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Springfield Cards front office confronts attendance dip

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The Springfield Cardinals’ front office is hoping new ticket pricing and programs – and hopefully, at some point, warmer, drier weather – will boost attendance at Redbirds games this season.

For the 2011 season, 88 percent of seats stayed the same or declined in price, said Springfield Cardinals Vice President/General Manager Matt Gifford. Tickets for some seats close to the field dropped to $10.50 from $18.50, and others behind the plate dropped to $15 apiece from $20, Gifford said, noting that some season-ticket holders with seats behind home plate saw ticket prices rise $1.50 per game.

Attendance figures from www.ballparkdigest.com and www.bizofbaseball.com show Springfield Cardinals recorded 2010 average game attendance of 5,333, down from 7,523 in 2005, the team’s inaugural season. The Texas League average for 2010 was 5,445.

As of May 20, the Cardinals had 22 home games and four rainouts, with average per-game attendance of 4,771, Gifford said.

His sales staff is marketing the team regionally, and he’s listening to what the fans want.

“The comments from fans are crucial to making sure we continue to get better,” Gifford said, noting that this season’s ticket pricing is based, in part, on fan feedback.
Cardinals Average Attendance


Sources: www.ballparkdigest.com; www.bizofbaseball.com; Texas League


New this year
In addition to ticket prices, Gifford outlined other new initiatives at Hammons Field this season, including Bistro Garden. Sponsored by Price Cutter, Bistro Garden is an area down the right-field line where 32 lounge chairs have replaced stadium seats, and schools and charities can secure seats at no cost and auction them as fundraisers. Gifford said Bistro Garden is expected to open as soon as a roof for the area is finished.

The team also is partnering with Urban Districts Alliance and downtown restaurants for Dinner and a Ballgame. With entrée purchases, diners at 11 downtown eateries can buy $5 vouchers for field box tickets at the games of their choice. The list of participating eateries is at www.itsalldowntown.com.

UDA Executive Director Rusty Worley said the organization has sold 600 vouchers to restaurants to sell to diners, and he expects interest will pick up as the weather improves. As of May 23, the Bistro Market had sold four of 50 vouchers for Dinner and a Ballgame, said Shellee Mavis, a Bistro Market accounting staff member. Bistro Market Store Director Laura Elwood said her business, heavy on foot traffic, depends on good weather – just like baseball.

“When it rains or it’s cold, business is slow. As the weather gets nicer, things pick up,” she said.

Season tickets and suites
There are now more than 2,000 season-ticket holders, a marginal improvement  from last year, Gifford said, noting that the March 29 exhibition game with the St. Louis Cardinals helped drive this year’s sales because only season ticket holders could qualify for guaranteed exhibition game tickets. When that game was cancelled, the Cardinals offered a goodwill gesture to fans: a ticket to a 2011 St. Louis Cardinals game at Busch Stadium or a 2011 Springfield Cardinals game at Hammons Field; and a seat at the St. Louis-Springfield make-up game at Hammons Field in 2012, which will occur along with a bonus game between the two teams.

Full season tickets range from $385 to $3,010 a seat, depending on seat location. Half-season plans range from $192 to $1,505; quarter-season plans range from $99 to $774; and a 10-game Champion Pack is $80 to $204.

An exchange feature – which kicks in at the quarter-season level, allows fans to swap tickets for another date if they have a conflict – and per-game rate discounts, persuaded Faith Mann to buy a quarter-season pass.

Mann, the lead noncredit health care instructor at Ozarks Technical Community College, said she and her husband Donald, who works for TeleTech, had given up their season tickets. because the cost was not at a discount to the per-game rate.

“This year, when I looked into it, I noticed that there was a discount,” she said, adding that she considered a Champion Pack but chose the quarter-season to get the exchange feature.

In addition to season tickets, Springfield Cardinals also rents its 24 suits for quarter-, full- and half-season packages and by the game. Gifford declined to disclose prices except for the single-game rate: $450 for 18 people. In 2005, Hammons Field’s inaugural season, the suites sold for roughly $37,000, according to Springfield Business Journal coverage.

Occupancy is difficult to calculate due to the variety of plans, but suite activity is about the same as last year, Gifford said.

St. John’s Hospital uses its full-season suite mainly for employee incentives, said Media Relations Director Cora Scott said.

“It’s for co-workers for a job well done,” she said. “Our co-workers love the Cardinals.”
Scott said the hospital’s foundation, and a few allied charities, also use the St. John’s suite.

The Champions Club opened in midseason 2010, and Gifford estimates that reservations are up this year, though he did not disclose specific figures.

This area, which seats 80 to 100 fans, offers the suite experience to smaller groups for a single game. A $45 ticket gives fans a seat in a suite they share with other groups, plus food and beverages. Gifford said the Champions Club is ideal for business entertainment: predictable expense without long-term commitment.

“In this day and age, everybody wants to be able to tell their boss, ‘I know how much this event is going to cost,’” he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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