Friday, April 14, 2006

Is the Miami market worth saving?

Over the next three days the Nationals will be taking their first trip of the season down to the southern tip of Florida to take on the struggling Marlins. And I don't just mean record, though this series will determine who takes over the basement of the NLEast since both teams are going in with only two wins.

The talk about moving the Marlins is still going strong. San Antonio has set itself apart from the pack, as the mayor is offering the team a $300m facility to be built in the city (though where the team would play between relocation and that facility opening is something I'd have to research). I'd actually take a bet of San Antonio versus the rest of the field should relocation end up happening.

But there's still the "if" and the "should" factor going on. There is an active push to keep the Marlins in south Florida, building in on or another of the suburbs or exurbs of Miami. The question I have is a simple one: Why?

Alright, I'll conceed that Miami is a great market. HUGE market. Anywhere that the Marlins moved would be a downgrade in market size, which would make this different than the move from Montreal to Washington DC. However, what good is market size if the people living there don't actually come to the games? Let's look at some numbers. Dolphin Stadium, in its updated 2006 baseball configuration, holds 36,331 (which is far less than the 47k it was confgured to hold for the Marlins opening season). Opening day, only 31k fans showed up.

Now, I know that a Nationals fan can't really talk about opening day, since RFK had as many total empty seats as Dolphin Stadium, though the RFK crowd in raw numbers was 4,000 people above the capacity of the Fish Bowl. Also, the major difference is that the Nats then went on to draw 30k and 25k the next two games, both of which are excellent attendance numbers for early April, especially considering the 25k game was the second day game that week.

The Marlins haven't been so lucky. Their next two games at home have failed to draw 9,000 people. Their total attendance to date has been 48,493 which isn't even enough to sell out some of the larger stadia in baseball. In fact, it doesn't even come close to the 55,255 that showed up to watch the Marlins play at Shea stadium this past Friday. The Mets have twice now had individual games outdraw the entire opening series in Miami. The Yankees have managed it twice, both times against the low-draw Royals. The Devil Rays are even managing to outdraw the Marlins, having not dipped below 10,000 in any game, and 40k in their opener.

I'll be interested to see a few things. First, whether three games at the Fish Bowl don't match the Nats opening day crowd. Second, whether the season Nats@Marlins attendance will even crack 100,000 sold tickets.

All in all, I think it boils down to one simple thing: A smaller market that supports its team is better than a huge market that doesn't. Even if San Antonio can only draw 12k per game, that's still better than the Marlins are looking to pull this year. It's time to start drafting the resolutions, and getting the ball rolling. Move that team.

Just...uh...wait until the Nats owner is decided, cause baseball can't multitask.

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