Thoughts and pictures of my local minor league baseball team the New York Penn League Connecticut Tigers; a Detriot farm team. We'll still be looking at former Navigators/Defenders players along the way....

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Attendance woes in Harrisburg from their...

newspaper 5/4/08 the Patriot-News:

Acouple of things quickly become obvious if you've spent any time watching the Harrisburg Senators at Commerce Bank Park this year.

First, fan attendance is dismal. Over the first 12 home dates, the average crowd at the City Island ballpark ranks significantly lower than any of the previous 21 seasons after the Class AA baseball team returned to the Eastern League in 1987.

Second, first-year general manager Randy Whitaker relentlessly walks a path around the stadium, chatting up fans and employees, desperately seeking answers for the questions about low attendance figures.

Disgruntled fans, many of whom have been attending Senators games for 15 to 20 years, are emerging. But they're not spending their dough at the Aluminum & Concrete Fantasyland.

The club's new front office, including majority owner Michael Reinsdorf, vice president Bill Davidson and Whitaker, all of whom are in their first seasons with the Senators, collectively decided on taking the franchise in a new direction and boast a decidedly different approach than their predecessors.

The city of Harrisburg previously owned the team, selling it to Reinsdorf's group for $13.25 million after the 2007 season. Reinsdorf quickly added Davidson as a consultant, and, soon after, longtime general manager Todd Vander Woude and assistant Mark Mattern were out in favor of Whitaker, a former TV executive with no prior experience in minor league management.

That's not to say this new regime was doomed from the beginning, nor does it mean attendance won't grow exponentially in the coming weeks and months, making these early woes all but forgotten.

But both sides -- fans and management -- need to join forces soon if the South Division-leading Senators want to play home games in front of respectable audiences.

As of now, they're miles apart.

"The perception is that the new management is all fluff with nothing behind them, no experience in baseball," said Carl Fritz, a season-ticket holder for more than 15 years.

If the [general manager] change was a financial issue, it is understandable. Ownership has the right to do what they want. But they lost 25 years of personnel contacts."

Fans like Fritz and Norm Bilodeau, a season-ticket holder since 1988, as well as numerous others who remain anonymous, point to a number of reasons for the weak attendance.

Among them:


Higher food prices but lower quality that accompanied the addition of Sports Service as the concessions leaders;


Fewer amenities for season-ticket holders, who no longer utilize their own entrance and no longer receive promotional giveaways if they're not among the first in line;


More frustrated employees who, fans speculate, are upset over a loss of "employee food discounts," bitter about the forced or voluntary removal of previous employees, or both.

Said one fan: "I took a stroll around the stadium and noticed the friendliness that exists between staff and fans is gone.

"The fact that good, quality baseball is being played in [independent-league cities] Lancaster and York, Harrisburg must make it possible to catch the attention of the fans and attract them back to City Island, or it will be a desolate place."

Fritz was particularly critical of the food and Sports Service, which the Senators utilized years ago before dropping the company and running solo under the direction of now-departed Steve Leininger through 2007.

"Sports Service was a disaster when they were at the park before," Fritz said. "Supposedly food quality was upgraded? Give me a break. How do you upgrade a hot dog?

If I want a gourmet meal, I will eat before the game. Ballpark food is intended to be affordable to those in attendance. We do not get many doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs to these games.

"And you do not change what was working as a moneymaker with something you are not going to sell. If you want to sell 10 super dogs instead of 100 hot dogs, go ahead."

By Patriot-News count, the price increased by 25 cents to a dollar for at least 12 different food items.

Whitaker and Davidson are certainly aware of the lackluster attendance, but they're confident the numbers will change.

"We believe that at the end of the season, more people will visit Commerce Bank Park than last year," Davidson said. "We have a very strong promotional lineup with very heavy media promotion behind our events."

Davidson added that announced attendance figures are deceiving, saying previous years' statistics were bumped by a large number of free tickets provided to sponsors, a practice the new regime does not support.

"I anticipate we'll have more people actually in the park in 2008, but announce a lower attendance figure than 2007 because of our approach to free tickets," he said.

An issue important to both sides is promotional giveaways. In years past, the Senators supplied fans with upwards of 40-45 giveaways. This year, that number is in the high teens.

"I just received some research that showed giveaways have among the least marginal affect on game attendance compared to other game features across the country," Whitaker said. "And the giveaways we have are higher quality -- fewer of better instead of a lot of lesser."

Regardless, it's a work in progress for both sides.

"This year is a building process," Whitaker said. "I don't believe we're in any worse position now than the team was in previous seasons. Our ticket redemption rates are markedly up this year over last. That means that people who purchased are actually coming at a higher rate.

"That will only get better as the weather progresses, schools let out and our significantly increased marketing efforts continue to spread the word."

Whatever the reasons, the on-field product is, so far, better than it's been in years. The onus rests with those in charge to find a way to get folks in the stands to support the efforts of the team.

GEOFF MORROW: 255-8250 or gmorrow@patriot-news.com

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9 Comments:

Blogger LC said...

CT is dead last in average attendance. It's a shame more people don't come out. There is three guys playing for the San Francisco Giants that were here just last year. It's not just the Giants prospects who come through, it's also the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, ad a slew of other teamsYou can get tickets for five bucks a piece, they sell dollar sodas, two dollar hot dogs, and its only 2 bucks to park your car. So you're looking at 40 or 50 bucks for a family of four.

Lou needs to get some college intern who is good with youtube to shoot a little promo video and post it. Hopefully someone will start shaking the trees and put some fans in the stands.

1:07 PM

 
Blogger LC said...

by the way, I'm hittin' the NB/Bowie games tonight and tomm (day game) if anyone wants to go, otherwise I'll see you guys over the weekend.

1:13 PM

 
Blogger thehondohurricane said...

I've been tracking attendance for April, not only in the EL, but other AA leagues and one or two AAA leagues. Generally, it seems sparse all over and I'm sure the economy and energy costs are being blamed. You can't point at the weather, at least in the EL. So far it's been decent, albeit cold.

But I've noticed something else in the EL this year; the lack of any real hot position playing prospects. No David Wrights, Ellsbury's, Joe Mauers, Steve Pearce,or other can't miss types. If I'm right (I'm not a prospect guru) this will hurt over the season.

LC correctly points out, the Defs att. is last and will end up last, and the team will soon be uprooted by the absentee owner. (I ain't referring to Bill Dowling)

6:31 PM

 
Blogger tbones613 said...

Yeah last year I saw Asdrubal Cabrera, Jair Jurrjens and Buchholz. Not to mention all of the former players that are now coaches in EL. I think its a great value and can't understand the poor attendance. When they were the Navs they used to put a sign out on 32 near Holmgren's on the day of the game...with time and opponent. I haven't seen that recently...that gets maybe 20-50 walk-ups every game.

8:09 PM

 
Blogger LC said...

Well the B Mets will be in town this weekend, and they have solid offensive prospects-

Evans, Murphy, Carp, Peterson- not to mention the "experts" #1 Mets prospect pick, Fernando Martinez.


Great points about the coaches TBones, we have Bob Stanley, how awesome is that? The Steamer was nice enough to sign a "congrats" ball for me to give to a friend who had a baby, and it sits in his basement "Red Sox" bar. Prior to that he just had banners and pictures hanging, so it was the first actual piece of memorabilia- he was wickedly pumped when I gave it to him. We grew up watching the Steamer on WSBK channel 38 in Boston and the Yanks on WPIX channel 11. It's great that through my minor league baseball travels I've been able to say hello to the likes of Bob Staley and John Mayberry, they were the guys we pretended to be while playing wiffle ball as kids- legends as far as I'm concerned. I also get a kick out of seeing guys coaching in the EL whose autographs I got when they played in AA and still have- Tom Filer and Mike Griffin to name a few.

Area folks should get their kids over to Dodd Stadium, it makes memories that last a lifetime.

12:13 AM

 
Blogger greg8370 said...

great posts lc!

6:06 PM

 
Blogger greg8370 said...

tbones613 comment sent me to the EL team rosters and you know there are plenty of teams that have former MLBB players on them:

Akron--Lee May
B-Mets-John Stearns
RockCats--Floyd Radford
FisherCats--Dave LaRoche
R-Phils--Tom Filer
Trenton--Scott Aldred

9:35 PM

 
Blogger Jackline said...

Hi Nice Blog .If your time is less valuable, then it is probably less worthwhile to employee time attendance.

12:13 AM

 
Blogger Rakesh said...

Time attendance system is generally used by corporates to keep up to date record of their employees. The System counts the log in time, log out time and total working hours of employee. System also keeps the track of employee's leave which he/she has taken and at the end of month System gives the total no of leaves and working days. Time Attendance System is available with various facilities like Finger Print Access, Face Recolonization,Card Reader.Time Attendance System is very helpful to improve levels of efficiency of staff.

1:52 AM

 

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