Texas Rangers can’t draw fans to Arlington
A couple of months ago I wanted to write a post touting the virtues of bringing another Major League baseball team into the market. I thought that downtown Dallas would make a fine home for the Florida Marlins. But that’s not what this post is about.
This post stems from the attendance at the Rangers’ second home game. The double header against the Baltimore Orioles saw a dismal 15,560 paid attendance. Talk radio (i.e. the Ticket) lamented the fact that a team playing in the 4th (or 5th) largest media market should never draw those types of numbers – even if the team sucks.
Yet as I thought about that opinion, I asked myself a question: What does media market have to do with attendance? Of course one would throw out the fact that you can translate media market stats into population, and I’d go to the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) for that. That nets us nearly 5,000,000 potential Ranger fans/game attendees for any given home game – right? WRONG!!!
In 2004, the Rangers had their last winning season and I lived in Grand Prairie, exactly 7 miles from the Ballpark. I, along with my family, attended about 12 games that season. The next year they didn’t play as well but we still went to about 10 games. If I wanted to go to a weeknight game, I could get in the car at 7 o’clock and make it for the bottom half of the 1st inning of a 7:05 start.
By the time the ’06 season came around we had moved to Dallas. And though the team’s record hasn’t helped, it’s a hike to get out to the game. In ’06 we didn’t catch one home game, and last year we only made one. Consequently, each of the last two years we have seen one road games (Houston) and one Rough Rider games (Frisco).
Let’s discount the fact that the team is abysmal right now. I think the Rangers are suffering from a Real Estate issue. And so here is my thesis: The Texas Rangers ARE indeed a small market team.
Only Tom Hicks could even imagine that those words would have any validity to them. Anyone who knows anything about baseball can vouch that it’s the most local of the major sports. There are 81 home games each season and with so many of them played during the week, the easier it is to get to the game the better.
I believe that a team counts on fans who work or live within 5 miles of the stadium for their core attendance. With eight home games a year, you can put a football team anywhere. It seemed like that when the ballpark was first built. The year The Ballpark opened, I drove up from College Station for 3 games. That was before Minute Maid was available and the novelty was still there. The thrill is (somewhat) gone.
Baseball depends on repeat business. The Rangers are probably of the belief that their potential customers live in Frisco, Garland, Burleson, and Roanoke. While possible game watchers do live in all of these locations, the chance that they will drive to see the Texas Rangers on a Wednesday night is minimal. Even if the team was good it would be a hassle.
Look at the teams who have built downtown stadium in the last 15 years – all of them with the exception of the Rangers. President George W. Bush and the previous owners forgot the most important rule of real estate LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
So here is the purpose of this whole exercise. Below, I have taken a selected number of stadiums and looked at the population within a 5 mile radius. This, I believe is the biggest problem that the Rangers face – outside of their roster and general manager.
Venue, City, 5 mile radius population
Yankee Stadium, New York City (2,502,621)
Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois (1,052,689)
U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, ILL (825, 341)
PNC Park, Pittsburg,PA (388,299)
Great American Ballpark Cincinnati (305,392)
Ballpark in Arlington, Texas (282,931)
Numbers gathered from GIS Planning, Inc.
Let me quickly hit a couple of points on Arlington:
#1 don’t pull the Glory Park card
The projected 2012 population in Arlington is 304, 598. Even with all the hopes and dreams folks are putting in Jerry World, a 10,000 person population surge would be massive and still not make the Rangers a big market baseball team.
#2 Broaden the radius dude
Yes if you broaden the population band to 10 miles, you get about 800,000 people. However 10 city miles doesn’t always constitute a quick trip.
#3 This doesn’t include work population
O.K. Let’s take The Hardline as an example. Imagine that today’s game against the Angels had a 12:05 start instead of 1:05. And by the way, the stadium was in downtown Dallas. They could have had an early show prep meeting, gone to the ballpark and caught most of the game, and headed over to the AAC in time for “Why Today Doesn’t Suck.” Mr. Generic Businessman could walk to the park and catch 4 inning over lunch and be back in time to catch up on his TPS report.
#4 Mass Transit
Baseball and mass transit go together like….well a hand and glove. How many times have I said that Arlington is the largest city in the United States without mass transit? If that doesn’t reek of small market, I don’t know what does.
So yes, I’m coming to the defense of Tom Hicks. You can’t charge big market ticket prices when you are playing in a small market town. The Ballpark in Arlington is one of the most beautiful stadiums in America. Unfortunately it’s not in one of America’s largest cities.