A TechCrunch article: So, Recode reported today that Twitter was tinkering around with the idea of expanding its 140 character limit to a number a bit higher….10,000 characters. But what,...
Courtesy of the Arizona Republic:
There’s one big difference between the Cactus League this year compared to last year: fewer fans.
Nearly two weeks into the five-week baseball bonanza, attendance was down 7 percent from the same period in 2015. The 15 teams are on a pace to draw about 1.7 million, or 160,000 fewer than last season.
If that holds, it could mean millions less in spending during the Valley’s critical tourist season.
An economic impact study commissioned by the league found that spring training directly brought in nearly $300 million from outside the Valley last year, and more through indirect and presumed spending that visitors bring.
Thirteen days into the 33-day spring schedule this year, 12 teams were averaging fewer fans than they did at the same point last year. Hotels in Scottsdale, Glendale and Peoria had fewer rooms filled in the first days of March compared to a year ago, according to STR, a data and analytics specialist that tracks the hospitality industry.
Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said there were signs of softness in the hospitality sector in the first two months of this year.
“If that softness carries into March, … it certainly will leave a negative impact on the hotel, restaurant and bar sectors,” he said. “The people who depend on those sectors will feel some reverberations.”
Why is it happening?
There’s no one reason for the decline, but there are several possibilities.
Economic tumult: The opening week of January turned out to be the worst in stock market history. A frenzy of bad economic news about oil, China, Japan and other problems lingered for weeks, leading to worries about slipping into a repeat of the Great Recession. The market has mostly stabilized, but it’s unclear whether consumers are as eager to open their wallets. Consumer confidence in January was higher in Arizona than it was a year ago, but nationally confidence has slipped since the start of 2015.
High prices: During the first week of the Cactus League, hotel rooms in Scottsdale averaged $250 per night. That’s more than it cost to stay in West Palm Beach in Florida. Throw in “convenience fees” along with “order fees” to buy game tickets online and the various extra charges for flying, and baseball games may not seem as relaxing for many fans.
Waning popularity: Baseball’s regular season attendance hasn’t recovered after slipping during the last recession, though up to this year the Cactus League has been setting annual records most years since. It may not help when a Hall of Fame pitcherrips today’s players as a “disgrace” and executives as “nerds” making the game a “joke,” while a contemporary star describes baseball as “a tired sport.”
Jan Freitag, senior vice president for STR, said hotel occupancy was down about 1 percent nationally in the first week of March. The Florida hotels showed a steeper slowdown, suggesting the Grapefruit League is also feeling a pinch.
Looking at the various baseball markets, Freitag said hotels were busy, but less than they were a year ago. “The room demand dropped and dropped pretty significantly,” he said.
Mark Coronado, president of the Cactus League, could not be reached for comment.
Fans who are heading to the ballparks are puzzled why others are not.
‘People are really missing out’
“That’s a surprise, but I guess there are a lot of empty seats,” said Kim Roehl, 52, of San Tan Valley, during a Milwaukee Brewers game Thursday in Maryvale.
Vi Simpson, a 69-year-old San Francisco Giants fan living in Bloomington, Ind., was at her fourth game in a week. “People are really missing out,” she said.
Not surprisingly, one of the exceptions so far has been the Kansas City Royals, who have seen an 11 percent boost in attendance, no doubt due to the team’s first world title in 30 years.
By contrast, the Oakland Athletics have seen their crowds at Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium fall nearly 30 percent in the team’s second year at that site.
On Tuesday — the second Tuesday of the league schedule — the A’s drew 4,224 for a game at home against the Texas Rangers. The second Tuesday a year ago, on March 10, the A’s drew 6,434 when they hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On Tuesday this year the San Diego Padres drew 3,829 for a game in Peoria against the D-backs. A year ago, the Padres drew 6,729 to see the San Francisco Giants.
Even the D-backs, a team that generated plenty of hot-stove buzz heading into this season, has seen attendance dip 11 percent in their first six home games.
Lower gas prices, unseasonably warm weather here and more excitement about the home team seemed like a mix that could add up to an even bigger year for the Cactus League. If that is to happen, it’s going to take a rally.
That’s because it’s already later than it may seem for the Cactus League season.
Last year the biggest week for attendance was the second week of the season, when the games drew 489,000 fans. This year, the second week attracted 442,000 in the same number of games.
The third week of the season last year had the highest average attendance, nearly 9,400, but there were nine fewer games that week. There is a similar drop off in scheduled games this season from the second week to the third.
The fourth week also has a lighter schedule, and this year the final weekend falls on Easter, which could impact attendance as well. It’s possible that could provide a sudden burst, but that didn’t happen last year when Easter was the day after the last Cactus League games were played. The Friday and Saturday games last year were far below the average for the same days one week earlier.
As usual, attendance remains anemic in Goodyear and Maryvale, only more so.
The Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds have combined to average about 4,100 fans in Goodyear in 13 games this year. That’s down from more than 4,700 at the same point last year. Both teams finished at the bottom for Cactus League attendance.
The Brewers are averaging about 5,000 fans in Maryvale in seven games so far this year. Last year, they averaged nearly 5,700 after seven games. A spokesman for the Brewers said it was premature to label spring training a disappointment.
“To draw any conclusions at this time would be impossible,” said Tyler Barnes, a spokesman for the club. “Ultimately we expect our attendance will be at or close to what we have seen in the past.”
The Chicago Cubs, the league’s best draw, are up 4 percent at Sloan Park in Mesa so far. The Los Angeles Dodgers may have turned their clubhouse upside down, but they are the most improved team at the gate. Their attendance is up 13 percent over last year.
That’s good news for Glendale, where the Dodgers share a ballpark with the Chicago White Sox, whose attendance has dipped 15 percent so far this year.