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Smaller Crowds at the Ballpark

Megan Lynch
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - Baseball attendance nationwide has dropped over the last four years, but you can’t point the finger at the economy. 

One expert says the game only has itself to blame.

“Baseball just seemingly has lost excitement,” says Webster University Economics Professor and Forbes Sports Business Columnist Patrick Rishe. “There’s a lot of things that people get frustrated with.”

Rishe tells KMOX, a growing number of fans think baseball’s too slow, and too resistant to change when it comes to things like its replay policy.  “I think they really need to make some radical changes in the sport to get the fans to come back.”

He says it’s being beaten by the NFL — which grosses nearly three billion dollars more in revenue a year.  “Football is now America’s new past time and its been that way for at least the last five to ten years.”

Rishe says one of the reasons he thinks people get turned off so quickly from the baseball season, is because there’s a smaller percentage of teams that make the playoffs compared to other sports.   In St. Louis, says Rishe, “being behind the Brewers with six weeks left to go, a lot of people have probably given up on the season and are less likely to go.”

Plus, Rishe says there’s no doubt that St. Louis’ absence from the post-season has had some impact, “the longer you go without being in the post-season, it hurts attendance a little bit.”

In St. Louis, the average baseball crowd on game day has dropped by more than 4,000 fans over the last four years.  But Rishe says overall, the Cardinals fare much better than other clubs.  “We’re currently 8th this year, we’re selling 86-percent of our ticket inventory, so that’s still certainly very strong relatively speaking.”

While average game-day attendance is down at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals say that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Vice President of Ticket Sales, Joe Strohm, tells KMOX they prefer to look at yearly attendance, because every season has ups and downs.  “The biggest one would be the schedules that change every year, no two schedules are the same.  The second thing would be weather and how that plays into it.  The third one would be the opponents that are coming in.”

Strohm says this year the Cardinals will draw more than three-million fans for the eighth straight year, and the 15th time in the team’s history.  “When you consider that we’re the sixth smallest market in baseball and yet constantly we’re in the top six, seven in ticket sales, Cardinal Nation constantly overperforms.”

Strohm adds, many new ballparks experience a slight decline a few years down the road.  He says he believes the economy has also had an impact, not just on baseball, but on all types of sports and entertainment.

Copyright KMOX Radio

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