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GAME OVER: PawSox Attendance Fell By Nearly 40 Percent in the Past 13 Years

Monday, September 10, 2018

 

Floundering attendance over the past decade plus

The PawSox attendance has been in decline for the past few years, but the end of the year numbers for the 2018 season show a massive decline over the past decade-plus.

Since 2005, the PawSox went from first in the league to now near the bottom for attendance.  Overall, from 2005 to the 2018 season, the PawSox average pregame attendance fell 37 percent. The decline was five times larger than the league attendance decline. Overall, International league attendance fell 7.5 percent.

While the political blame game has taken hold in Rhode Island, with dueling political signs being seen around Rhode Island blaming Governor Gina Raimondo and Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello, the fact is that attendance numbers paint a dismal picture for the future of minor league baseball, especially in Rhode Island.

Steady Decline

In 2005, the PawSox led the International League with an average per game attendance of 9,561.

Five years later (2010), the PawSox attendance had dropped significantly. Instead of first in the league, the PawSox fell to fourth in the league with average per game attendance of 8,343.

The steady decline continued.

In February 2015, the PawSox new ownership group had announced that they were leaving Pawtucket — the team would move to Providence and fund their own stadium. PawSox officials told Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien that staying at McCoy or in Pawtucket was not even under consideration.

In 2015, the PawSox averaged just 6,572 per game and in ten years had dropped from best to ninth.

By 2018, the PawSox average per game attendance was just 5,982 and there are questions about the validity of those numbers.

As the political debate continued, the public continued to shun the team rather than rally around the franchise.   

Questions in Worcester

Dr. Robert Baumann, chair of the Department of Economics and Accounting at the College of the Holy Cross has questioned the proposed Worcester deal. In a recent opinion piece first published in the Telegram, he wrote, “In addition, consider an investment in professional baseball that won’t begin to pay off until the stadium’s projected 2021 opening. According to Minor League Baseball, per game attendance at International League games this year is currently about 4.9 percent lower compared to last year and 7.9 percent lower compared to ten years ago.”

“This trend is even more pronounced in Major League Baseball, where average attendance has fallen even faster but at least has the cushion of lucrative television deals. Usually, new stadiums come with a “honeymoon” period of about three years where attendance spikes above its long-run trend. I expect the same to happen here, but what happens after the honeymoon is over? Are we confident that baseball will be popular enough to repay these loans throughout their term?” Bauman added.

PawSox Reported Attendance is Questionable

In May 2018, GoLocal reported:

The Pawtucket Red Sox are inflating their attendance by as much as 300 percent. A GoLocal review of the reported attendance versus the actual number of paid in-stadium fans raises questions about the financial viability of the proposed financing scheme now being considered by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

The PawSox reported attendance to the International League was 2,328 for Tuesday night's game, and when pressed by GoLocal on the attendance number they were told by a PawSox spokesperson that the turnstile count was 1,444, but according to photos taken at McCoy, the attendance was approximately 400. PawSox officials refused to explain how the team's turnstile number could be 1,000 fans higher -- or more than 300 percent.

“At the Senate Finance Committee hearing held at URI, the team/city consultants testified that a new stadium would bring an average of 8,100 attendees to each game. That's the number bond payments are based on,” said former Pawtucket City Council President Henry Kinch.

“April-June until kids get out of school and evenings warm up, attendance is small. Always was and always will be. It should be noted that Apex location is on the water which will lower temperature even more.  If 8,100 is not met, the payback mechanisms will no doubt change, and once again the state could be on deck to pay,” added Kinch. “Also, the city's state aid is the first backup payment mechanism. My city certainly cannot afford to lose that money.”

 

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