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Attendance soars in Year 2

Editor’s Note: This story on the Revolution’s attendance midway through the 2008 Atlantic League season ran in Thursday’s York Dispatch.

Two friends battle for superiority in Sumo suits.

During another break in the action, “Roof man” — dressed in form-fitting tights and crying out his patented catchphrase, “Let’s do it!” — sprinkles giveaways on the fans below as the Knight Rider theme song blares (David Hasselhoff would undoubtedly be proud).

Young children dressed as fruit attempt to navigate their way around the bases. One, wearing a banana outfit, rounds second and, rather than heading to third, mistakenly runs for the 38-foot wall in left field.

These often hysterical moments at York Revolution home games are part of the nightly experience at Sovereign Bank Stadium.

And it’s these promotions, geared toward family entertainment, that keep casual fans coming back for more. It’s the well-known minor league baseball business model that seems to be working in York.

Midway through the Atlantic League season, the Revolution’s average attendance in 35 home dates (4,168) is slightly above what York averaged last season (3,709) playing in an incomplete ballpark.

That nightly average ranks fourth in the eight-team Atlantic League. York trails Lancaster and two teams (Long Island and Somerset) located in counties with much higher median household incomes.

Growing market: Still, Revolution General Manager Matt O’Brien refers to York as a “slow growth market” and believes the Revolution will one day push the likes of Lancaster in average attendance.

“I think we will grow into that,” O’Brien said recently. “You won’t see this one big year where we’ll catch them. You’ll see a little bit of that every year to get there. I believe in the market and the county itself is continuing to grow.”

York’s attendance improvement from last season has also encouraged team officials because May and June are typically months in which attendance is lower — mainly because children are still in school for the bulk of those eight weeks.

The Revs have also dealt with some erratic weather, although no home game has been rained out this year. For the month of June, York averaged 4,007 fans, which ranked fourth in the league according to an analysis by the Dispatch based on Atlantic League attendance figures. Somerset led the league in June attendance (6,029).

The weekday push: O’Brien said one area in which the Revolution can improve is its weekday attendance. York currently averages 3,770 fans Monday through Thursday, which also ranks fourth in the Atlantic League. Long Island (5,694), Somerset (4,855) and Lancaster (4,321) all draw considerably more fans for weekday games.

“No team in the country will tell you they don’t need to work on those days,” said O’Brien, whose staff has instituted promotions such as “All-you-can-eat with an Oriole” on Tuesdays to spark interest for weekday games. “We’ll continue to try some different things to spark interest on those days.”

Although York’s attendance figures through the rest of July and August — usually the best months of any season — will be telling in where York’s future is headed, the Revs have avoided the kind of attendance trouble in their infancy that has plagued the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, one of Opening Day Partners’ other Atlantic League franchises (ODP owns York, Lancaster, Camden and Southern Maryland).

Unlike the Revs, the Blue Crabs opened a complete Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, Md., in early May, and Southern Maryland is averaging 3,284 fans a night and a mere 2,688 fans on week nights.

Waldorf is considered a fast-growing suburb of Washington, D.C., but Regency Furniture Stadium is located in a rural area vastly different from York or Lancaster’s downtown stadium location.

“It’s an interesting market, and it’s one I’ll call an emerging market,” ODP President Jon Danos said. “In terms of residents and pure population, plus the growth of businesses in the market, it’s one we expect to build over time.

“We’re far more challenged with getting the word out (in southern Maryland). It’s just a different dynamic than York or Lancaster.”

Meanwhile, O’Brien and the Revolution continue to unveil new wrinkles and promotions at Sovereign Bank Stadium in an effort to create a different experience for fans that frequent the ballpark. And ODP continues to hold a nearly immaculate reputation in minor league baseball circles.

“They know how to run baseball teams and their new ballparks are beautiful,” Somerset General Manager Patrick McVerry said. “As the (Atlantic) league has matured, new teams have come on and made the league stronger. It’s something the league should be very proud of.”

— Reach Jeffrey A. Johnson at jjohnson@yorkdispatch.com or at 505-5406. Read his Revolu tion blog, “Revolution Rumblings,” at revolution rumblings.wordpress.com.

*Sumo photo by Randy Flaum.


4 Responses

  1. Let’s Do It!

  2. Jeff,
    You are doing an outstanding job with this web page. Keep it Up!

    What’s Lancaster doing that York’s not? Beside population which is a given to the numbers. Does household income really play into this all that much? I believe that if you are a fan, no matter how much your income is you are still going to go watch your favorite team play.

    I don’t know for sure but is York’s front office hitting up the Greater Hanover area for support with the team?
    Here are some off the top of my head figures but you have Hanvoer (15,000 pop.) Penn Twp. (20,000) West Manheim (10,000)

  3. I’ve been trying for two years to figure out the difference between the Lancaster and York markets and I think there is one major difference: A lot of Yorkers are more skeptical and not quick to embrace something new (much like what O’Brien was saying).

    But if you look at the market research that went into building both stadiums, there is a reason why Lancaster’s stadium can hold more than York’s. Obviously, this slight difference in attendance was expected.

    York does have a Hanover night at the ballpark. So they’re doing at least that to try and reach that area.

  4. The onliest thing I know is that dancing banana drives me crazy. She can really dance.

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