SBD/April 10, 2012/Franchises

AL Franchise Notes: Rays Owner Expects Attendance Boost This Season

Sternberg said he loves Rays stadium, but something is keeping fans "from coming in"
Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg on Friday said that he “still expects a boost in attendance this year.” But in Tampa, Michael Van Sickler noted season-ticket sales “are below expectations,” and corporate support “remains among the worst” in MLB. Whether better attendance “can mend relations between Sternberg and St. Petersburg city leaders is unclear.” Sternberg and city officials “have talked sparingly” since Sternberg announced two years ago that he “wanted to explore new stadium options outside of Pinellas County.” Sternberg has spoken with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster “a few times by phone since then, but Sternberg still describes relations with St. Petersburg as lukewarm.” Meanwhile, he said that he is “encouraged by suitors from Tampa and Hillsborough County who say they'd support a stadium on that side of the bay, as well as by efforts from regional business interests to support the club.” Van Sickler wrote Sternberg “sounded wistful talking about the Miami Marlins stadium.” Sternberg: "I like my stadium. I love the place. I'd challenge anyone, and we have, to come in and say it's not a great experience. It's not an ideal experience. Something is keeping people from coming in" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/7).

AIM FOR THE BULLSEYE: In St. Paul, Tom Webb notes Target's mascot dog, Bullseye, now “graces a 37-foot-tall sign affixed to Target Center, overlooking right field” at the Twins' ballpark. The lighted sign, installed “in late March, features a wagging tail that is programmed to move at different speeds.” The same spot last season “held a huge Sanford Health sign, which many fans disliked for intruding on the view of the Minneapolis skyline.” The Twins were “among the harshest critics, protesting the ‘disturbing’ and intrusive sign.” The ballclub “seems to have warmer feelings about the big dog.” Twins President Dave St. Peter said, "It would be my personal preference that there be no sign there." He added, "Time will tell, but there's a younger demographic of fans that will certainly enjoy that sign" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/10).

COLOR ME BLUE: In Toronto, Brendan Kennedy wrote amid the “bubbling optimism” for the Blue Jays this season, there is “a surging fan base that has distinguished itself from other sports fans in the city.” The fans are “young and irreverent, smart and sarcastic,” and they “favour blogs and Twitter over radio call-in shows, hold baseball book clubs and trivia nights, and seem to root as much for the team’s progressive general manager -- who at 34 is part of their demographic -- as the players on the field.” The core fans are “buoyed by a young, exciting team and a fashionable retro-inspired new logo.” Still, the “million-dollar question -- at least for the team’s front office -- is whether this renewed excitement translates into ticket sales.” Last year the Jays were “sixth-worst in league attendance, but the home opener’s record one-hour sellout may be a harbinger of this renewed interest.” Meanwhile, Kennedy noted New Era Caps “won’t share their sales figures,” but Managing Dir of Canadian Operations Rick Baetz said that “while the Jays’ early-90s, white-front vintage cap has always been a big seller, when the new logo was launched last fall there was a ‘significant’ sales spike.” Baetz: “It exceeded our expectations by 30 or 40 per cent. We expect a spike whenever there’s a logo change, but this was exceptional for sure, no two ways about it” (TORONTO STAR, 4/9).

MOTOR CITY: In Detroit, Bill Shea noted that after the first three games of '12, the Tigers "have seen 120,525 fans come through the gates at 41,255-seat Comerica Park, for an average of 40,175 per game." That translates into "about $1 million in addditional revenue compared to this point last season. It's the biggest opening three-game series crowd since the ballpark opened in 2000" (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 4/9).
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