BOB:  Spring Training Attendance and a Nationals Park Opening

Another spring training attendance record is broken

For the third time in four years, MLB broke its spring training attendance record. Almost 3.7 million fans attended spring training games, breaking last year’s record of just over 3.4 million fans. It also marks the first time that the average attendance at each of the games surpassed 8,000 fans.

Once again, baseball appears to be poised for a breakout year. Teams are reporting record ticket sales across the league, the minor leagues are as strong as ever and people can’t get enough baseball even when the games don’t count during spring training.

Birth of a minor league franchise

In a very interesting story over at Minor League Baseball, we get a look at how a minor league franchise was built from the ground up in a matter of 18 months. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs begin play this year in their brand-new ballpark; it’ll be the first time since 1960 that Allentown, Penn. has had a minor league affiliate. In addition, the team has sold over 4,000 season tickets while the stadium holds just 8,000 fans.

Just as impressive is that the team plans on showing all of its games on television. To the best of my knowledge, this is unprecedented for a minor league baseball team.

Nationals open new ballpark

Nationals Park opened this weekend with the visiting Braves in an exciting game that saw the Nationals win it on a walk-off homer in the ninth inning. While the game had its share of excitement, the ballpark got mixed reviews. The television announcers seemed to praise it, but this reporter feels the ballpark was a bit lacking.

In addition, here’s another interesting story on how the Nationals have yet to sell the naming rights to the stadium. This will be a huge cash boon to the team when it happens. Initial estimates have the naming rights going from anywhere from $8 million per year to $12 million.

Indians say goodbye to Winter Haven

Just like the Los Angeles Dodgers with regard to Dodgertown, the Cleveland Indians played their final spring training game at Winter Haven, Fla. It was their 16th season at Chain of Lakes Park; they now head for a much more modern complex in Goodyear, Ariz.

In a very interesting story, Dick Scanlon at the Lakeland Ledger talks about how teams are heading for greener pastures in Arizona. It’s interesting how he talks about how the Indians would have rather stayed in Florida, but no city was willing to pony up the money for a complex, so they’ll travel farther than any other team for their spring training.

Tigers expand Comerica Park with 778 new seats

The Detroit Tigers are selling tickets hand over fist since they traded for Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera back in December. In order to accommodate more fans as well as their own pocketbook, the team added 778 seats out in right field. That brings the total capacity of the stadium to 41,782, allowing the Tigers to break their opening day attendance record earlier this week.

Orioles unveil new scoreboard

There have been many changes at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this offseason, but the biggest has been the installation of a new center field scoreboard. Not only is it marginally bigger than the original scoreboard, but it will bring high definition quality to the now venerable ballpark. The team unveiled the new scoreboard earlier this week, and fans got their first taste at the team’s home opener this past Monday.

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