SBD/April 6, 2012/Franchises

Astros Owner Jim Crane Talks Expectations, Box Office, AL Move

Crane said he thinks Astros have "stopped the bleeding" and could see attendance rise
Astros Owner Jim Crane recently discussed “his expectations on the field and at the box office, anger over the move to the American League, his best memories of the game and much more” with the HOUSTON CHRONICLE’s Zachary Levine. The following is an excerpt from the Q&A:

Q: What are your expectations for the business side of the organization? Do you think this could be the year that you curb the drop in attendance, or do you think that might take a while?
Crane: With our 50th anniversary year and Flashback Fridays, we’ve really shored up and reached out to the fans. Our season ticket plans are almost back to where they were last year. If we win some games, I think our attendance could be better than last year. I think we’ve stopped the bleeding.

Q: When do you think we’ll see a significant increase in the player payroll?
Crane: This year we’re kind of seeing what we’ve got. Certainly next year, some payroll could roll off or you could see a trade or two this year if things move along. But next year, we’ve got a big bump in our new TV deal and we’ve got 30 more million in rights fees. I think we’ll keep an eye on what we’ve got and try to fill in some blanks. So I think next year our payroll could be higher.

Q: I know that you don’t have a $65 million wad of cash from the American League discount, but how does that affect things? Does that accelerate the timetable for spending?
Crane: We just took on less debt. The team is not leveraged at all. To say that would go directly for payroll, I think as our revenues pick up from TV and attendance and we get better, I think we’ll spend what we make and try to put a very competitive team.

Q: With the move to the American League, a lot of the feedback we hear has been pretty negative. Has that been your experience, and what are you telling fans now who are still upset?
Crane: You can argue anything I guess, but what they did does make some sense for baseball. When you look at the two Texas teams, it evens out that, keeps the Rangers from traveling more. Our TV partner Comcast feels it’s a stronger deal for us with the East Coast teams like Detroit and Cleveland and some of the old traditional teams -- the Yankees and Boston -- and we’re going to do better on the network because of that. … I think it’s died down. People understand it, and we’re just going to do our best with it. What I tell everybody: to win the World Series you’ve got to beat everybody, so what’s the difference? (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/5).
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