Sports talk radio hosts in Philly were saying how Miami held a fan fest and about two people showed up to buy season tickets, so we knew we could get great seats, Lepchuk said.
They were surrounded by Philly fans.
I dont see why people wouldnt come even if the team stinks, Gleason said. If you love baseball its a nice ballpark.
After the game, they looked around for a place to eat, but because planned revitalization of the area has not occurred, they took a taxi back to their Miami Beach hotel.
In Philly, sports events are happenings, Lepchuk said. Here, not even the bartenders or cabbies are aware of the teams.
The Marlins have not been a consistent big draw in their 20 years. Even during the World Series season of 2003 attendance was third-worst in MLB. Since 1997 it has hovered near or at the bottom of baseball, even when payroll was increased. Last year, when Loria spent $100 million on salaries, average actual attendance was about 17,000, Samson said, resulting in a $47 million operating loss. If attendance averaged closer to 30,000, the Marlins could afford an $80 million payroll, Samson said. The team is more dependent on ticket sales than, say, the Dodgers, who have a lucrative local TV deal.
Its cyclical, said Samson, who added that season-ticket renewals were trending downward even before the cost-cutting fall trade of top players. The Nationals were bad, got draft talent, now theyre good. Weve built this team up before and were building it up again.
The Marlins struggle against Miamis history as a lukewarm sports town as well as what Samson calls the HDTV home comfort experience that all teams must contend with. The Boston Red Sox saw their 10-year Fenway Park sellout streak end earlier this month. The Tampa Bay Rays have employed creative marketing, such as Saturday and Sunday concerts, campouts inside Tropicana Field, Joe Maddon garden gnome night and free bobblehead dolls of David Prices French bulldog Astro, but even winning hasnt solved their attendance ills. In 2013, they became the first team to win 90 games and finish last in attendance in their league.
The New York Mets with a disliked owner and poor record, slashed payroll and dumped stars Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey have seen attendance fall from four million in 2008 (the last season at Shea Stadium) to a number projected to be less than two million this year at Citi Field.
The Marlins also must overcome a $35 million roster, second-lowest in baseball, just ahead of the Houston Astros.
Theres a line from Mad Men: If you dont like what theyre saying about you, change the conversation, said Tadd Schwartz, president of Schwartz Media Strategies in Miami and a former season-ticket holder. Ownership needs to stop the harping on all the animosity by reaching into their pockets, starting a buzz and making a trade to shift the talk to baseball. The damage theyve done to the brand is so much worse than the money theyre saving by cutting payroll.
Endear this team to the community.
Edwin Mercado, 7, was a fan of Reyes, but hes not here anymore, he said. He and his teammates got four free tickets to a game against the Nationals last week from their Taylor Baseball Academy coach.