Spring training attendance in Dunedin is down – why?

Through 5 home games of a 15 home game spring training season, attendance at Toronto Blue Jays’s games has averaged 4,384 people per game. Attendance is well below last year’s attendance for the first 5 games, and MLB.Com shows hundreds of tickets available for most of the remaining homes games.

Dunedin Reporter will publish the Blue Jays season average attendance at a later date, an average which may still exceed most of the recent spring training seasons.

The three first homes games of 2017 each had an attendance below 4,000 per game, well below the 4,389 who saw last year’s lowest attended game. There is some evidence to suggest that the lower attendance is due to this year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC). The WBC is an event played every 4 years.

Every spring training season, the Toronto Blue Jays typically play 14 to 16 spring training home games at the 83-year old Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin. The attendance has risen from an average of 3,595 per game in 2006 to a record average of 5,190 per game in 2016.

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium has a capacity of 5,509 people, the second smallest capacity of the 14 spring training stadiums in Florida. Although a small stadium with an intimate feel is appealing to some fans, it also limits the number dollars that spring training brings to Dunedin.

Should the Blue Jays fail to post strong attendance numbers this season with the current stadium size, it may raise questions about why Pinellas County should contribute $46.1 million dollars towards expanding the stadium by approximately 3,000 seats (see the project dollar figures below).

The $13.6 million that the City of Dunedin is counting on from the State of Florida may also be in jeopardy. Governor Rick Scott wants to keep the state program that funds spring training facilities, but the Legislature may have other ideas as the state faces a budget shortfall in the current legislative session.

The percentage of the total project cost that the city is asking from Pinellas County government has also grown sharply from the last renovation in 2000. At that time, the county contributed $6 million, or 25% of the total project cost. Now, they are being asked to pay 57%, with the city only kicking in 7%, as the city’s economic impact claims fail to find support among impartial experts.

The county contribution comes from so-called “bed tax” revenue derived from a tax on transient lodging (less than 6 month stay) in Pinellas County. Dunedin accounts for less $500,000 per year of that revenue, which is less than 1% of all such taxes collected. Given these numbers, other municipalities and government watchdogs may object to $46.1 million being spent on a stadium project in Dunedin with a 20-year shelf life.

As always: DR reports, and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to learn when we publish new articles

Update: below we will track the announced attendance of the remaining Blue Jays’ home games in Dunedin. The announced attendance numbers for the Grapefruit League (=Florida Spring Training) can be seen here.

Mar 11 – 5,471 – vs. Phillies
Mar 13 – 5,485 – vs. Red Sox
Mar 16 – 5,480 – vs. Yankees
Mar 18 – 5,462 – vs. Rays
Mar 20 – 5,473 – vs. Twins
Mar 22 – 5,487 – vs. Tigers
Mar 24 – 5,471 – vs. Red Sox
Mar 26 – 4,706 – vs. Orioles
Mar 27 – 4,706 – vs. Phillies
Mar 29 – 5,430 – vs. Yankees

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2 thoughts on “Spring training attendance in Dunedin is down – why?

  1. There are so many other more important issues that need funding. Professional sports should be ashamed they even ask the taxpayer to fund their business. But we need politicians that just say no to them.

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