The Minnesota Twins would love to see fans pack the park to cheer on their first-place team, and they have a great idea to make sure it happens.
It doesn’t take an advanced degree in meteorology to figure out why outdoor baseball in Minneapolis, Minnesota in April and May is a tough sell. Evening temperatures are often in the mid-40s, if not lower. It rains, and on occasion, even snows.
There’s only so much cold an official team sweatshirt, available for $50 in the Target Field gift shop, can keep out. Such is life when a team is so desperate to forget the soulless Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome that they eschew all common sense and build a new stadium without a roof in a city where April snow showers are the norm.
Clearly, it isn’t surprising to see the Minnesota Twins drawing fewer than 17,000 fans per night to their lovely, albeit chilly park. What is surprising, however, is that those same Twinkies are alone in first place in the AL Central and have MLB’s best record. No one saw that coming.
Because Twins management is so obviously enthused about their team’s hot start, they decided to do something revolutionary to make sure an audience more befitting a first-place team shows up to the ballpark every night. In a bold move that is sure to leave other teams struggling with low attendance numbers scrambling, the Twins have set aside a huge block of $5 tickets that will be available for every remaining home game for the month of May.
Who could have predicted that baseball fans would react well to $5 tickets to see a surprising first-place team that was expected to struggle to stay within 20 games of .500? Teams have experimented with all kinds of new promotions to try and get fans to come to the park in April and May before the weather gets nice enough to sit still outdoors at night for three-plus hours, but none have gone so far as to offer single-game tickets straight up for five bucks. The most teams have been willing to do is offer month-long passes that end up costing the average fan much closer to normal price unless they make a serious effort to maximize their attendance.
It’s no secret that MLB attendance is way down, and there are plenty of factors to blame. More than any other factor — not weather, not teams tanking, not lack of interest — the sheer cost of attending an MLB game keeps people away.
The Baltimore Orioles lost 115 games last season, but still charge $15 for the worst seats in the park and over $50 for decent seats in the lower bowl. God bless the Miami Marlins, who are drawing fewer than 10,000 fans per night, and their willingness to charge $30 for respectable seats. Most serious fans would still drag themselves to the park more than once or twice a year to see a 100-loss team if it cost less than a day’s pay to take a whole family.
All MLB teams pay lip service to wanting to drum up attendance, but few actually put their money where their mouth is. They’re content to play to ballparks a quarter full (or less in some cases) rather than lower prices to bring more fans in. The teams that go all-in on treating their fans with respect instead of like an ATM are rewarded. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons who offer affordable concession items and actually realized an uptick in revenue.
Sure, the Twins aren’t offering luxury-box tickets for five bucks. These tickets are in the grandstand where fans won’t have a reserved seat, but who cares? Obviously not the 20,000-plus fans who gobbled up the tickets in a single day.
The Twins are on fire on the field and now they’ll have a crowd worthy of the best team in the big leagues every night for the rest of May. If the hot start keeps up, this move will pay big dividends all summer as the weather gets nicer and the days get longer.