Last year the Bend Elks took the attendance title with an average of 1,574, just edging out Victoria but they have dropped off to 1,288 this year. Not surprisingly, the Kitsap BlueJackets are at the bottom with 490 which is actually UP from last year's average of 416 - must be a few more siblings/girlfriends this year. Kelowna hovers at 819 this year but the biggest drop is Klamath Falls who have a 2014 average of just 842 while last year they came in at 1,278. All other teams are somewhere around that 1,000 to 1,300 range.
While I do not profess to have the analytical skills of a Paul DePodesta, I have listened to these numbers and tried to hear what they are saying. Below is a summary of facts and opinions based on what they told me in their admittedly small sample size:
- The 'Cats have had nine weekend/holiday dates so far this year and twelve weekday dates, compared with twelve weekend and nine weekday at the same time last year
- The weekday average is DOWN marginally by 40 fans per game this year at 1,331
- The weekend/holiday average is UP significantly by 383 fans per game this year at 1,764
- So far, a grand total of 2,930 more fans have been to the park this year so overall, a very nice increase
- A big part of the increase was due to the Canada Day games which drew well over 2,000 fans each, a feat that, excluding opening day, did not occur in 2013 at all
- Victoria has the biggest seating capacity of all WCL stadiums by far, with (if you include the grandstand) 4,427. The smallest stadium in terms of capacity is a tie between Wenatchee (who fills it almost every night) and Kitsap (who does not) at 1,200
- Promotions seem to play a big role in attendance with the baseball card day drawing 2,411 fans this year and both Bobblehead nights also drawing well. Fireworks always pull in big numbers. So the lesson here is, good promotions equals good numbers.
- Fridays have been the biggest days for attendance at an average of 1,889. Fridays were also the biggest day last year
- Sundays are really not as big a draw as you may expect, probably because most of these are day games and Victoria has many other activities competing for people's attention, especially in good weather (i.e. summer). People tend to enjoy the outdoors, mill around the inner harbour, take kids to their own baseball/soccer/MMA games, etc. So while the "matinee" looks good on paper and works for some people, it is typically an average draw. Maybe a hot promotion on Sundays is the go?
- Attendance turned the corner on Canada Day with the post-holiday average (excluding the Holiday itself) sitting at 1,546 compared to 1,295 prior
- Last year attendance took a serious dive a few games after the All Star break with weekends peaking at around 1,250. This was about the time that the 'Cats fell into their listless streak and playoff hopes dimmed. It will be interesting this year to see if dwindling playoff hopes has an impact in the final 2 series
- With the recent mass exodus of pitchers that was announced today (leaving the team as of today are Angel Delgado, Sean Watkins, Quintin Torres-Costa and Mark Manrich), it will be interesting to see fan reaction. It will also be interesting to see how a team copes with such a dent to their staff - HMH...can you pitch???
So why is attendance up so much this year, even when there were more weekend dates by this time last year? The Canada Day games are one reason, but that's only a couple of games. The HarbourCats have done a lot more "awareness" advertising this year so I believe more people are aware of what is going on, especially for the promotional games. As well, the savvy 'Cats staff is making a lot more use of social media by posting, tweeting more, sending summary emails right after games, etc. This is itself also increases awareness and support for the club. Now sometimes the tweets are a bit too frequent for my liking, but it is nothing compared to the Yakima Valley Pippins who seemingly tweet every at bat.
I'm sure they also benefit from the fact that this is the second year for the team and more people are generally aware, but they did avoid the sophomore jinx and did not succumb to fan apathy. And then there are the aforementioned promotions. The 'Cats kept the good and added a shot of originality to keep fan interest and draw them to the yard.
Last year we had a reader do some statistical analysis on the correlation between attendance and weather which I, with my limited ability, did not attempt here. Martin...are you out there???
In any case, the net message is a good one. The novelty of the first year has parlayed into a very nice second year, which means baseball should be around in Victoria for a few more years. We can all help this out - crazy promotions or not - by coming out to the yard in these final two home stands to give our lads a well-deserved send-off back to their college teams.