Thursday, April 26, 2012

Attendance starting to dwindle at Target Field

The first two seasons at Target Field have been very fruitful from the Twins perspective when it comes to selling tickets in their beautiful new ballpark. In 2010 and 2011, the Twins capped their season ticket sales and it was tough to find an open seat in any section with your naked eye for most of the season. Before a new stadium was built, the organization said they needed the cash flow involved with a new venue in order to stay competitive and the team raised their payroll significantly in the first couple years at Target Field.

Target Field was built and the fans across Twins Territory responded by coming out in droves to see their new gem nestled into downtown Minneapolis. The 2010 season saw the Twins fighting for a division title and they finished the year with one of the best records in the American League. Nothing sells tickets like having a winner on the field so the first year at Target Field was very successful. Over 3 million fans attended games at Target Field in 2010 and this was only the second time the franchise had been able to reach this plateau.

With the Twins coming off a successful 2010 and most of their core players still intact, there was still a high demand for Twins tickets in 2011. Season ticket sales were renewed at a high level and for the second year in a row, the team had to cap their sales on season tickets. Unfortunately the performance on the field was far less than in 2010. So as the season went on, there were far less people occupying the seats at Target Field (even if the seats were technically sold). For the second year in a row, the Twins crossed threshold of 3 million fans. By the end of the year, there were plenty of open seats to be found across the ballpark.
During the offseason, the Twins made a variety of changes after Terry Ryan was reinstated as the general manager. One of the biggest changes was scaling back the payroll to get it closer to the $100 million mark. By the end of the 2011 season, the overall value of the team's payroll was around the $115 million mark. The front office knew that honeymoon period of fans coming out to Target Field to see the stadium was over. After a rough season, it was going to take a little bit of time to win the fans back over and bring them back to Target Field. The team planned accordingly and so far this season, their estimates seemed to be correct.

The Twins first three home series of the year should be games that are big draws for fans. The Angels, Rangers, and Red Sox are all top notch teams in the American League with star players at multiple positions. Games like this usually makes it easy to fill the seats but a person can clearly find large sections of tickets that remain unsold. Early season weather can always be sketchy so this might keep some fans away. But on a beautiful night like last night with a top opponent in town, the crowd should have been higher than it was by the time everyone filtered into the ballpark.

After nine games at home, the Twins have just crossed the 300,000 mark for attendance this season. The team has averaged 33,357 fans in their home contests but that mark is helped by the over 39,000 fans from the home opener. Besides the first home game of the year, the Twins highest attendance was the 35,854 fans at the first Saturday game of the year versus the Rangers. With a slow start by the team and some poor starting pitching performances, it is hard to imagine this number improving significantly in the coming months.

From my perspective as a season ticket holder for the Twins, it was very easy to sell tickets for the first two years at Target Field. I could have multiple seats for all 81 home games and still find a way to sell tickets to friend, family, and on StubHub. In 2010, I lived over five hours away from Target Field and I was still able to have the full sheets of tickets for all 81 home games. In the second season at Target Field, it was still very easy to sell tickets to acquaintances and on the internet. But by the last month of the season, it was hard to even give the tickets away. The demand to go and watch a team fighting to stay away from 100-losses was not out there in the Twin Cities.

Target Field is still one of the most beautiful venues at which to watch a baseball game. The food selection is amazing, the sightlines are excellent, and the ballpark experience is second to none. For the team to get back to selling out games, it is going to take having a winning team on the field. It seems like that might be a tough request in 2012 so it will be interesting to see how attendance fairs as the weather starts to warm up in the summer months.


Anonymous said...

Most importantly the announced attendance is not the number of attendees @ the game. It is the number of tickets sold to the game.

mark said...

You aint seen nothin' yet. We had 6 season tickets for the first 2 years. When it can to renewing our tickets for this year we told the Twins sales rep that we wanted $600 in food coupons before we would renew. He said "No Way." We then declined to renew our seats. You can now buy a $34 ticket for $5 if you wait outside till the top of the second inning. We lo longer buy food or beer at the game either. Twins "fudged" up, Big Time.