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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another lonely old night for Little Lord Paulson

Yesterday we reported (and illustrated with a photo) the lackluster turnout for the Portland Beavers game on Monday night. The official attendance was only 1,981, and the photo showed a lot fewer actual butts in the seats than that. We wondered how this team could come anywhere close to meriting a brand new, taxpayer-financed stadium that would cost tens of millions of dollars -- at least $55 million, and probably more.

Last night, they drew even fewer fans -- the official count (likely inflated) was 1,633. So far this season, over five home games, including three weekend games and a home season opener, and with pretty good weather, the official attendance has averaged 3,874 fans per game. By tomorrow night, that number will be quite a bit lower -- probably somewhere around 3,300.

At 6% interest, it would take about $4 million a year to pay off a $55 million construction debt over 30 years. (And that's with no second mortgage for 30 years to pay for upgrades or other renovations.) If 3,300 fans showed up for each of 74 home games every year, each fan would have to contribute something like $16.38 on every visit just to pay off the bonds for the new stadium. Even the most expensive single-game tickets for the Beavers are $15.50 apiece. The average ticket sold is probably more like $12. You figure out where the money is going to come from to pay the mortgage.

Comments (10)

Last year's total official attendance for the Beavers was 392,512. Over 72 games, that's 5,452 fans a game. Which seems inflated. And it still works out to each fan having to pay better than $10 a ticket just to make the mortgage payment.

To be fair, last night did have a home playoff game for the Blazers. Unlike the last few years, the Beavers are competing with post-season-Blazers for their audience.

That being said, there's no reason to expect attendance to spike upward this year. Nothing against the Beavers - just seems like the same product as last year, so no reason for fans to flock to the stadium. I don't see the numbers justifying a new stadium.

OK, I'm going to recalc since Sam and Randy are always saying Paulson will pay for all of this.

Paulson takes on $35M (to buy team), $80M (to pay back re-do), $30M (for existing PGE Park debt) = $145M debt. At 6% for 30 yrs = $10.4M/yr.

Beavers draw 400K. MLS = 15 games * 20K = 300K. Total attendance = 700K.

$10.4M/760K = $14.85/ticket for debt.

Add in the 160 new jobs * $50K/yr = $9M or $12.86/ticket.

So just these two items (debt and new jobs) are $27.71/ticket. Haven't added in existing payroll or profit. That's a lot of t-shirts to sell. Hmm, maybe Paulson is not that much smarter than Randy or Sam.

Quick - someone send Randy Al Gore's Algebra 101 in the Age of Global Warming book.

I remember going to Beaver games in the early 90's. A friend of mine was the Beaver Marketing Manager. He would come by weekly with a big stack of free tickets and encouragement to distribute them. I don't believe I have ever paid for a seat. I doubt they have ever filled Civic Stadium (PGE Park). They are a minor league team people. This is not real competitive baseball but a reasonably entertaining opportunity to watch some pretty good ball players train for the bigs. The goal is not to win games but to groom players for the parent club. It will never be any more "popular" than it is right now.

Dean makes the point I was going to make--is the attendance figure above the number of people who sat in a seat, or the number of people who bought a ticket? I would imagine for a minor league game that at least 20% of the people in the park did not pay cash for the ticket, which jacks up the average that those who DO pay for the ticket would have to spend.

They are probably counting all of the concessions workers, ushers and players in the total. And then adding a significant number of fake people for good measure.

Why base season attendance projections on the first few games of the season? The Beavers averaged 5,478 in 2007 and 5,607 in 2008. Those figures give us a much better indication of how many people are likely to attend games this season. As to whether there's reason to believe the numbers might increase, team execs claim (emphasize claim) full-season ticket sales are up 10 percent and partial-season ticket sales are up 15 percent. Additionally, they say the decrease in April and May games, when attendance is typically lower, from 33 to 24 will help boost attendance, as will publicity surrounding the AAA All-Star game coming to town in July. We'll see about all that.

Of course, even if average attendance does inch over 6,000, as the team hopes, is that enough for the deal to make sense? And what is a realistic figure in a new spiffy ballpark? Maybe 7K a game? Would that be viable? Anyway, the larger point that the city has no business subsidizing wealthy guys and their ball teams stands no matter what....

The only way a team can know attendance numbers is by counting how many people actually walk through the door. That doesn't tell them wether the person got in for free or paid.

But Professor, what about the millions of eager Portlanders that will be moving here over the next few years? Won't they be attending too?

Go by streetcar!

Hey Jack!

I run at the Lincoln High track three-four times a week and you are dead on. There are maybe a 1000 plus folks when I head past en route to do laps--7:45 of late. When I head back--near 9 p.m., the stands are empty. Last night was pathetic. MAYBE a couple hundred who stayed. It's been like that all week, on non-playoff nights. And other than opening night, i haven't heard the big cheering crowds of late while I'm doing laps. Kinda miss that noise actually.

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