of Baseball Reportby Brian Borawski
July 27, 2005
Athletics Shopping for Ballparks
Oakland Athletics owner Lewis Wolff unveiled his vision of what the new home of his team will be like. The Athletics' current home, the McAfee Coliseum, is a testament to the multi-purpose stadiums built in the last 1960s and 1970s. It holds over 43,000 people, but the A’s owner feels that’s just too big, as attendance has been closer to 24,000 per game this year.
What Wolff envisions is a 35,000-seat stadium with 80 suites. Half of those suites would be what he calls mini-suites which would hold only four to six seats each. Cutting down on the size of the suites will make them more affordable, something Wolff feels is necessary, because the Athletics have never been able to attract the level of corporate support that the San Francisco Giants have.
If built, the stadium will be the smallest in the major leagues. The fraternity brother of Bud Selig is looking for intimacy and now he just needs a place to build it. To date, Oakland hasn’t been able to provide the financial support that the team is looking for and while the team hasn’t shopped around and threatened to relocate yet, I'm sure you'll start hearing the usual rhetoric if the city of Oakland doesn't start to make some progress toward public funding.
MLB Attendance is Up, Sort Of
Through July 18, Major League Baseball (MLB) drew 42.34 million fans, which is 805,301 better than the year before. That’s a solid increase of 1.9 percent. The problem is that the Washington Nationals have drawn over 1 million more fans than the Expos did at this point last year. So had Bud Selig not moved the team, we’d be looking at a slight decline in attendance.
Seventeen of the 30 teams have either stayed where they were at or had an increase this year. But seven teams have seen attendance drop by more than 10 percent. Three of the seven teams, the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros, are in contention for a playoff spot. The other four are the bottom feeders of the league—Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals and Tampa Devil Rays.
Whether it’s because of the Nationals or not, MLB is projecting a record paid attendance of 73 million for the year.
Nationals Fix Distance Markers
Prior to last week, the left-center field distance marker at the Washington National’s ballpark showed 380 feet. After complaints by some players, two Washington Post reporters used a 300-foot tape measure to see if that figure was accurate. The final measurement showed that the distance was actually 395 feet.
The Nationals agreed to bring in surveyors to take more accurate measurements and the reporters' tape measurement ended up being correct. From home plate to the left-center 380 marker is actually 394.74 feet. The distance to the right-center marker is 395 feet. Andy Dunn, the Nationals' vice president of ballpark operations, now contends that the pad that had the “380” on it was actually placed in the wrong spot. Measurements down the line ended up being accurate, but center field is actually a touch closer than what was marked. Instead of 410 feet to straightaway center, it’s actually 407.83 feet.
Prospective Nationals Owners Visit MLB Advanced Media
Over the next two weeks, the eight groups that are bidding on the Washington Nationals will get to visit MLB’s advanced media division (MLBAM). Some owners feel the purpose of the meeting with the division is to get the prospective owners to raise their bids. MLB President Bob DuPuy stated that since each club owns 1/30th of MLBAM, the owners should see what the division is doing since they’ll eventually own a stake.
MLBAM currently makes more the $130 million from Internet game telecasts, online ticket sales and advertising. Two years ago, there was some speculation that the division would be spun off and become a publicly traded company, but to date, the league has resisted the temptation.
Winners and Losers in the Baseball Card Industry
Last week I discussed the impending auction of the intellectual property of baseball card manufacturer Fleer Corp. This week, another baseball card company, Donruss, was dealt a blow when the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) gave contracts to only Topps and Upper Deck. In addition to shutting Donruss out, MLBPA is imposing limits on the number of sets released each year. The two card companies and the players' union have also agreed to only include players in their set once they reach the major leagues.
While I’m rarely for limiting competition, I think this will be a good thing in the long run. It can’t get much worse because in the early 90s, baseball cards were a $1.2 billion industry. That number has come way down as the card companies are now projecting just $270 million in revenue this year.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.
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