Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stone Crabs reduce ticket prices by 21%

I normally don't write about the Charlotte Stone Crabs. They are outside of Tampa Bay and out of the purview of this site. However, I want to comment on some recent Stone Crabs news.

According to the Stone Crabs website, the team is reducing ticket costs by 21% across the board.
Box seats are being lowered to $9.50 while reserve seating will drop to $8.50 when fans purchase tickets in advance. Child and Military tickets for both pricing levels will be $8.

Comparatively, tickets for the Bradenton Marauders are $10 for the Infield, $8 for the Baselines, and $6 for the bleachers. Perhaps the Stone Crabs were pricey compared to other teams.

The Stone Crabs were in the middle of the pack in regards to Florida State League attendance in 2016. They drew 95,588 fans to Charlotte Sports Park, averaging 1,593 fans per game.

So besides the typical public relations spiel about giving the fans better value, why did the Stone Crabs lower their prices? Seemed like something they didn't have to do. Fans were still going at the prices offered last season.

It will be interesting to see if the Stone Crabs ticket price reduction results in more ticket sales.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Toronto Blue Jays talk extension in Dunedin

As reported by Noah Pransky via twitter, last week the Toronto Blue Jays met with Pinellas County officials to discuss extending the Jays spring training home.

I've been critical of a Blue Jays extension for some time. I wrote a lengthy piece on last year that stated why an extension was not in the best interest of Tampa Bay. Noah Pransky's website has also been critical, as has Tom Rask of

Those who support the extension are Dunedin city officials, which is to be expected.

According to Pransky's tweets, Pinellas County commissioners didn't seem as optimistic as their counterparts in the small town of Dunedin. Commissioner Charlie Gerdes told the Jays they needed expected financials and Janet Long said the Jays were not putting in as much money as public dollars.

Fortunately, we are starting to see a least a little bit of pushback against sports teams recently. Whether this is all show by politicians has yet to be seen. But this does allow the Pinellas County Commissioners to be "the bad guy" in the City of Dunedin's battle to keep baseball. Either the Dunedin mayor will point to the commissioners and say "they are the reason the Jays left" or she will say "despite pushback from the commissioners, I helped keep the Jays". It is a win-win for Mayor Bujalski.

There was also this interesting quote in a recent StPetersblog article:
Pro teams, with their highly paid legal talent, too often take advantage of local officials, Republican Michael Bileca said.

Teams should not fall for the emotional plea of how long teams have been in small towns. Even the most loyal fan should know the Blue Jays would move somewhere better if they thought they could get a better deal and make more money somewhere else. As a reminder, the Dodgers were in Vero Beach from the 1940s to 2008 then they left. Loyalty means nothing in sports business.

The Pinellas County Commission will continue meeting with the Blue Jays in the next few weeks. This website maintains that until the Rays situation is settled, the region is better off without the Blue Jays.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baseball, Business, and Mixed Messages

Corporate support is very important to professional sports. Corporations provide partnerships, advertising, and group ticket sales that bring in a significant amount of revenue for teams. While individual fans are the face of fandom, corporations do the heavy lifting in regards to supporting a team.

I've often written that conflicting interests hurt Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay. This conflict is not only with football, hockey, the beach, or any amusement park. This conflict is also with other baseball teams.

With Spring Training in full effect, Tampa Bay area business organizations are reaching out to teams, scheduling the latest installment of their relationships. But these organizations are adding to the confusion of what baseball team the Tampa Bay business communities truly support.

On March 21, the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce is hosting a networking event at Steinbrenner Field before the Yankees vs Red Sox game. This event includes members of the South Tampa Chamber, the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Brandon Chamber. The event costs $65 and includes ticket and food.

On March 28th, the Tampa Bay Business Journal is also hosting a networking event at Steinbrenner Field. The entry level tickets for the event also costs $65 and includes food and drink.

Finally, on May 4th, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is hosting a networking luncheon with the Rays. Several Rays players and executives will be present for a meet and greet. This event only costs $50.

So the event with the lowest cost is for the local Major League team and the more costly events are for a team that only spends three months in the area. That makes about as much sense as a Wookie on Endor.

For the record, I have been to previous Tampa Chamber luncheons with the Rays. They are usually interesting and a great way to meet other business leaders, although the first question asked of team executives is usually "when are the Rays building a stadium in Tampa?". It has become so regular as to be expected.

But asking when the Rays are moving to Tampa is an act of support. For members of the South Tampa Chamber and the readers of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, what does this say about their loyalty and fandom? I understand the need to schedule networking events and baseball makes a great backdrop, but why encourage spending money on a team that is not the local squad?

Local media has reported for years that the Rays corporate support is not strong. The often cited claim is that the Rays receive far less corporate support than any other team in Major League Baseball.

Having business member networking events at Steinbrenner FIeld continues the acceptance that supporting the Yankees in Tampa is acceptable, instead of supporting the Rays 100%. Of course the Yankees don't mind. Just as they didn't mind when the Hillsborough County Commission extended the lease on Steinbrenner Field for another 20 years.

Events such as these further build bonds with local business leaders and the Yankees, while decreasing the incentive to do business with the Rays, a team struggling with corporate partnership.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dunedin Blue Jays now engaging in Security Theater

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Clearwater Threshers were adding enhanced security features at their gates to coincide with Major League Baseball requirements.

According to a Blue Jays press release, the same security measures are now in place in Dunedin.

Once again, I don't see the point. Dunedin is one of the smallest cities for Minor League Baseball in America. It is the smallest Spring Training venue. The Dunedin Blue Jays average less than 750 fans per game.

This is hardly a terrorist target of opportunity.

With so few people in a 5,000 person stadium, even if a gunman were to try to wreak havoc in small, sleepy Dunedin, the gunman would really have to work to find targets. A well-placed armed police officer could easily extinguish the threat.

As well, if there hasn't been a threat yet to Dunedin or Blue Jays fans, why the need for additional security now? What changed?

Security measures should not increase unless a response to specific threat. Otherwise, they increase work and cost for no reason. They might also be an attendance deterrent and with the Dunedin Blue Jays last in the Florida State League in attendance for the last several years, that's not a good thing.

But then again, the Blue Jays are looking to receive millions in upgrades from Pinellas County (More on that soon.). So perhaps they don't care about Dunedin attendance.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Marketing Kevin Kiermaier

A few weeks ago, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a very interesting article on Kevin Kiermaier. Topkin explored Kiermaier's popularity and growing market allure. According to Topkin,
Starting small, Kiermaier is slowly getting the attention of local and regional companies that want to put his pretty face on their products — though not much, yet, nationally given the challenges inherent with playing in the Tampa Bay market.

Morgan Auto Group has featured Kiermaier in three TV commercials, with plans for more this year promoting its dealerships throughout the Tampa Bay area. The Clearwater-based company behind the Original Protein Water signed him — and gave him ownership shares — to help its major push into the sports drink field. Majestic sports apparel is spotlighting him in in-stadium and in-store signage and internet advertising. Eastbay sports equipment had him on the cover of its winter catalog. The LeBron James-run Uninterrupted media platform added him to its roster of athletes sharing video updates.

Biggest of all could be a deal under discussion with the Tampa-based PDQ chicken chain.

Considering Kiermaier's beginnings as a 31st round draft pick from Parkland College, he is a great story and definitely marketable to part of Tampa's demograph. As Topkin states, Kiermaier has "Midwestern values" and "model good looks".

Basically, he is Ben Zobrist meets young Evan Longoria.

But there are problems marketing Kiermaier - the two biggest are his stats and his durability. Unless he has a Zobrist-like awakening at the plate, Kiermaier will never will an MVP. He may never make an all-star team.

Baseball history is littered with slick fielding center fielders. Players such as Devon White, Steve Finley (pre-bulk), Garry Maddox, and many others all sucked down fly balls and racked up the defensive accolades. Although most made an all-star game or two, none were overly marketable.

Kiermaier's potential is limited by how complete his game is. Unfortunately, defense is not an overly marketable skill outside of baseball circles. The Rays can show clips of Keirmaier diving and running into walls, but as the old adage goes "chicks love the long ball".

However, in the current state of the Rays, Kiermaier might be the most marketable position player on the team. Evan Longoria is now the steady hand and the leader - good for selling the brand but not really himself. Besides, he has Ducky's and his other business ventures to be interested in.

Chris Archer is an interesting case. As a starting pitcher, he does not play everyday. But his allure is unmistakable. He participates in the Boys and Girls Club, he visits schools, and he has made an all-star team. But, like Kiermaier, Archer's stats haven't popped off the page recently. Few 19-game losers are the face of their team.

So Kiermaier is the face of the Rays these days. If it gets people buying merchandise and tickers, that's not a bad thing at all.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

An insightful look at Spring Training attendance

Like the ballplayers themselves, Spring Training has always been a warm-up for me. I pay attention to it, but not fully. I don't track the attendance numbers, but I do track trends. I read the headlines, but rarely listen or watch the games.

The reason I don't track individual games here is that a majority of attendees are not locals. That means their revenue is not beholden to Tampa Bay trends or the Tampa Bay economy. They could arrive whether or not Tampa Bay could support baseball. Their presence is completely independent.

That said, Spring Training is still an interesting phenomenon. Thankfully, William Juliano of the Yankees-centric The Captain's Blog has tracked Spring Training attendance, especially in regards to Tampa, for a while. In his latest blog post, Juliano explores the impact of the World Baseball Classic on Spring Training. It is a great post and highly recommended.

Juliano posits that Spring Training does take a dive in years when the World Baseball Classic takes place. He links this to an early Spring Training schedule as well the lack of certain star players at the Spring Training locations as they commit to their national teams.

After looking at Spring Training and the Grapefruit League attendance, Juliano focuses on the Yankees Spring Training attendance. While I have looked at Yankees attendance in Tampa since 2005, Juliano looks since the opening of Steinbrenner Field in 1996. That was also the beginning of the Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Bernie Williams era Yankees and their long reign at the top of the American League East. That reign is currently over and with it also ends guaranteed spring training attendance.

Not only will Spring Training attendance decrease this year because of the World Baseball Classic, but Yankees spring training attendance will drop and not bounce back until the Yankees start to win again.

Again, check out Juliano's article on Spring Training attendance.