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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Unfair Comparison?

Comparing affiliated teams with unaffiliated teams is a dangerous and perhaps unfair game, though what has been going on in Lowell the past few days is worth noting. The Lowell Sun reports that when the Spinners put individual game tickets on sale on-line at 11:00 Monday morning, their web site had more than 100,000 continuous hits from fans trying to purchase Spinners tickets. Web specialists say that's the most hits any team major or minor league has ever had at one time. The article also reports that Cyberseats, the company responsible for the on-line sale of the Spinners tickets, handles Major League baseball teams also, and an official there said yesterday's response was unlike anything they have ever experienced - the Cyberseats machine stops counting hits at 100,000. "We handle Major League baseball tickets and we never get that. It is totally crazy. I think it is awesome and the Spinners fans must be the greatest fans in the country," said a spokesperson for the company.
The Spinners are scheduled to play 38 dates at home this year; they played 36 last season. Lowell drew 180,000 fans last year - 5000 per game (also the stadium's capacity). [Ever been? No? You should go! A great baseball take!]

On the other hand, slightly north, the Nashua Pride of the Atlantic League appear to be struggling. The Pride drew 132,000+ in 69 home dates, 1800+ per game. The team recently re-negotiated its stadium (Holman) lease with the city, getting a major concession in rental fees according to the Manchester Union Leader.
The city's new deal with the Pride franchise, which owes the city $140,000 in overdue rent, drastically lowers the team’s ongoing financial obligations to the city while ensuring the Pride will repay the entire debt says the newspaper. The deal cuts the Pride’s 2004 payment to the city from $200,000 to $75,000, which would be paid in equal monthly installments from June until October. The Pride agreed to make good on its $140,000 debt in two installments of $70,000, the first due Aug. 15, 2005 and the second in Aug. 15, 2006. Also, Nashua would receive 80 percent of the team’s net profits, up to an additional $125,000 per year.
Will it help? “We’ve lost a lot of money in the last few years,” Pride GM Todd Marlin said in the article.

The story says the Pride would keep an option, also in the original agreement, to terminate the contract in 2006 unless the team averages a minimum of 2,700 in ticket sales for the '06 season - a sales level the team has never reached. Also, Marlin said in the article that the team is considering going to a short season schedule in 2005, dropping all May and September games. That's one strategy, but it puts the team in more direct competition with the short season Spinners.

Of course, with the addition of the Manchester Fisher Cats this season, the Pride are going to have to find a way to boost attendance while now having to compete with an affiliated AA team near their home turf to the north and the A-level Spinners to the south.
It is only a short drive from Lowell to Nashua - 20 to 25 minutes without the occasional gridlock on Rt. 3. But it is world's apart when it comes to baseball teams. We wish the Pride the best of luck - there is and should be a place for independent ball. It is not apparent, however, that Nashua is that place.