Spring Training Attendance Down This Year As Ticket Prices Are On The Rise
MLB Spring Training attendance is down this year, and "several things are to blame, aside from pricey tickets -- early start, cold weather and lineups depleted by injured stars and players dispatched to the World Baseball Classic," according to Ben Walker of the AP. Data from Stats LLC shows that the dip is "nearly 14 percent lower than it was on this date last year." In order to schedule WBC games, Spring Training started about a week earlier this season, "before many fans arrived for vacation and spring break." Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, "We started about eight or nine days too early. That means a whole lot." The weather "hasn't been ideal, either." Games began on Feb. 22 and "averaged 5,789 fans through March 12." They started on March 2 last year and "averaged 6,703 by that same date" (AP, 2/13). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Jim Caple wrote Spring Training has become "less about watching baseball and more about splurging on a spring vacation." Box seats behind home plate for tomorrow's Royals-Dodgers game "are as much as $49." Seats behind the dugout and "down the line go for $28 to $43, and the outfield lawn is $16.25." The Angels "charge $34 for their best seats," while the Cubs charge $32 "for premium games." The Giants website listed "lower level box seats for $68.75 for this Sunday's game against the Rockies." Upper level "box seats were $63.75." Bleacher seats "down the outfield lines were $45." Outfield lawn seating "was $25 (and rising to $34 for a game later this spring)." In Florida, the Red Sox "sell home plate dugout boxes for $46" (ESPN.com, 3/13).
EMPTY NEST SYNDROME: Lee County Commission Chair Cecil Pendergrass said that the county will contact the Blue Jays about their "12-month search for a new spring training home with the goal of putting them in vacant City of Palms Park." In Ft. Myers, David Dorsey notes the Blue Jays will "spend the next year looking at contingency plans as their lease in Dunedin expires in 2017." Lee County, which has "assumed control of City of Palms Park from Fort Myers, has been courting new tenants for the 8,000-seat stadium" since agreeing to build the Red Sox' $80M JetBlue Park. The Nationals and Lee County "have been negotiating, but the two sides have not spoken in recent weeks" (Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS, 3/14).