Hens strive to overcome economic challengesWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
The Toledo Mud Hens organization begins its ninth season at Fifth Third Field with concerns about the club’s operations off the field.
“The recession has impacted the Mud Hens and Walleye operations,” said Joe Napoli, president and general manager of the Mud Hens and Walleye teams. “Companies and people are spending fewer dollars for entertainment. We understand and have made appropriate adjustments.
“The bright spot is that the community and people still support us, just not to the degree they have in the past,” Napoli said. “We totally understand and continue to strive to be affordable for families and all age groups.”
Since playing at Fifth Third Field, the Mud Hens only raised ticket prices in 2006, according to Napoli. And the organization has adjusted food and beverage prices by less than 1 percent each year, he said.
Napoli said the club experienced a decline in corporate and group outings in 2009 and he expects that trend to continue this season. Income has declined slightly from suite rentals, season ticket sales, group outings and corporate sponsorships, he said.
Napoli reported 74 percent of the group outings came from church, family, school, scouting and others that were not corporate sponsored.
In 2009, the Mud Hens had fewer dates in April and May when attendance is affected more by the weather and students are still in school. The summer dates are better for the club’s attendance, so we try to get more summer dates, Napoli said.
The Mud Hens drew about 565,000 fans in 2009, the fourth largest attendance in the club’s first eight years. But it fell short of the goal to pass the 600,000-mark, Napoli said.
The club has sold fewer season tickets for 2010, but the April 8 home opener is a likely sellout since standing room only tickets were offered for sale recently.
The now-defunct threat of the entertainment tax proposed by Mayor Mike Bell and the City of Toledo has already affected season and game ticket sales, according to Napoli. The management of the Mud Hens and Walleye publicly opposed what they called the “family ticket tax.”
“It’s created doubt for a significant number of people who make their decisions in March. The timing is very challenging for them because it raises ticket prices by 8 percent,” Napoli said.
He said the organization surveyed all local entertainment and sports venues in 2009 and found that all experienced 10 to 18 percent decreases in attendance last year.
“We want to bring people to Toledo for games who will spend money at area bars, hotels, restaurants, retail and other businesses. We’re competing with Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Fort Wayne and other locations for fewer entertainment dollars,” he said.
The Walleye already set a hockey attendance record for Toledo, attracting more than 226,575 fans at the Lucas County Arena this season. That surpassed the previous mark of 177,988 set by the Goaldiggers in 1977-78.
“We made it affordable and comfortable for families to attend games at the new arena. Frankly, we’re surprised at how quickly the fans embraced the hockey team. We’re very pleased and appreciate the fans’ support,” Napoli said.
Napoli said the players hope fans will come to the ballpark in numbers similar to the past eight seasons. But they understand the economics of the region might make that a difficult goal to achieve, he said.
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