A couple of conversations I have had recently inspired this article. It is something every sports fan has dreamed of at least once in their life. What would we do if were were suddenly owners of a Major League Baseball team? Now I am well aware this will never happen, unless I have a wealthy African uncle I never knew about (Wait, you mean Wakanda isn’t real?!?). In a bit of an addendum to my recent article about what we want out of our teams, I wanted to share what I would do if I could. Some of my ideas may be more feasible than others, but all of them are rooted in reality, so I won’t say something crazy like sign the entire National League All-Star Game roster.
Let me begin with the stadium experience. It is a fact the teams receive the largest portion of their revenue from their media deals, so I would use this to my advantage. I would lower tickets prices, and I mean really lower them in a substantial way. Baseball teams have to fill 81 home dates at minimum and I want to make this as an attractive of a bargain as I could. I woukd provide a major league experience for minor league ticket prices. I have plenty of memories and some old ticket stubs from times I attended Dodgers games while I was in high school because my friends and I could afford to get in, and I am not just talking about in the upper deck of the stadium. I would bring this back as a way to get fans to return to the habit of going to ball games during the season. For a working class family, going to a baseball game should not just be a special occasion that happens once a year.
While we are on the stadium experience, I would also lower the concession and parking prices. I am aware this is based upon the assumption I have a parking lot at the stadium. In places like San Francisco or San Diego which do not have large parking lots attached to the stadium, then I would look to make deals with the proprietors in order to make parking more cost effective to the fans. Public transportation companies have been granted easier access to help fans get into and out of venues, so they will be leveraged as well.
There is a terms helping around with concessions, I would attempt to employ a less predatory version of loss leader pricing. Costco has been charging the same $1.50 for their hot dog/soft drink combo for over 30 years, I would offer something similar. The $12.00 souvenir cup makes no sense to me. Every fan will not want a hot dog combo, but it is good to have such an option on the menu. Vegans eat too, so something inexpensive which they find palatable would be wise.
I want a vibrant stadium once the game gets going. Anyone can recognize baseball is not the fastest game on record, so it makes sense to spice things up during the down time. Playing current music in between innings makes more sense. Songs like Centerfield and YMCA have had their day, but they don’t belong in a modern baseball environment. People whose primes were in the 70’s and 80’s are grandparents now, so we needn’t pander to them. Let’s find the latest music from Bad Bunny, the new one from Kendrick Lamar, or even pop on some Taylor Swift after the sixth inning. If our parents know the song, then something has gone wrong. Another suggestion are two minute short films about all manner of things in between innings. Why not try have a Ryan Coogler or Greta Gerwig short to keep people off of their phones while the team switch sides? Use the players in the shorts to keep it relavant to the fans and keep it fun. Who knows, maybe they might have a second career!
Something I would love to do for fan which costs nothing would be to allow fans to move to the more expensive seats after the seventh inning. A kid might love seeing Mookie Betts or Mike Trout from afar, but imagine if they had the chance to see them from only feet away. Even if it is only for one at-bat or one inning on the mound. Seeing baseball up close really gives a person a new appreciation for it. Plus, having the lower section filled in looks a lot better on television.
After the game I would live to see something more impressive than the occasion fireworks show. Jerry Buss had it figured out with the Forum Club when the Lakers played there. I would create a club/bar/restaurant in the stadium, and make it a place to be. Most major cities don’t struggle for entertainment options, especially in the summer. Give the fans one more reason to come to the stadium. Watch a ballgame and hang out for some dancing and drinks afterwards. Use the stadium as a concert venue post-game as well, and I am not just talking B-list acts from the county fair. The Super Bowl has the half-time show, so we could have a post-game show.
Teams have their winter caravans that give the fans access to decision makers, so why not do the same thing in the summer? I know they have to potential to get ugly if the season goes sour, but meeting with fans and fan groups will help bridge the gap between those inside the club and those on the outside. Fan groups like the Mets 7 Line Army or Pantone 294 of the Dodgers can be a powerful ally in getting the word out about what is going on with the club. They can also be a great resource when it comes to what is working and what isn’t as far as what the fans want from the team. The games are an entertainment product after all, so why not listen to the paying customers?
I know my team ownership is mere fantasy, but it is fun to dream. I feel clubs would go a long way if they stopped trying to wring every penny they could out of the fans. There is much more money to be made from loyal customers than from people who are lukewarm about the experience at best. Knowing baseball, the owners will double down (pun intended) on gambling as a way to raise revenue, rather than look at a more long lasting and holistic approach to cultivating fans.