When Target Field opened in 2010 fans were excited, people were clamoring for season tickets and the team was a playoff contender. That year attendance reached 3,223,640 people. For nine straight years, attendance has gone down in all but one. The attendance for the 2018 season was 1,959,197. Almost a 1.3-million-person drop.
“We’ve missed the mark on expectations. That’s a tough place to be when expectations are high and you under-deliver and if you do that routinely over time, it takes its toll,” said Twins President and Chief Executive Officer Dave St. Peter.
The Twins have relied heavily on the attractions and restaurants in the new ballpark to keep drawing in fans, but the organization knows that fans want to see a better product on the field.
“I could make a pretty good case that as poorly as we have played over the first decade in the ballpark we have had more fans in the ballpark most nights than we probably deserve and that speaks to the Target Field experience,” said St. Peter. “You can have a great game-day experience, but you also need to have a competitive baseball team.”
One way the organization is trying to get fans back in the seats is the implementation of two concession stands located in sections 133 and 237 that are money friendly. There, you can now get a hot dog for $4 and a 12 oz. beer for $5.
“So far, it’s been pretty good, well-received, lines haven’t been too bad. We need to do a better job of promoting it,” said St. Peter. “You should not have to spend $6 on a hot dog. To me, that’s crazy.”
After this year it’s still undecided if they will expand this plan to other concessions stands or cancel it altogether. The Twins know that there are fans out there who want the premium experience right behind home plate and around the dugout, but they are aware that they need to make the game more accessible to all fans to draw their goal of 2.5-3 million fans per year.
St. Peter knows that concessions are expensive. The price of beer has risen to $10.50. Double the price of a standard six-pack of beer. When asked about the increased price of beer St. Peter rebutted, “Bud Light isn’t regular beer?” Bud Light is the beer sold at the two cheaper concession stands. “I will tell you I don’t believe the concessions model inside of sports is sustainable.” However, St. Peter says he knows that most fans will pay up for an expensive beer. “Thank God this year I have a $5 beer to sell you.” If fans want a cheaper beer it sounds like they’ll have to be satisfied with Bud Light.
Another way the Twins are trying to draw in fans is with the Twins Pass. The pass is made up of three different packages. For $49 per month fans can go to every game and be in standing room only. For $99 they get an upper level seat and for $149 they get a lower level seat. Every game a fan sits in a different seat.
“I think there’s a new generation of fans that aren’t looking for a fixed seat," said St. Peter. “Sales of that have been, I would say have been just okay. This month will be telling.” The Twins wrap up their April schedule against the Houston Astros, the 2017 World Series Champions. That could bring in quite a few fans.
The Twins feel this (Twins Pass) will draw in the 25-year-old to 35-year-old demographic. They’re trying their best to engage that age range according to St. Peter. “It’s critical to get that group engaged any way we can get them engaged. Whether it be via social channels, whether it be inside of the ballpark, whether it be attending a community event or some experiential marketing event. Their level of engagement is critical.” Studies have shown that people in that range spend the most money.
Even with all the different things the Twins are trying to do to lure fans into the stadium, attendance is not off to a good start. On April 15, the Twins had only 11,727 fans in attendance, the lowest in Target Field history. That’s 3,000 less than the previous record set the day prior. With all the changes to the team, they’ll will have to get back to the winning ways of the mid-2000’s to get fans in the seats.
“We still have more work to do. We have to regain a level of credibility in this marketplace around our baseball operation,” said St. Peter.