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Volume 20 No. 42
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MLB enjoying early-season attendance boost

For years, the May MLB owners meetings have been a center for concern and worry within the league. Attendance problems, poor weather, an uncertain national economy and team insolvency have been regular topics of discussion.

This season, however, owners gathered with some significant and surprising momentum behind them, particularly with regard to attendance.

After three consecutive years of decline and then a slight increase in 2011, MLB attendance this season is up about 6 percent as of press time, even higher than the 3 percent to 5 percent league Commissioner Bud Selig projected before Opening Day.
Nineteen of 30 teams are posting attendance increases thus far, a marked reversal from this time last year, when 20 of 30 were showing declines.

The overall bump owes to several factors, including the new Marlins Park in Miami, a run of good weather after last year’s historically wet spring, sizable upticks in Detroit and Texas after playoff runs in 2011, and continued competitive balance with teams such as Washington seeing attendance benefits from strong on-field starts.

Popular young players like Bryce Harper and strong on-field starts are helping teams like the Nationals see attendance gains.
Also factoring into the mix is the increasing national-level role of the league into what traditionally has been a local piece of the baseball business. Since its formation in late 2010, the Commissioner’s Ticket Review Committee has studied issues such as the secondary market, dynamic pricing and data tracking. The panel this year created the new FanPass brand for the sport’s digital ticketing initiatives.

The group last week presented an update on its work before the owners. As always, attendance remains a major revenue source for clubs and a key indicator on the sport’s health at large. “We’re having an extraordinary year so far,” Selig said.

CAVE EXPLORERS: Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president of business, held an MLB Enterprises board meeting at the newly redesigned MLB Fan Cave last Wednesday and also hosted several other team owners visiting the interactive, social media-infused facility while in town for the owners meetings.

The idea was for Brosnan and other league executives to show their team-based counterparts what is happening with the much-acclaimed space, which blends youth-oriented marketing, reality TV concepts and baseball’s intersection with pop culture.

But unlike similar owner visits made a year ago, when MLB didn’t even fully know what it had on its hands with the Fan Cave, formal and informal discussions this time focused heavily on the initiative’s power as a content-producing engine. Material created from the Fan Cave is now a regular staple on MLB Network and and throughout social media. The space is also quickly becoming an in-demand concert venue for musical acts in several genres.

“There’s a real proof of concept now,” Brosnan said. “Now we understand this. We’re creating a large amount of content, and we wanted to show the owners the full force of that. It’s kind of hard to understand the full scope of what’s happening there without actually being there.”

Also quickly gaining traction is the idea of creating additional, localized versions of the MLB Fan Cave.

“That’s probably the biggest question in front of us with the Fan Cave,” Brosnan said. “How do we extend out what the Fan Cave does into our markets and create some type of satellite versions of that? And those conversations are definitely happening as we speak.”