Councilmembers discuss Spring Training attendance

Peoria Sports Complex’s 2019 spring training numbers decreased 10% over the previous year. (Submitted photo)

Spring Training attendance at Peoria Sports Complex this past spring decreased 10% over previous years.

So said Peoria City Council, who discussed the drop in attendance at a recent meeting.

Numerous issues impacted the drop, they said, including the loss of four regular season games due to Major League Baseball allowing the Seattle Mariners, who along with the San Diego Padres call Peoria Sports Complex home during Spring Training, to travel to Japan to open the season in mid-March. Weather also impacted attendance.

Though there were adverse effects, stadium officials, however, focused on creating fan activities such as a community-oriented game where residents’ tickets cost $1. Games featured some of the top prospects in both the Mariners and Padres Minor League system.

“2019 was one of the more unusual Spring Training seasons, with unpredictable cold and rain,” said Blake Englert, Peoria Sports Complex’s operations manager. “Major League Baseball had the Mariners travel to Japan, which gave us four vacant dates.”

Total attendance at Peoria Sports Complex reached 180,190 for 27 games this season, ranking as the fourth highest total in the 10 Cactus League stadiums. Salt River Fields, which hosts the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, was first, with 287,823 for 29 games. Sloan Park (Chicago Cubs) was second, with 250,893, and Camelback Ranch (Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox) was third, with 244,820.

Peoria Sports Complex averaged 6,674 per game in 2019, which was the seventh highest average in 2019. Sloan Park ranked first in average attendance at 13,939, the only stadium to average more than 10,000 per game.

“The tourism impact to the city is immense, with 63% of people that visit the complex from out of state,” said Chris Calcaterra, deputy director of parks and sports facilities. “The good side is that the total party trip expenditures reach up to $1,000 per night for each of the three to four nights the average guests stay.”

The Spring Training season in Peoria brought in about $6.7 million in revenue, which is also about a 10% decrease compared with the previous season.

Revenues include ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, parking and sponsorship.

Calcaterra added a report commissioned by Major League Baseball in 2018 showed that estimated direct expenditures for Peoria are $36.8 million by Arizona gross domestic product.

“That comes in at $8.9 million for accommodations, $13.5 million in bars and restaurants, $6.3 million in retail sales, $2.7 million for in-state transportation (and) $5.3 million for other entertainment,” Calcaterra said.

But both Calcaterra and Englert said the year-round events at the stadium also help increase revenue to the city.

“Our year-round calendar of events is on par with Spring Training,” Englert said. “Our GDP, not including Spring Training, is nearly on par, at $34.6 million and employment for nearly 700 people.”

Staff was quick to point to the success of the stadium, though.

“I just want to thank you for the year-round work you do to gain tourism to our city,” Mayor Cathy Carlat said.

“We know it is a great amount of year-round work, and you make it look easy.”