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Sports Business

Indians could be headed for all-time attendance record

March 26, 2014
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The Indianapolis Indians finished their 2013 season with the highest overall regular-season attendance of all 176 Minor League Baseball teams.

Can it get any better than that? Yes, it can.

With the April 10 home opener approaching, season ticket sales are running 6.5 percent over last year, and group sales are up 24 percent, said Indians General Manager Cal Burleson.

That’s saying something. Last year, the AAA farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates drew 637,579 fans (8,980 per game) through the turnstiles. The Tribe’s 2013 home attendance was the best single-season total since the team’s championship campaign in 2000.

Though Indians executives aren’t the type to hype projections, they have an eye on an all-time attendance record at Victory Field this year. The Indians’ record home attendance was 658,250 in 1999. Victory Field opened July 11, 1996.

The Indians have a couple of things going for themselves in the ticket sales department. First,the team uses a ticketing system from Hicksville, N.Y.-based Glitnir Ticketing Inc. that, according to Burleson, is one of the most efficient in all of baseball.

That allows the team to keep ticket prices—and service charges—down, Burleson said, which led the Indians to top all Minor League Baseball team in Internet sales last year. That system—along with a strong team and a bevy of promotions—should keep the Indians toward the top of Minor League Baseball attendance again this year.

The Indians are looking to boost their Internet ticket sales even more this yearby offering fans $2 off on tickets bought at least one day before the game. That’s double the discount the team offered last year for advance-sale tickets, and team officials think it will have a positive impact on overall attendance.

“We’re trying to incentivize people to make a commitment early to come to the game,” Burleson explained. “We have had a positive reaction from the fans in the last couple years we offered this, so we increased the incentive.”

Tickets bought in advance will be $14 for a box seat and $10 for a reserved seat. Game day, those same tickets will cost $16 and $12. Last year, the Indians sold 25 percent of their tickets on game day.

The Indians also should benefit from a back-loaded home schedule, with more home games in the summer and early fall than in the spring, when weather is iffier.

“We think it’s a really good schedule in terms of selling tickets,” Burleson said. “It’s certainly better than 2013, which was one of the most challenging schedules we’ve had with so many (home) games in April.”

This year, the Indians have 13 of 27 games in April at Victory Field. Last year, the Tribe had 19 home games in April. Shifting those six home games into the summer months can add 12,000 to 15,000 onto the Indians’ attendance.

The Indians also have a huge July 4 weekend homestand. For years, the Indians have lobbied their league for a July 4 home game. And for years, that game has drawn north of 14,500 fans to Victory Field.

This year, the Indians will host home games on July 4, 5 and 6. With those games falling on Friday, Saturday and Sunday—and the team extending the July 4 fireworks festivities to those other two games—team officials are hoping for larger-than-normal crowds all three nights.

The Indians also are confident a new Wi-Fi system this year will draw more fans. Not only will fans at Victory Field be able to better use their wireless and cellular devices, but the Indians also hope to use the system to connect with fans during the game in a new way—through trivia contests, special offers and other initiatives.

“We’ll walk before we run with it,” Burleson said. “But we’re definitely looking at doing some things to enhance the fan experience.”

In addition, the Indians have upped the ante on their popular autograph nights; bringing in the likes of retired baseball all-stars Eric Davis, Al Kaline, Bruce Sutter, Bill Buckner and Ferguson Jenkins. The Indians recently signed a deal with AT&T to sponsor the autograph nights.

“Those have been really popular with a range of fans, but especially with adults,” Burleson said. “And we expect them to continue to be a draw this year.”

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