Opening sweep of Boston generates an additional $1 million in revenue for the Detroit Tigers
After the first three home games of 2012, the Detroit Tigers have seen 120,525 fans come through the gates at 41,255-seat Comerica Park, for an average of 40,175 per game.
That translates into about $1 million in additional revenue compared to this point last season. It's the biggest opening three-game series crowd since the ballpark opened in 2000.
The first trio of home games in 2011 saw a combined 107,593 fans, for an average of 35,864 per game.
A single fan is worth $80.49 per game to the Tigers, according to the Fan Cost Index published last week by the Chicago-based sports research firm Team Marketing Report (link). The Major League Baseball FCI average is $75.76 per fan.
The calculation is derived by using the firm's formula, which is based on a family of four going to a game, and applying its metrics to a single fan: A fan at Comerica Park buys a ticket at $31 (average price), a beer for $8.75, a pop for $4.25, a hot dog for $5.50, parking for $5, a $5 program and a $20.99 hat.
Last year, Detroit's FCI was $68.82. Baseball's average was $73.47.
While not a precise figure, the index gives a decent idea of how much revenue each fan generates for the Tigers.
Using that formula, the addition of 12,932 fans so far this season at Comerica Park compared to 2011 means an additional $1 million in revenue from the first home-stand.
Attendance last year improved 7.3 percent over 2010 to an average of 32,617 fans per game. This year saw season tickets sales rise to nearly 22,000 from 2011's 15,000, so the team's attendance reports will never fall below the 22K figure because those tickets have already been sold — so it doesn't matter as much, revenue-wise, if the fan shows up. They do lose the ancillary revenue from merchandise and concession sales.
It's impossible to predict what the team will average this season. Attendance is driven by several main factors: weather, injuries, the play on the field, the local economy, when children are out of school.
Have nice days in the summer with a good team that stays healthy and wins a lot, and the fans are all gainfully employed (or at least not worried about paying the mortgage), then more butts will occupy seats.
The Tigers can control only the play on the field, and even that is slave to the random nature of the game — one bad hop on a groundball, and Miguel Cabrera is out again with another facial injury.
But injuries (See: Fister, Doug; strained ribs) and random chance are part of the game.
It's impossible to get a pure apples-to-apples attendance comparison because the schedule and circumstances in 2011 don't perfectly align to this season.
For example, this past Sunday was Easter, which likely depressed attendance to some degree because some fans were at church functions and family gatherings instead of at the ballpark.
In 2011, Easter wasn't until April 24.
Detroit also started the 2011 season on the road, and were 2-4 coming into the first home stand. The Tigers started the season at CoPa this year.
Another difference is that the first home game this year was on a Thursday, with the next two games on the weekend after a Friday off. Last season, it was a Friday-Sunday series against Kansas City. The weather for each game was mostly comparable.
Perhaps the biggest difference between this season and last is that the Tigers have perhaps the greatest expectations of any team in the majors. They're coming off a season in which they nearly reached the World Series, they won their division by 15 games, they have the defending American League MVP and Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander, and have newly acquired slugger Prince Fielder hitting cleanup on a nine-year, $214 million deal.
The team also spent $10 million on a new high-definition scoreboard screen that has been drawing rave reviews, and made other improvements around the ballpark and added perks.
After three games in 2012, Detroit is undefeated and living up to expectations. That will keep fans coming out.
The Tigers didn't get over .500 for good last season until beating Minnesota 6-5 on May 30 in front of 30,198 fans at Comerica Park. That was the 53rd game of the season, and the Tigers were 27-26 at that point, and five games behind the over-achieving Cleveland Indians in the American League Central Division.
Detroit would overtake Cleveland in the second week of July, and the Indians would finish second in the division at 80-82 while the Tigers were 95-67.
The revenue boost in 2012 will be welcome news for the front office's bean counters.
Forbes.com estimated last month that the Tigers have finally reversed three years of operating income losses, instead taking in $8.2 million last season on revenue of $217 million.
The Tigers lost an estimated $29.1 million for the 2010 season, $29.5 million in 2009 and $26.3 million in 2008, the financial news website reported. Those years coincide with the team's significant increase in player payroll spending.
Forbes defines operating income as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
It's too soon to know if Detroit will be in the black for 2012. Payroll spending ballooned to $132 million (tens of millions more when benefits are factored in), but more fans and playoff games will generate revenue to offset at least some of that spending. The team also collects millions from its broadcast deals and other sources of income (link).
Barring unforeseen circumstances that affect fan interest and willingness to buy tickets until then, we'll revisit Detroit's attendance at the All-Star break in July.
Here's a comparison of the opening series of 2011 and '12:
• Date: Thursday, April 5 (season opener)
• Result: 3-2 win over Boston
• Attendance: 45,027
• Weather: 43 degrees, cloudy
• Date: Saturday, April 7
• Result: 10-0 win over Boston
• Attendance: 44,710
• Result: 62 degrees, sunny
• Date: Sunday, April 8 (Easter)
• Result: 13-12 win over Boston
• Attendance: 30,788
• Weather: 58 degrees, sunny
• Date: Friday, April 8
• Result: 5-2 win over Kansas City
• Attendance: 44,799
• Weather: 43 degrees, cloudy
• Date: Saturday, April 9
• Result: 3-1 loss to Kansas City
• Attendance: 33,810
• Weather: 46 degrees, cloudy
• Date: Sunday, April 10
• Result: 9-5 loss to Kansas City
• Attendance: 28,984
• Weather: 64 degrees, sunny