Wednesday, 10 August 2011 14:37

Weather, new seats credited for rise in Indians' attendance

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Swift Current Indians broke two ugly trends at Mitchell Field in 2011.

For the first time since 2007, an average of more than 300 people came out to see the Swift Current Indians play at home during the Western Major Baseball League regular season in 2011. It was also the first time in three years attendance numbers increased.

The Tribe drew 6,173 people to games this season and average 309 fans for each of the team’s 20 home games, an increase of 9.8 per cent over 2010’s attendance figures.

Indians president Brad Woods is excited to see the numbers go up this year, but he believes there’s a pretty obvious explanation for it.

“Probably one of the biggest things was an outstanding July for us with the weather co-operating for a change,” said Woods. “In the past, July has been pretty hit or miss with rain showers or thunderstorms or just things not working out.

“We saw some good crowds pretty much throughout July.”

The Indians averaged 398 fans during their nine home games in July.

It was more than just the weather, however, that Woods credits for bringing more fans to the diamond this season.

For years he had heard complaints from people that the wooden benches on the grandstands were a deterrent for people wanting to attend games as they were too hard and uncomfortable.

Thanks to a donation from the Field of Dreams fundraising dinner and hard work by the Indians’ seating committee, that complaint wasn’t heard after July 5, when brand new seats were installed around the field.

Although Woods never heard any positive feedback from the new seats, he believes no news is good news.

“I think the fact that we filled up a number of times near the end of the season and that there wasn’t any letters to the editor or phone calls to my attention about how something needs to be done just goes to show –– we’re definitely on the right track,” explained Woods.

“I would say that because I didn’t hear any feedback it would be more positive because I think
the people who were there enjoyed having some back support and a little bit of space.”

Woods believes that Mitchell Field may be the second best ball park in the WMBL, only behind Okotoks, based on the field’s playing surface and the news seats in place.

He also gave a lot of credit for having weekday games for drawing in more fans.

According to Woods, there are too many recreational things to do in southwest Saskatchewan on weekends, and the Indians suffer at the gate because of it.

With attendance numbers increasing this year, Indians’ executive is now working on finding a way to have them continue to rise next year.

Woods doesn’t believe the on-field product will be an issue as the Tribe historically always is in the mix for a league title. It started with longtime coach Harv Martinez and has continued with current skipper Joe Carnahan.

The key to keep the support of the community, according to Woods, is for the organization to continue being involved in the community.

“Baseball is very strong in Swift Current and that people are coming to support us in sponsorship and attendance goes to show the strength of baseball in Swift Current,” he said. “That’s a very positive thing and we’ll continue to build on that and have our players involved in the community and minor ball and with things like the McCleary-Moen Golf Tournament where we’re supporting some of the charities and foundations in town.

“We’re really reaching out to be part of the community instead of being a ball team in a community. I think if we continue to do those things as a board and a team, we’ll continue to be supported as such.”

Total attendance at Mitchell Field:

2011 — 6,173 (average per game 309)
2010 — 5,621 (average per game 268)
2009 — 5,645 (average per game 269)
2008 — 4,675* (average per game 292*)
2007 — 6,020 (average per game 334)
NOTE:* denotes attendance not recorded for two games. Also note, there were only 18 home games in 2007 and 2008 and 20 home games in 2011.

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