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PawSox Attendance Inflated By As Much as 300%

Friday, May 04, 2018

 

McCoy Stadium, first baseline, section 1, May 1, 2018

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.

The “true” number of fans actually buying tickets is critical to the financial model that supports the proposed legislation now pending in the House of Representatives. The legislation already passed the State Senate. The number of tickets is one factor, but the number who attend is even more important as it is tied to the revenue generated by parking, food and drink, and souvenirs.

The PawSox’s ownership group is demanding nearly $40 million in public financing or they are threatening to move the team to Worcester, MA.

“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.”

Grandstands, 2nd inning of PawSox game, 2nd inning, May 1, 2018

The actual numbers of fans are critical to the viability of the stadium.

International League administrator Chris Sprague told GoLocal that the league does not have a policy as to how attendance is to be reported.

GoLocal requested comment from International League President/Treasurer, Randy A. Mobley, but GoLocal was told by Sprague in an email, “The International League office will not be commenting on your story.  That issue would best be discussed with team [PawSox] executives.”

According to the RI State Senate report, the financial model to fund the new stadium on the old Apex site is based on:

“Expected paid attendance of 597,000 in the first year of operations, 2020, with actual turnstile attendance near 400,000. Expected paid attendance of 569,000 in the stabilized year, 2024, with actual turnstile attendance near 381,000,” said the report — the numbers were based on assumptions taken from the Brailsford and Dunlavey (B&D) Study.

In 2017, the PawSox reported to the International League that the teams' attendance was 409,960 or 50 percent lower than what the study. The Senate assumes the new stadium will realize even higher than the study concluded, “attendance in 2020 of 597,000 estimated by Brailsford and Dunlavey (B&D) may be on the lower end of a range,” wrote the Senate report.

If the PawSox are constantly providing attendance numbers that are significantly higher than actual and the International League has no set standard for reporting attendance, it raises significant questions about the deal structure.

Left field, 2nd inning, May 1, 2018

While the PawSox could explain the difference between paid and turnstile, they could not answer between those that the team said entered the park and the number that were actually in the park.

“The paid attendance figure on Tuesday, as it is with all games, is higher than those fans who were actually in the ballpark, and yes, the discrepancy was a bit larger than normal on Tuesday.  But the paid figure is based on a number of factors that are too numerous and too complicated to detail here.   Until the kids get out of school, much of our promotional schedule is geared towards weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sundays) so weeknight crowds – depending on weather – can be smaller than the paid attendance figure we report with Minor League Baseball.  We certainly do appreciate those loyal fans who attend weeknight early-season games, and while the crowd was small on Tuesday they were enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy their McCoy Stadium experience," said the PawSox in a statement sent to GoLocal on Wednesday.

Right filed, BBQ/Picnic area, 3rd inning, May 1, 2018

Analysis

GoLocal has taken photos around McCoy previously after being contacted by readers claiming that the PawSox were over-inflating attendance number. GoLocal decided to wait until Tuesday night — a “perfect baseball night” to do a complete analysis. It was a 6:15 PM game start, nearly 70 degrees at the start beginning of the game, and it was one of the new PawSox promotion nights.

GoLocal took photos of all aspects of McCoy including the concourses starting in the 2nd inning through the fifth inning - making sure that fans had time to arrive and before fans started to leave.

Hand counts of the number of fans showed in the photos show less than 400, GoLocal rounded the number to take into the number of fans in the concourse and the “Hospitality Suites.” GoLocal was unable to get an exact count of the attendance in the suites and added 50 fans to the number.

 

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