The Springfield Cardinals may have ended its 2019 season with a loss, but more fans attended the final games than the season’s average attendance.
Dan Reiter, vice president and general manager for the Double-A baseball team in Springfield, attributes the boost to an end-of-season partnership with J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc. and Ozarks Technical Community College. The deal provided a free shuttle service to thousands of passengers during the last eight games of the season.
Shuttle drivers counted almost 4,900 passengers from Aug. 26 to Sept. 2, according to data from J. Howard Fisk Limousines.
Reiter said the Springfield Cardinals, which finished the season with 60 wins and 80 losses, averaged almost 4,700 fans per game before implementing the shuttle service. Attendance jumped to nearly 5,300 at the games on average over the final week of the season. Year-end attendance reached over 328,217 fans, bringing average home game attendance to 4,757. Last year, average home game attendance was roughly 4,900.
The addition of a free shuttle for fans was in response to parking fee hikes to $20 from $14 at nearby lots owned by New York-based JD Holdings LLC. Plaza Realty and Management Services LLC manages a lot across the street from Hammons Field and the Jordan Valley Car Park, located near the Springfield Expo Center.
Reiter said Cardinals officials had been seeking other options for fans upset by the parking hikes – while also working to improve flat year-to-year ticket sales.
“The new shuttle service turned out better than what we’d hoped,” he said. “I think people were ecstatic to see we were trying to make things better for fans and doing so out of our own pockets.”
Reiter declined to disclose financial terms of the deal with Fisk Limousines.
Fisk Limousines owner Howard Fisk said three or four shuttles were running each night.
“We didn’t know if it would be successful, but as we got busier, we kept sending more buses,” he said. “We felt like it needed to work for the community, and the Cardinals are great for the community.”
Shuttle drivers counted almost 200 passengers during the first night of service on Aug. 26 and nearly double the following evening. Reiter said fans started to notice the free shuttle service, which transported 921 individuals in total on Aug. 29, the final game between the Cardinals and the Frisco Roughriders, according to data from Fisk Limousines.
Fisk said the shuttles moved quite a few older fans who might have had trouble walking the distance from OTC in the August heat. Reiter said the parking fee hike had been the organization’s main complaint during the season, especially for those who are disabled.
It’s too soon to know if a shuttle service will be needed next season, Reiter said, adding if parking prices decrease, there won’t be a need for it.
Regardless, OTC officials plan to continue offering free parking for Cardinals fans.
“As long as the Cardinals want to keep parking in our lots, we’re happy to be good neighbors,” said Mark Miller, director of communications at OTC.
Reiter said the surface lot near Hammons Field, which holds 470 cars, was not at full capacity during the last week of the season. John Schulte, president of Plaza Realty and Management, did not return requests for comment.
Springfield Cardinals total ticket sales were about flat from last year. The inaugural year total of 526,630 is still the team’s annual record for tickets sold. The organization replaced season tickets this year with a membership program, and Reiter said there was a 10% increase in memberships sold compared with season ticket packages last year.
The organization now offers four different levels of membership that start with reserved seats for 2 games per month. Each plan includes several member benefits, including general admission access to every regular season home game through the new Bypass Gate, according to the Springfield Cardinals website.
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