Baseball is Still Alive and Well in Toronto
|Image from Opening Day 2008 courtesy of Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos|
If someone came up to me and said that Toronto isn’t a baseball town, I’d tell them to open their eyes and see that baseball is still alive and well. In fact, I think there’s about 50,000 people who would say the very same thing.
This of course is coming off the heels of the announcement that the Blue Jays Home Opener this Friday is officially sold out. Home Openers have sold out before, but they haven’t sold out this quickly in recent memory.
I think this is significant news considering the Blue Jays haven’t sold out a Home Opener in quite a while, and according to Senior VP of Business Operations Steve Brooks they haven’t sold out this early since the early to late nineties.
You definitely could tell there was going to be a big crowd when there were only single tickets remaining for Opening Day at the beginning of the month. Frankly, I was a little surprised to see tickets sell that fast.
So what can we attribute this sudden surge in ticket sales to? I believe it truly signals a renewed sense of optimism for the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite the worry last season about the drop in attendance at the Rogers Centre, things seem to be on the upswing.
Even though they’re coming off a surprising 85 win season, last year’s win total is irrelevant. It’s all about the bigger picture that Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays are working towards and that’s building a winning team.
Another possibility for the renewed interest in the team may even stem from the excitement generated by one particular player; the one most recently locked up to a 5-year/$65 million dollar contract.
I don’t want to say Jose Bautista is single-handedly going to people to the ballpark, but I think it helps when you have last year’s home run champion on the team, and he’ll be sticking around for the next five years.
After all, the Blue Jays are having a Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day just a few days after Opening Day, so that has to stand for something. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the attendance for that game north of 30,000 people as well.
The news of the Blue Jays Home Opener sell out has to be encouraging for the organization, even if there’s a huge decline in attendance the following afternoon.
The past two years, the drop-off from the Home Opener to the next game has been 55 percent in 2010 and 65 percent in 2009. The last time the Blue Jays had a Home Opener on a Friday night, attendance only dipped 30 percent to the next game.
I don’t think the attendance drop-off will be quite as significant as previous years though because the rest of the series takes place over the weekend, which usually draws fairly well.
In the grand scheme of things, the Blue Jays Home Opener is just one game out of 82 played this season at home. It doesn’t dictate how the attendance for the rest of the season will play out, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
No matter what the organization does, ultimately it’s a winning product that will keep the fans coming back. While there’s a core of fans that are extremely loyal to the Toronto Blue Jays, there’s no substitute to bring the masses to the dome than a team that’s a contender year in and year out.
If things keep progressing the way they are, I don’t think it’ll be very long before the Blue Jays start selling out games other than the Home Opener.