We were discussing the state of the Cleveland Indians a few days ago, and of course, the subject of eliminating seats, bars in right field, and dynamic ticket pricing came up.
As long time followers of the Tribe, since the late 60’s (yes, we remember Sam McDowell, and when Ken Harrelson played for Cleveland and wasn’t the obnoxious voice of the White Sox), we realized that fans of our age group are not in the Indians’ demographic anymore.
They want young people, who sit around in a bar, and occasionally check outside to see what is going on with the ball game.
We are speaking generally of course, there are many young fans, and many women, who follow the game very closely, and love to watch games at Progressive Field.
So, most of the changes that the front office have made to spruce up the now 22 year old building have been along the lines of making the ballpark an entertainment place, not a sports venue, at least in our opinion.
The problem for the Indians is that it’s not working. Attendance has declined, not for the last three years (using the wild card berth as a starting point), but rather over the past five seasons, starting with drawing 1.84 million in 2011.
That’s our issue with the organization, they are slow to change. So, with all of these renovations and such, less and less people continue to show up to Indians’ games.
The people who do go will tell you they have a good experience. The food is good, the atmosphere excellent, and actually The Corner is a great place to meet with friends before or during the game.
The challenge is getting more people into the park, and the organization doesn’t seem willing to try different things.
Local sports talker Les Levine consistently says the team should discount tickets for the second and third games of the season, and it should ask fans buying (or trying to buy) tickets for Opening Day on the site. That makes total sense.
We advocated last season, allowing fans who had tickets to the NBA Finals, when the games started at 9 PM, to stop into the Tribe game for $5. Let those fans eat and drink at the ballpark before going over to The Q.
Of course, this week, the Indians changed their High Achiever program for students. To be fair, they replaced it with another program, but limited it to 40 schools.
Our question is do they not realize those students usually bring a parent or two, and those people have to buy tickets?
Really, a team who has problems getting people to the stadium is limiting a program designed at giving kids free tickets?
We have been around long enough to realize the best way to draw fans in Cleveland is to win, no gimmicks, no promotions.
Yes, the Indians have had three consecutive winning seasons, but outside of the end of the 2013 season, they haven’t had that exciting period that gets fans talking about the team.
That’s why a good start to the season is necessary. That 2011 season where 1.8 million saw the Tribe? They started 30-15, but couldn’t sustain it.
That’s what is needed the most, get off to a quick start, it doesn’t have to be 30-15, and keep it going.
Show fans you are going to be right in the thick of it all season.
But early on, give people some deals to come and see this team. Let them get to know Francisco Lindor. Promote when Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco are going to pitch.
The Tribe needs to market their players and winning baseball. Promoting the non-baseball stuff, although it is nice, just isn’t working.