Tigers' ticket sales fall, Ilitch still spending
Are team finances now at full count?
By Bill Shea: (313) 446-1626, firstname.lastname@example.org
The division-leading Detroit Tigers have a large-market payroll with midsize market attendance that's off 22 percent from last year, something the team said it was prepared for but has baseball insiders speculating about the team's long-term financial health.
And to the delight of fans, if not economists, the team's owner is willing to spend even more to return to the World Series — even if it's a money-losing endeavor.
Attendance through last week's All-Star break was averaging 30,875 per game through 40 games at 41,255-seat Comerica Park compared to last season's 39,761 through the same number of home games.
At an average ticket price of $25.15, that roughly translates into $8.9 million less in ticket revenue so far this season.
The fan drop-off is attributed to both the team's last-place finish in 2008 and the subsequent national economic plunge that's been especially harsh in metro Detroit — vaporizing fans' disposable income and making them hesitant to buy tickets for a team three years removed from the Fall Classic.
Season ticket sales dropped to 15,000 this season from 27,000 a year ago.
“The attendance decline is out of step with the rest of the league. Attendance is down about 5 percent leaguewide, so the Tigers' 20 percent decline is not good,” said J.C. Bradbury, an economist and associate professor at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta. He's the author of The Baseball Economist and operates the baseball site www.Sabernomics.com ...
Economic news Web site Forbes.com, which tracks pro sports finances, reported that the Tigers had minus $26.3 million in operating income last season on revenue of $186 million. Gate receipts were $75 million.
“With his payroll and attendance and loss of corporate sponsorships, I think he's losing money,” said Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts and author of several books on the business of baseball...