State tourney attendance slightly down; reexamining class consolidation

Posted on Sept. 8, 2014 by CJ Siewert 

The 2014 state tournament attendance was 13,321, which included 6,403 at Belle Plaine, 6,549 at Jordan and 369 at Le Sueur.

That’s a sight drop from last year’s figures at Maple Lake and Delano of 14,161.

Here are the state attendance numbers dating back to the last time Belle Plaine and Jordan hosted.

2012 at St. Cloud: 12,002

2011 at Glencoe, Brownton: 9,327

2010 at Willmar, Bird Island: 11,247

2009 at Arlington, Gaylord: 13,776

2008 at Chaska, Shakopee: 14,116

2007 at Hamburg, Norwood: 11,691

2006 at Red Wing, Miesville: 9,691

2005 at Dassel, Hutchinson: 12,639

2004 at Jordan, Belle Plaine: 13,000

The all-time attendance record is 35,318, set in 1950 at St. Cloud during the hay-day of town team baseball in Minnesota, 11 years before Major League Baseball existed in the state.

The record low is 2,816 (1938 in Shakopee, first annual tourney), while attendance has not dropped below 9,000 since 1977 in Wadena (8,005).

This year’s attendance benefitted from many teams close to the host sites playing in the tourney, especially both host teams winning at least one game.

The State Board has made an emphasis to increase attendance at the Fall Classic over the past three years – since the Class C tournament increased from 32 to 48 teams. Over the past three years, state attendance has averaged at 13,161. From 2009-11, the average attendance was 11,450. The increase is good, but there is certainly room for improvement.

Just as it has in recent years, I’m sure the Board will also look at finding ways to increase attendance at Class B games, which haven’t generated the same atmosphere as the Class C games. This year, the Board changed the format of the Class B tournament to a 16-team single-elimination playoff and eliminated the Super Sections.

Is one of the options to consolidate Class A and B?

The idea was presented during the February State Board meeting and now that the 2014 season is over, I can only assume the board will once again consider the possibility.

If the 494/694 barrier is broken for Class A and B, those teams would have to abide to the 30-mile player radius rule, which says players can only play for teams within 30 miles of their residence.

Article 9, Section C, Subdivision 2, of the 2014 MBA Handbook states, “The Board shall have the authority to classify/reclassify all teams considering A, B, C. Class A teams cannot go outside the 494/694 loop to obtain any players residing outside the 494/694 loop without permission from the board. Class B and Class C teams cannot go inside the 494/694 loop to obtain any players residing inside the 494/694 loop.”

During the February meeting, MBA Secretary Dave Hartmann said removing the 494/694 barrier was more of a “conceptual phase,” at that point.

“We are probably a year away from doing anything with that,” Hartmann said in February.

Eliminating the 494/694 barrier may help Class A teams to obtain more players, but it also may be more beneficial for Class B teams. MBA Vice President Fred Roufs said during the February meeting that Class A may have more to lose than gain with the potential rule change. 

“It puts Class A teams more at risk because if you get a borderline ball player that’s used to paying $250 to play ball and a Dundas or Miesville comes in and says, ‘We got three sets of uniforms and a free duffle bag and our concession stand is open after the game.’ You can get there in a hurry from the Twin Cities,” Roufs said in February.

The reference to paying to play applies to many Class A players. Teams have to rent fields and oftentimes don’t have any sources of revenue other than business sponsors. 

For example, all teams in the Park National League play their games at Parade Stadium, which charges a fee to use the field. Fans, players and umpires all have to pay to park and teams are not allowed to charge admission to the game. There are also no concessions, which is a primary source of funding for many teams across the state.

It will be interesting to see what ideas are presented to the board about the issues surrounding Class A and B, and what actions – if any – will be made. 

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