Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another Reason for Baseball in San Jose: The Fans

Does San Jose have a sustainable fan base to support a Major League Baseball team? As the U.S. Census Bureau reported in its 2o10 Census, San Jose has a population of 945,942,making it the 10th largest city in the U.S., so it would be easy to argue then that San Jose has a large pool of potential baseball fans to pull from. However, population alone isn’t a strong enough argument to make in the strength of a city’s fan base, as cities such as Minneapolis (48th) home of the Twins and Milwaukee ( 28th) home of the Brewers are experiencing good attendance, 4th and 9th respectively. In comparison, much larger cities such as Houston (4th) home of the Astros, Phoenix (6th) home of the Diamondbacks and San Diego (8th) home of the Padres are experiencing less success in filling their respective stadiums.

So how else can we determine whether San Joseans would support a Major League Baseball team? Perhaps by looking at attendance data for the four professional sports teams housed in San Jose, the Sharks (NHL), Giants (California League), SaberCats (AFL), and Earthquakes (MLS) and see where they rank in their respective leagues. These teams represent distinctly different sports, varying fans and popularity in their sport that can vary depending on local (ex. Hockey is much more popular in Canada than Northern California, in part because of their differences in whether).

Taking into account that teams play in facilities of varying size, total attendance and average attendance can skew results in favor of teams with larger facilities. This can present a false impression that fan support is much stronger than that of other teams playing in smaller facilities. So instead, for the purpose of this analysis, average capacity is used (including those examples above) which in our opinion is better reflective of each communities support of their particular team, as a stadium that is 100% full is a much more enjoyable experience than one that isn’t fulfilling its potential capacity.

As the proposed baseball stadium in San Jose shows, while it would be the smallest in Major League Baseball, it would bring a uniquely different experience that would further support there being an active and supportive fan base, but do San Joseans have the fortitude to be a perennial baseball fan for 81 games a year?

As mentioned above, currently there are four professional sports teams that call San Jose home, looking at their attendance – again, based on average capacity - each team in their most current season is averaging attendance in the top 1/3 of their respective leagues, above the average*.

Regardless of the sport, San Jose has constantly and consistently supported its local teams and in return has been rewarded with successes on the field/ice, with multiple championships being brought to San Jose over the years. Since 2000 the Giants have won 5 California League Championships (’01, ’05, ’07, ’09 and ’10), the SaberCats have won 3 Arena Bowls (’02, ’04, and ’07) and the Earthquakes (in their earlier adaptation) won 2 MLS Cups (’01 and ’03). San Jose still awaits the Sharks to bring home the Stanley Cup, but despite this they consistently are an NHL powerhouse, the last two years appearing in the Western Conference Finals and receiving the President’s Trophy for having the league’s most points during the 2008-09 season.

San Jose and Major League Baseball makes sense, more specifically the Athletics in San Jose. The support San Jose could give in filling an Athletics stadium is just another reason why Major League Baseball should lift territorial rights and open the door for an Athletics move.

* We acknowledge that the San Jose Earthquakes attendance is skewed given they play in the smallest stadium in the league - more than twice as small as the league average – however, it’s an experience that is unique to San Jose (yes, we know they play at Buck Shaw stadium in Santa Clara, but even when they move into their new home, capacity will only be slightly larger at approximately 15,000).

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