Monday, July 28, 2014

Bums in seats

The Victoria HarbourCats lead the league in attendance this year and barring an all-out boycott, they should hang on to this mark and end the year leading the WCL. After 21 home dates, the 'Cats are averaging 1,516 awesome fans per game which is up from last year's average of 1,377 over the same number of dates. The next closest team (with one more home date played) is Medford at 1,325 a game and with six more home dates (both weekend series'), the 'Cats should come through on top.

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.


  1. Gus and I were talking about this last game too... The fan base seems to have changed this year as well. In 2013, the crowd seemed "younger"? The demographic consisted of a lot more 19-25 year old's on their way out on the town, partying with buddies, girls night out, etc. This year, the average game-day crowd is a little older. Lots of families too, but more middle-age couples and older baseball fans rather than what I would have considered the key demographic...

    So says the mid 40's guy who brings his wife and kids to every game ;-)

  2. Our observations are purely anecdotal, but it seems to me that the 19-29 demographic has largely abandoned the HarbourCats. I remember a significant contingent of young people at the Seals games and last year at 'Cats games. Not so much this year. The Bellingham Bells have had great success with $2 beer nights on Tuesdays. I have been pushing for a Thirsty Thursday at RAP for years. maybe time to give it a shot?

  3. In our section 11, there have been plenty of 19-29 groups attending, although that is mostly on Friday and Saturday nights. It is nice to see that age group coming out. In fact, one of the young men won the 50-50 draw a couple of games ago. That will bring them coming back. I am over 65 but come to games because I love baseball and have been coming to RAP since I was 2 years old.

  4. The gummint says you can go as low as $3 for a tin of beer, but our beer nights seem fixed at $5. I'm not a huge baseball fan (more my wife's speed and I go with her) but I very much enjoy the daytime weekend games. I find in the evening that things can drag (don't get me started on extra innings) and even on warm days if a wind gets up, RAP can get very cold after 2100 hrs. Some food cart/truck vendors have pulled out because they had more competition than they were led to expect and people tend to eat before evening games. A shout-out for the excellent WiFi connectivity at RAP, via ShawOpen. Just a few disconnected thoughts.

  5. I think more people are becoming aware of what a great entertainment deal HarbourCats' games are. Seat availability is good and the prices, both for tix and the food & drink are excellent (and the food itself is outstanding for a sporting event). Plus what's not to like about watching striving young athletes play the great game of baseball in a beautifully manicured RAP? Heck, even the hecklers--and there are some very good ones at RAP--are fun to listen to, as long as its the opposing team they're cutting up!

  6. Just a random thought...wonder if a 6:30 start time might be considered and possibly bring more folks to the park on evenings? Makes for an earlier end to games (most nights), so on weekday nights, parents don't mind staying to end of game with kiddies. Also means the temperature will stay warmer in later innings. Perhaps might mean more folks will partake of eating at food trucks or concessions since they may not have time to eat before coming (see above comment)...but that means more $$ so perhaps food trucks need to be a little cheaper?

    I know it means folks may be more rushed to get to games after work and such, but the earlier time may be enticing to many others.

    And from a purely selfish media point of view, it means I have better light for much longer when photographing games (It gets dark quickly after June 21st!), PLUS I can file my stories by midnight (maybe) instead of much later than that! I am sure the TC guys would also like an extra half hour to get their photos or file their final stories too!

  7. Good ideas, Christian. I'd be all over a 6:45 start instead of 7:11. Of course, the front-office would need to find a sponsor with 6:45 in their business name! ;-)

  8. I'm 100% behind an earlier start time...I know the sponsorship thing gets in the way but I think a 6:30 start time would be outstanding. Then, even with a 3 hour game, you are out of there at 9:30. Maybe you could work 7:11 in some other way...on Thirsty Thursdays you could abide by the governmental commandment and sell 2 beers for $7.11?

  9. It's an enjoyable, affordable night out. It's nice that RAP has the food trucks now,instead of waiting in line to get a hot dog that spent the winter at Memorial Arena! I enjoy the games,so does my daughter,appreciate the skill of the players!

  10. An earlier start is high on my wish list too. Really liked the variety of food trucks at the beginning of the season. Without the trucks the food choices are very limited. I've spoken to some of the food truck operators who say are loosing money because of the fee they have to pay up front and they won't be back because of this for the remainder of the season. Could the fee not be renegotiated to keep the variety at the park?

  11. Lots of very warranted support for the food trucks...FYI there is a Victoria Food Truck Festival that is happening for the last time this Friday. I went last week before the game and it was unbelievable how good "truck food" has become. Options are amazing (including organic, gluten free, etc.) so check it out before the game - Think of it as a "scouting trip" for next year. Oh yeah, and there is a beer tent too.

  12. An earlier start time, especially for week night games, would be awesome!! The games often go too late for me to bring my youngest daughter as she simply can't stay up that late so we have definitely skipped some games that we would otherwise have attended had it been an earlier start. I like the idea of a 6:30 pm start time! And what about some afternoon weekday games? Kids are out of school all summer looking for entertainment and the occasional "nooner" game during the week would be great!