Finding in Favor of the MLB: Part 1

In the last two weeks, there have been two major court decisions that have found in favor of the Minnesota Twins and the General Area of Southern California and Orange County Angels. Both of htese cases have huge ramafications for these teams, and the Angels case may resonate throughout baseball.

I'll take a look at the Twins case in the first installment. The Twins ruling looks bad for the future of Minnesota Baseball, at least at face value. Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter freed the Twins from any obligations to the Metrodome, meaning that the team could move to another stadium as their heart desires. However, since there is no party of city known to be wooing the Twins, and the market for relocation is incredibly weak (despite what the Marlins would like the Florida legislature to believe), what this really does is bring the Twins stadium issue to the forefront. The Gophers and especially the Vikings have dominated the stadium discussion, and this gives the Twins a real opportunity to resurrect the talks that ran out of time in the government shutdown that took place last session.

I'd like to take a second and talk about why I feel it's more important, at an empirical level, the the Twins get a new stadium. The Twins suffer from low attendance and this problem affects them for each one of their 81 home games. The Vikings and Gophers have very high attendance, spurred by alumni and rabid fans and by the very limited number of games they play. This limited supply ensures that there is always enough demand for high ticket revenues.

It also seems to me that while baseball attendance is affected by winning (see here, here, and here) it is also affected by amenities, style and ballpark attractiveness. When spent my summers in the Bay Area, all things being equal, I would rather have gone to Pac Bell / SBC / AT&T Park than Network Associates / McAfee Coliseum simply because it was a much nicer ballpark. I also feel like a brand new ballpark here could bring in casual fans who want to find a novel activity for the evening (or afternoon). But a domed, ancient concrete baseball stadium isn't much of a draw. Without the mosquitos, the summers in Minneapolis are wonderful, and let's face it, we all know that baseball was meant to be played outdoors.

The Brewers have averaged over 2 million a year since they started playing at Miller Park, and it is a wonderful park to watch a game in. The last time they had any season as high in attendance was in 1992 when they went 92-70 and finished 4 games behind Toronto for the Al East crown. Their winning percentage in the five seasons in Miller is .4185. So by winning only about 40 % of their games, a team in a city of about 600,000 can draw 2,150,791 people in a year. However, the Twins, who have a wining percentage of almost .550 and draw from a combined Minneapolis and St Paul population of about 655,000.

Let's recap that for those of you in the cheap seats. Positive things will be in bold, negative in italics. The Brewers pull in more fans from a smaller city while they win fewer games. The Twins pull in fewer fans from a larger city-area while winning more games (and making the playoffs THREE STREAIGHT YEARS).

Is there that much of a cultural distance between Minnesota and Wisconsin? Do Milwaukee and the Twin Cities differ that greatly in love of baseball? My guess would be no. Maybe we can call this an entirely new kind of ballpark effect.

Stay tuned for part two, and the naming controversy in So Cal. T-minus 48 days and counting.

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