New Baseball Stadiums Shrink

Smaller baseball stadiums are being built, raising questions about how many fans will be able to enjoy summer's pastime. Smaller stadiums mean seats will be harder for fans to afford. Tim Marchman of The New York Sun talks about the matter with Scott Simon.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Baseball celebrated itself this week with the annual All-Star Game played this year in San Francisco. The American League beat the National League for the 10th year in a row. Fans and players got to catch their breath as they looked to the second half of the season, but how many of those fans will be able to go to stadiums to see the games, and for how long?

Tim Marchman of the New York Sun warns that with new, smaller stadiums being built, seats will be even harder for fans to afford. Mr. Marchman joins us from our studios in Chicago.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. TIM MARCHMAN (Columnist, New York Sun): Good to be here.

SIMON: And explain the logic of this to us. For example, the Mets, the Yankees, the Oakland A's are all building shiny new stadiums and all will have fewer seats than their old ones.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Yeah. This is a trend that's been going on since the early '90s, the commonality among all these is that they kind of reorient the economic base of the park from general admissions seating to luxury box seating, which is pre-sold mainly to businessmen and corporate clients and, you know, provide luxury service for these people.

So naturally the tickets that - you know, the average fan use to stop and see a few games a year with his family are seeing there's less of them and are obviously going to be a lot more expensive while the luxury box becomes kind of the core of the revenue model for teams as far as local attendance goes.

SIMON: So the revenue model changes according to the classic supply-and-demand paradigm, right?

Mr. MARCHMAN: Yeah. Nothing too much more complicated than that about it. And what you've seen in Chicago, for instance, and I think you'll see a lot more of is teams actually running their own ticket-scalping operations. You know, the Cubs sell out more or less every game from the beginning of the season so what they do is actually buy the excess themselves through a sister company and sold them literally across the street where they would field it at fairly inflated prices. So for the teams in the bigger cities that get these kind of parks, this is probably the wave of the future.

SIMON: You suggest in this article in the New York Sun, Mr. Marchman, that baseball might think the economic incentives are good in the short-term, but you don't believe it's in a long-term interest of the game.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Yeah. I do. I do think they're kind of sawing the legs out from, you know, their own chair. And that the extreme of the model I'm talking about is the new stadium that's being built for the A's in Fremont, which…

SIMON: Fremont, California…

Mr. MARCHMAN: Fremont…

SIMON: …which I recall from Gold Rush history but I didn't even think it was just being in the metro area, though, I guess it is.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Geographically, you cut off a lot of the people in Oakland, which historically that franchise has been very tied to the idea of Oakland as the, you know, the more working-class part of the Bay.

SIMON: Yeah. The anti-San Francisco, in a sense.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Yeah. They're cutting all those people out entirely and the stadium is going to have only 35,000 seats, and a tremendous proportion, which are luxury boxes. So that makes sense for them because it means that you can get, you know, you can get your wealthy guys from Google and Apple and whoever else. And they can go down and have gourmet meals in their luxury boxes.

SIMON: Steve Jobs can entertain people.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Yeah. Enjoy the A's game. It will be wonderful for them, but, you know, you're cutting out something (unintelligible) 25,000 seats - many of which, to be fair, are being sold now. But you're cutting out, you know, that entire kind of class of people who go to ballgames, among which, of course, are many families with kids. And anyone who's ever been to a game with a kid knows, you go to a Major League ballgame with a kid, and they're going to be hooked for life.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. MARCHMAN: There's nothing quite like it. The more you orient away from that, the more you cut off the future fanbase of the sport.

SIMON: Tim Marchman of the New York Sun. Thanks so much.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Thanks for having me.

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