Cactus League fans spent an estimated $359.5 million in 2009, a 7 percent increase over last year, giving Arizona an economic boost at a time when it needed help the most.
Two new teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians, helped contribute to the increase, as did the addition of a week’s worth of games. The Cactus League played 246 games in 2009 during a five-week season, compared with 177 during four weeks in 2008. This year’s numbers included 11 World Baseball Classic exhibition games, which, for the most part, were sparsely attended.
While the net attendance was up 20 percent, per-game attendance dropped about 1,000 from a year ago. But last spring was a particularly strong season and missed the fallout from the recession, which took hold in the summer and fall, said Robert Brinton, the Cactus League’s president.
In Tucson, the Arizona Diamondbacks drew 121,281 fans to 18 games and the Colorado Rockies drew 75,557 to 16 games.
The Chicago White Sox, who played their first season in Glendale after moving from Tucson, drew 91,782 fans to 15 games.
“Spring training delivered at a time when we really needed it,” Brinton said. “It’s the spring-training stimulus package, better than a government one. It’s like having a Super Bowl every year.”
Cactus League officials estimated that the economic impact of fan spending was $335 million in 2008 and $311 million in 2007.
According to Major League Baseball, overall spring-training attendance in both the Cactus League and Florida’s Grapefruit League was up 3.3 percent.
Arizona’s 20 percent increase more than offset Florida’s 7 percent decrease.
The Grapefruit League surpassed the Cactus League in total attendance, but that is likely to change next year when the Cincinnati Reds move to Goodyear, joining the Cleveland Indians.
Real hawk halts game
ATLANTA – The Hawks’ real-life mascot got a little flying time during the playoffs.
“Spirit,” an actual hawk that flies down from the rafters during the pregame introductions, decided to hang around for the start of Game 2 against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
The bird was perched atop the scoreboard at tipoff, refusing to go to his handler. Then he swooped around the arena during the game, landing on a railing in the lower deck before he settled on the top of the basket at the Hawks end of the court.
When the players spotted the bird, they refused to go on. The game was halted with 8:28 remaining in the first quarter until the handler finally arrived, luring Spirit to his arm and carrying him out of the arena to cheers.
The Associated Press
Costly seats aren’t filled
NEW YORK- At the new Yankee Stadium, the best seats in the house have turned out to be the emptiest.
The most expensive spots in America’s costliest ballpark have become an embarrassment packing a financial sting to the proud New York Yankees, as the Legends Suite section in the infield has been filled only once in the six games since the $1.5 billion stadium opened last week.
On most days, the seats that cost $500-$2,500 as part of season tickets and go up to $2,625 for individual games haven’t been close to full. And as TV cameras pick up the patchy attendance with every pitch, it serves as a little tweak to the nation’s richest baseball franchise.
“We’re done talking about seats,” Yankees president Randy Levine said Wednesday. “We’re not talking about seats.”
The Associated Press
BCS overhaul unlikely
PASADENA, Calif. – College football’s Bowl Championship Series could decide to adopt parts of the playoff plan proposed by the Mountain West Conference, even as the group seems unlikely to scrap its current system of determining college football’s champ.
The BCS finished its last day of meetings Wednesday in the city that will host the title game in early 2010. BCS coordinator John Swofford spoke to reporters after the group heard the case for changing to an eight-team playoff from the current single-game championship format.
It’s unlikely that the MWC’s proposal will bring about any major changes to the BCS’ format, despite pressure from the major-college conferences largely left out of the big-money bowls, as well as legislators and President Obama.
The MWC’s proposed changes are significant, starting with the criteria for selecting eight teams for a playoff by a 12-person committee that would discard the polls and computers used to determine the BCS standings.
“A selection committee? Yes,” Swofford said, of a performance-based group replacing the computers and polls.
But the sweeping change of a playoff system, he said, couldn’t be separated out.
“It will be in the (college) presidents’ hands,” Swofford said. In June, the BCS commissioners are scheduled to pass any changes on to the presidents.
The Associated Press
Attendance at the Cactus League’s 246 games in 2009 was 1.58 million, up from 1.32 million at 177 games for 12 teams in 2008. Average attendance for the league’s 14 teams fell to 6,418 from 7,436 per game in 2008.
Average attendance in 2009:
1. Cubs 10,690
2. Dodgers 9,130
3. Giants 8,476
4. Mariners 6,927
5. Diamondbacks 6,738
6. White Sox 6,119
14. Rockies 4,722
Average excludes 2009 World Baseball Classic games.