Rangers owners hope new $1B stadium will solve attendance problem that doesn’t actually exist

This article by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Mac Engel is just weird:

For the record, I am a big fan of the Rangers remaining in Arlington but a staunch opponent of public financing for places of business that are open less than one-third of the year, especially when a perfectly good space is in fine working order…

It’s your money and if you are OK with that, then bring on what must be the last time for the next 100 years that the Texas Rangers ask the city of Arlington for another thing.

If a new stadium does not fix the problem, nothing will.

The “problem” here, Engel seems to be saying, is that not enough people are going to Rangers games, ostensibly because they’re not air-conditioned, a condition that a new $1 billion stadium would remedy. Engel cites a team estimate that they “lose hundreds of thousands of potential fans every season because of our heat,” something he deems “certainly plausible.”

Is it? Let’s check the records:

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-10-24-amThat all looks pretty good, except following years in which the Rangers were crappy on the field, which is as to be expected. (There’s invariably a one-year lag between win-loss record and attendance, as most tickets are sold early in the season before anyone knows whether the team will be good this year or not.) The Rangers drew 3,460,380 fans in 2012, a club record, coming off their two straight World Series appearances — a full season sellout would only have been 3,525,201, so the only way a lack of a/c could have cost the team “hundreds of thousands of fans” that year was if they’d been planning on seating them in each other’s laps.

In any event, only averaging between 2.5 million and 3 million fans a year is a “problem” that most other teams would be thrilled to have — the Rangers were 10th out of 30 teams in attendance last year, and are likely set for another ticket-sales jump following their 95-win season and first-place finish. Is it hot in Texas? It’s hot in Texas! Is the prospect of getting fans out of the heat likely to make it worth spending $1 billion to tear down a 22-year-old stadium and build a new one? Almost certainly not, which is why the Rangers owners are hoping to have the city of Arlington pay for more than half the cost. The only problem they’re looking to fix here isn’t about attendance figures or temperature numbers — it’s about having gone two decades without getting a city check with nine figures on it.


12 comments on “Rangers owners hope new $1B stadium will solve attendance problem that doesn’t actually exist

  1. Nope, they’re looking to fix their attendance problems. Given the size and demographics of their market, along with the quality for it team, finishing 16th and 10th during a pair of division winning seasons is ugly.

    • Attendance usually spikes the year following a good performance. 2015 in particular – the team was coming off of a terrible season and started the season badly before turning a corner and taking the division late. There was basically no “buzz” around the team until about a month into the comeback.

      The bigger issue is location. Which is not to say there’s a better location that would bring in more people on the whole, but the fact that the DFW metro area is so spread out will always impact attendance. Arlington is great currently for the same reason it was great 40 years ago: it allows the team to belong equally to Dallas and Fort Worth, and on the whole that’s a positive for attendance. But that also means that it’s not right in the middle of any one of the big cities (not that Arlington is small by a long shot). You’re still trying to get people to come from Ft. Worth or Dallas (or the wealthy suburbs north of Dallas.) That’s not tough to do on a Friday night when the team is good and you’re playing the Yankees; it’s a different story when the team is 10 games under .500 and it’s a getaway Wednesday vs. the Twins at 2:30 in the afternoon, and that’ll be the case whether it’s air conditioned or not.

    • If you look at the teams ahead of them, in attendance (LA (NL), STL, TOR, SF, Chicago (NL), NY (AL), LA (AL), Boston, NY (NL)) it’s downright reasonable (geographically and in terms of general popularity) to finish 10th. Which team outside of LA (AL) would you expect them to displace?

    • I always chuckle that there is supposedly some “natural” attendance number that teams should be able to count on. Attendance is a product of price, interest, and availability in any entertainment business. Why would baseball be any different.

      Plus, the Indians made the WS with one of the lowest attendance figures in the AL. Should their season not count?

  2. “….the only way a lack of a/c could have cost the team “hundreds of thousands of fans” that year was if they’d been planning on seating them in each other’s laps…”

    There is precedent for Dallas-area fans sitting in each other’s laps.

  3. If it’s true that hot weather suppresses attendance, that should be quantifiable by matching attendance stats with climate data. That could be done by the month. Or by picking one day of the week, like comparing Saturdays across all the seasons.

  4. Ben Miller, you’re wrong and drinking the kool-aid.

    If they were serious about the threat of moving they wouldn’t have already broken ground on a $300million dollar hotel complex next to the stadium a week before the referendum.

    If anyone votes for or has any inkling of a bias towards supporting the Rangers getting a new stadium…boy do I have a deal for you on just a slightly used bridge…!

  5. What is unsaid here, is what happens, or who absorbs the costs (bond payments/debt structuring) on this boondoggle in the event of a future economic downturn?
    (And based on last night, I think probabilities make this a valid topic.)
    Some of the funding mechanisms for the team’s share of the cost stem from Arlington simply handing over their share of ticket/parking taxes to the team. If those take a dive, for any reason, who pays on that shortfall? Is it the team’s responsibility, since those shortfalls technically are theirs to bear (even though the $ comes from taxes on tickets), or did Arlington city ‘leaders’ insert language that screws over the public even more?

    I’ll say this: Arlington better pray there’s no national-level catalyst for an economic recession, or else public services in that city might become severely strained. When you hand away so much $ for two stadiums (and supporting infrastructure) just so the mayor and his lackeys can get cool tickets to games, you better hope for 30+ years of good times.
    Otherwise, that huge debt burden for Arlington might likely become a less attractive place to work/live/play.

  6. Good grief it’s obvious why they need a new publicly subsidized ballpark down there. The damned thing’s had FIVE different names. It’s just all tired out from all those name changes and doesn’t know what to call itself. But it looks like the good citizens have rewarded ownership as they should and the next name for that 23 year old dump will be Teardown Ballpark at NoACVille.

    I’m gonna rename U.S. Bank stadium to “Piggyville” in a few years, then just keep renamin’ it until they build me a new one. I’ve been in there 2 months and it already needs some upgrades. Tax funded upgrades!

  7. Not to mention that the new ballpark is expected to be smaller than the current one. The new park couldn’t even equal the 2012 attendance, let alone exceed it due to the smaller park size.

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