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Where is everyone?

Posted at 8:07 AM on June 3, 2005 by Bob Collins (13 Comments)

When sitting in the cheap seats the other night at the Twins game, the strangers in front of me -- not from this area -- turned and said, "how many people do you think are here -- about 8,000?" It was a good guess obviously born of judging these things from years of visiting ballparks.

"Yeah, I'd say about 8-9,000, but it'll be reported as about 15,000," I replied.

Sure enough. It was reported as 15,494. At least the Twins had the good sense not to play the "guess the attendance game" on the scoreboard.

I'm not saying the Twins lie about attendance figures, mind you, but I am saying there's at least a grain of truth to this: Minneapolis-St. Paul is not a good baseball town (errr... towns). I'm not saying it's a bad baseball town. But it's not a, well, baseball town.

In fact, the the Twins have the third-worst per-game attendance of any team in baseball with a winning record. The bottom rung is occupied by the Chicago White Sox. At least they have an excuse. You have to dodge gunfire to get into that park. The other team is the Florida Marlins and, face it, would you give up your entertainment options in Miami to go watch the Marlins if Dontrelle Willis weren't pitching?

Through yesterday, the Twins are averaging about 24,000 fans per game; good for 18th place in baseball, and about 1,000 more than they averaged last year -- a year in which the Twins front office regularly wrung their hands over the team's inability to put fannies in the seats.

And this is for a team, where as team president Dave St. Peter notes, "it's pretty hard to pay full price for a ticket."

And this'll kill Minnesotans, who love surveys and stories that project the Gopher State's place in the world. In all of Major League Baseball, the Twins are the worst draw on the road. They average 19,213 fans per game on the road.

What's going on here?

Comments (13)

I'm not afraid to say it -- Minnesotans are cheap.

Also, this is a Vikings town and always will be, even though they've done nothing but break our hearts.

Posted by daveZ | June 3, 2005 9:56 AM

Maybe, Minnesotans aren't really into the whole "family values" thing as they say they are. Maybe they really are attracted to felons, and drunks, and drug addicts.

You look at the two franchises and there's no comparison in character or -- for that matter -- the people who watch 'em. I'm not saying that most of the Vikings aren't decent people, or most of the fans aren't. But this ain't Cincinnati either.

Makes you wonder if there really was any sense to getting rid of Moss.

Posted by Bob Collins | June 3, 2005 10:18 AM

While watching a Twins game a month or so ago, Dick Bremer actually had an interesting observation (I guess that covers his quota for the year).

He pointed out that before this current run, the Twins had never had four consecutive winning seasons. While the Vikings won division titles basically ever year during the 70s, when both franchises were in their formative years in this state. That could partly explain this area's obsession with the Purple.

You're right though, when it comes to class the Twins win in a landslide.

Posted by daveZ | June 3, 2005 11:21 AM

I heard that and went nuts (more nuts) partly because I thought he said the Twins had never had back-to-back winning seasons. I think I wrote about it on this site here somewhere.

But apparently he's chosen "four" as the number needed. It's interesting, but it might be a stretch.

I think it has more to do with football being more popular at lower levels. Nobody shows up for the old high school baseball game. But football is another story.

In the northeast, footbal isn't that big of a deal. It's popular in high school, but not rabidly popular.

I wonder if maybe Minneapolis-St. Paul isn't closer to being a San Diego where baseball is concerned, than it is being a Boston, or New York.

I know it's nowhere near St. Louis. Man, I love going to Busch Stadium. Those people are the smartest baseball fans I've ever seen.

Posted by Bob Collins | June 3, 2005 2:07 PM

I think the problems are more than that... with the population explaosion in the cities in the past 20 years plenty of people who have no memory of the 70's experience came and settled. Oddly, many people my age (early 20's) are die-hard Twins fans, owing to two World Series championships before i turned 12.

However I think the problem is many fold.
1. We only get a small allotment of beautiful days each summer, and yesterday was too beautiful to skip work and go sit inside to watch baseball. Had we been playing outdoors, i suspect 25-35,000 would have attended.

2. i think many minnesotans are, lets face it, bad fans. whether it's the twins, vikings, wolves, gophers (i exempt the honeymoon period Wild)... minnesota fans only care to front-run, and as the Twins and Wolves have shown recently, fans lose interest with 'happy to be there' attitudes. The trouble the Twins face is that there is a perception that they can win their division, but it never goes any futher than that. and for minnesota's fickle fans... that's not enough. they dont show up to boo like philly fans... they just ignore you.

3. the twins play a long season wherin one game may or may not matter that much. the vikings have only 8 home games, the twins, 10 times that many. i think fans here frankly would rather follow from a distance, complain about the cost of a game they have never been to, and feel content to cheer loudly when they win, but ignore them the rest of the time.

Posted by Brandon | June 3, 2005 2:17 PM

We need an outdoor stadium. It dark in Minnesota 6 months out of the year. When it is nice out, it is hard to justify sitting inside of a dome. I'd rather go out fishing or gardening and listen to the game on the radio. But, whenever it rains, which has been a lot this past month, I am at the dome with bells on!

Posted by Cari Ness | June 3, 2005 2:55 PM

The Dome is the worst possible excuse for a baseball stadium, which is the sole reason i haven't been to a game in 4 years. Well, here at least. I have gone to games in Oakland, Milwaukee and New York, but why would I want to sit in that bubble for three hours, with no sun, no fresh air, no wind, nothing to look at? The place is a joke. I am finally breaking down to see the Yanks this weekend, but only because it's the Yanks and my kids asked me. It's definitely not because I want to spend a Sunday afternoon indoors in June.

Posted by Marc Friedman | June 3, 2005 3:07 PM

I'm going on Sunday. I have a son who, as fate would have it, grew up a Yankee fan.

I think, actually, the situation with attendance is multi-fold. We were just kicking it around in the newsroom.

One of the things is that the Metrodome just isn't a place where people want to be seen. You look at the new ballparks and much of the attendance is becuase people just want to BE there, at least until the novelty wears off and it's more important to BE somewhere else.

That's not a plug for a new ballpark, but it is a recognition of certain realities. The people who DO go to the Dome to watch the Twins, I've concluded, are real baseball fans and take a back seat to nobody. There just aren't enough of them.

That said, I have noticed that the demographic of Twins fans is much younger than I've seen in most other markets.

And by the way, the "bleachers" at the Metrodome are a fun place to be. I highly recommend it. In fact, I recommend all the Bums and their readers make plans to get together out there.

Posted by Bob Collins | June 3, 2005 6:09 PM

I think too a lot of the Twins fans come from Outstate Minnesota.

I live near in Albert Lea. I know there is a lot of Twins fans down here. But its a... what 80-100 mile drive. Not a lot of people can make it everyday. And especially on the weekdays when one owuld be driving into town about midnight-1am

Posted by James | June 3, 2005 8:56 PM

I think there is something to that. After all, TV ratings have gone up quite a bit the last few years but attendance is still low. Why? Because the Twins fan base is broad (ND/SD/IA/MN).

You want to know why there is a perception that we can't win a championship? Craig Biggio. $3,000,000, hitting well, bats RIGHT, plays SECOND BASE, LAST SHOT AT A RING. Houston is losing bad. We have lots of ready-to-play prospects. With the lower salary and the hole at 2nd.... Makes a weird kind of sense! But you know who we'll get? Maybe Pat Borders again.

The Twins have spent many years screaming at us that "THE METRODOME SUCKS!" is it any surprise that fans buy it?

I come from Greater MN, I have to drive 250 miles to get to a game yet I've gone to 6-10 games since 2002, and been to at least a few of the playoff games every year.

I want a damn roof so I don't get rain on, and so I don't have to melt in the scorching, humid summers and so I don't have to worry as much about dying from West Nile mosquito bites. Look at this year, how many dreary days have there been down there? When the Twins people called me to see if I supported the latest proposal I told them that too.

But yeah, it's a football town. I don't know why, and I could say uncharitable things about my fellow Minnesotans.... but I won't.

Posted by MNPundit | June 4, 2005 12:27 AM

Here's my two cents-

1) Yes, Minnesotans are just poor fans in general. You can claim that this is a Viking town, but remember it was not that far back when General Mills had to purchase tickets on Thursdays prior to the game to ensure that Vikings games were not blacked out locally.

2) Minnesotans are trendy. See how many people are still going to Saints games? Hasn't the pig bringing out the baseballs just about had enough run?

3) The Metrodome does suck, but a new ballpark will resulting in spiking attendance for a few years, but will not fix the problem (it's not like the Met was packed to the gills on a regular basis).

4) It's a different time and place. The sports dollar is getting more and more diversified. Between soccer, lacrosse, poker (???), NASCAR, and golf, the major sports scene has taken a hit. Anybody miss the NHL all that much? Timberpuppies were off an appearance in the Conference Finals, and struggled with attendance even before they went on their big slide. Minor sports will never overtake the giant that is MLB, but they have carved a niche which has taken a chunk out of disposable income.

5) Baseball is still the greatest game ever, and this Twins team is great fun to watch (note the 75% increase in Twins TV viewership over last year). I will go to about 15 games this year, and love every one of them.

Posted by Don Pults | June 6, 2005 12:10 AM

How long will it be before a team puts slots in their ballpark?

Posted by Bob Collins | June 6, 2005 9:51 AM

It's not that the twins are a bad team or a bad draw. I attend University of Missouri and I, being an avid sports fans along with all of my friends, have recieved copious amounts of grief for playing in an indoor stadium. On a beautiful sunny mid-70s afternoon in the summer who wants to go INSIDE to watch a baseball game. Baseball is a game of the summer and i dont think that many real fans let alone the casual ones are wanting or willing to spend their hard earned day off's at an indoor ballpark instead of being on the water or on the golf course or in the garden. It's not a fan base problem it's a stadium problem and baseball is meant to be enjoyed in the sunshine with REAL green grass and a bunch of your buddies and a hot dog. Without this being suprised at the lackluster draw of fans is just stupid. Build a new stadium, see attendance spike, see the team be able to spend more money, and see them win more games.

Posted by Dan | June 7, 2005 10:13 AM

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