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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 10, 2009 8:01 AM. The previous post in this blog was Ethical Question of the Week. The next post in this blog is What were they thinking?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Branch III and me, cont'd

Yesterday, as noted at the end of this post, we asked the director of minor league baseball's Pacific Coast League, Branch Rickey III, how the Portland Beavers team could claim "attendance" of 2440 at a game where clearly fewer than 400 spectators showed up. He wrote back, tersely: "Most frequently, throughout the minor leagues, the announced attendances reflect 'tickets sold.'"

We couldn't resist a followup e-mail: "Thanks, that may explain the mystery. Does anyone from the league ever check the published figures? It's hard to imagine 2000 no-shows on a nice night." To which he responded: "Candidly, attendance figures are of much less significance to a league office than are audited financial statements which demonstrate far more accurately the performance of a franchise. Attendance is a much less accurate reflection of that aspect of a team. Thanks for asking."

Well, golly, Mr. Rickey, you're welcome.

But he's got a good point, and it turns on the old idea light. There have to be audited financial statements running around for the Paulson Portland sports empire. And somebody at Portland City Hall must have them. It could be time for a public records request. Anyone out there got any advice or ideas about that?

Comments (10)

You would think the bOregonian would of had those by now, but they are too busy turning out one puff piece after another on Limited Liability Paulson.

Nigel, you've been quiet on this. Does that mean you've been quietly collecting enough substantive info to blow the lid in a break-out expose`?

Jack -- What's worse than announcing "Tickets sold" rather than actual attendance? That would be announcing "tickets distributed" -- which many teams do and it allows you to count freebies you've thrown on a counter somewhere. And as far as "tickets sold" -- that's what the Trail Blazers have done for many years, it's nothing new.

In the same vein, how many season tickets are freebies given to sponsors (PGE) and advertisers?

I hate to be cynical about all those school kids on the field trip to see a baseball game the other day, but how many of the official attendance did they represent?

I mean it's not like they paid to attend, is it? They didn't even get to decide if they wanted the freebie. I bet if they had a choice between attending the game or going home, 90% of them would have taken off by the 4th inning.

Hey, there's a way we can fill the stands: Have the Department of Corrections bring in prisoners.

The more I think about this, the better that idea sounds. I mean, the Beavers aren't major league but they play the game pretty well, right? No one can argue that forcing a prisoner to watch Beavers baseball is a human rights violation, can they? We can make it part of the "3 Strikes" program.

This way we could keep PGE Park for both sports and fill them to the rafters with prisoners every game. If there's a need for temporary stands, you make the prisoners carry them in.

The government takes the money we'd be spending on the stadiums and slides a little to Merritt for the tickets, so he's making bucks.

Then Merritt sends a big picture back East with a huge rocking PGE Park crowd, and a note saying, "See, Daddy, I'm a success too!" Which is all this is really about anyway.

Of course, some would say it's not right. It's misleading. It doesn't really tell the story of what happened. So what? Neither did the TARP bailout.

Isn't Portland still on the hook for the revamping costs of PGE Park? If so, wouldn't there be considerable publicly available data for auditors and financial staff to examine on the subject of attendance?

Branch III's responses just reinforce the economic reality of pro sports: it's not the number of rear-ends in the seats that matter as much as the products that can be sold to those rear-ends. That's why contemporary MBL stadia are closed-system economic entities. Fenway, by contrast, being small and less able to isolate its attendees, brings economic benefits to its surrounding businesses. (This is not to suggest that a vendor cannot finance a large part of his college tuition.)

The eyeballs and ears that pro sports tv and radio broadcasts attract are less captive than those attached to the rear-ends in the seats, but they do bring advertising revenue from those who expect to move product far from the stadium.

The bottom line for the Paulson operation does not depend on attendance. The argument from Mr Leonard and his echoes in the Lents neighborhood that a minor league baseball stadium will stimulate economic activity and bring long-term returns to Lents is patently specious.

But specious arguments have too frequently prevailed among City Councillors not notorious for rationality.

As to the records, a request to the City Attorney should do it. Copy costs will be charged.

In my Comcast bill there was a voucher for 2 general admission tickets for the July 5th game. So how are they going to count those? Are they tickets sold even if no one shows up and claims them? I have until game time to claim them, so are they block out seats for this or taking a chance that no one will show up, then claim them as tickets sold. If they sent a offer to every customer they could have a "sellout" with no one showing.

Him: ...Must please Merritt...Merritt is my lord...Merritt is our god...

Her: How long do I get for lunch? Do we get free parking? what time is my first break? Is there free coffee? Do I get a piece of that raise?


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