10,000 fewer Detroit Tigers fans fill seats each game
'08 heartbreak, weak economy are blamed
BY JOHN GALLAGHER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Boosted by their World Series appearance in 2006, the Tigers drew more than 3 million fans to Comerica Park for the first time in 2007, and topped 3.2 million fans in 2008, when expectations ran high.
But the Tigers, with a disappointing finish last year, combined with a collapsing economy, saw a plunge in ticket sales this year. The Tigers are averaging about 28,000 fans per game this year, down from 38,000 per game at this time last season...
...The Tigers have troubles beyond about 10,000 more empty seats per game this year than last. Forbes magazine, in its annual ranking of sports teams' values, put the Tigers in 21st out of 30 Major League Baseball teams, with a total value of $371 million. That estimate marked a 9% decline in value from the year before.
Moreover, the Tigers have one of the most expensive payrolls in baseball, with first baseman Miguel Cabrera signing a $153-million, 8-year.contract last year, breaking the $75-million, 5-year contract signed by outfielder Magglio Ordóñez in 2005. Combined with lower ticket sales, the team is losing money this year, Forbes estimated.
Meeting that payroll is one reason owner Mike Ilitch raised ticket prices this year.
"With the auto companies imploding and discretionary income plummeting for many fans, Ilitch's strategy looks like it has backfired," Forbes suggested earlier this year
Being privately owned by the Ilitch family empire, the Tigers do not release hard financial data. But Gilette said that absent a second-half collapse by the team (which, in fact, has failed to generate much offense lately despite its first-place standing), the Tigers should muddle through this season. (Complete Story)