Tomorrow would have been the first two games of the season at Yankee Stadium as the New York Yankees would have taken on the Orioles. Tonight would have been the New York Mets starting a 2 games series in Houston against the Astros. But, of course, none of that is happening as the coronavirus pandemic continues to make Sportsbot 5,000’s proclamation in Futurama’s 2008 mini film “The Beast with a Billion Backs” a reality.
Teams, like the rest of us, are struggling with the reality that we currently live in, where the primary goal is “flatten the curve” of the spread of the disease. Large gatherings, such as sporting events, become a harrowing ordeal, as you have to be just super cautious about who you let into the arena over fear that they may (or may not) have the disease.
So, with the baseball season still on hold, how much money would the Yankees and Mets lose should the season carry on outside of the Bronx or Queens?
Play All Games, for the Time Being, in Arizona?
New York is still, though some states are catching up, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. As a result, I’m resigning myself to the reality that the Yankees/Cubs game I have a ticket for would force me to travel elsewhere if I want to have it honored.
Now, some are asking “Why Arizona, where the Yankees and Mets have facilities in Florida?” Florida, in the infinite wisdom of the state’s governor, waited until April 4th to issue the same “shelter at home” orders Governor Cuomo ordered for his state. The state now has more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the virus, seeing as many as 1,000 confirmed cases per day. Arizona, meanwhile, has less than 3,000 confirmed cases of the disease, as well as being one of the key states where Spring Training is held. In fact, when you factor in Chase Field, Arizona has 11 stadiums where we can have games.
Now, it seems disingenuous to be talking about how much money these teams stand to lose as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic, especially since the groups that own these teams are worth billions of dollars. But, unless this whole pandemic changes what we prioritize in this world, we’re going to have to realize that guys like Aaron Judge and Noah Syndergaard won’t be able to get even half the contract value guys like them got just this past offseason.
So let’s say that the Yankees play 50 home games of a 130 game season at Salt River Fields. The facility holds 11,000 seat capacity. The Yankees have fans everywhere, so sellouts are likely. But, it’s likely they won’t receive 100% of the total ticket sales, concession sales, or merchandise sales, as the host site will take (let’s argue) 20% of the gross for all this revenue coming in. So let’s look at the averages for all three categories:
The average price of a Yankee ticket in 2019 was $52. At an 11,000 seat venue, that’s $572 thousand. Minus 20% and they get $457,600 per game, vs. the $2.8 million in ticket sales they receive for one sellout at Yankee Stadium. So the Yankees would stand to lose, potentially, $117.2 million in ticket sales alone.
Need I go on in calculating how much money would be lost in concession and merch sales?
Let’s say the Mets play the same number of home games at Surprise Stadium, a field that holds 10,714. According to Statista.com, the average price for a Mets ticket is $27.60. While you can fit 41,922 at sellout capacity in Citi Field, the Mets averaged 30,531, which was about 73% capacity. Since the Mets are an east coast team, and most of the teams they play are east coast teams, let’s argue that the Mets would see 75% capacity at their home games in Surprise Stadium, again, losing 20% of gross ticket revenue. That means the Mets would generate $11.8 million, as opposed to the $42.1 million for the same number of home games at Citi Field.
Now, lost in all of this, is the salaries of the seasonal workers who ensure that we can buy the peanuts, crackerjacks, hot dogs, drinks, cotton candy, ice cream, and everything else in between at the home games. Undoubtedly, the loss of their positions is inevitable, as the ownership groups will be desperate to recoup the millions, if not billions, of dollars in revenue they generate over the course of their 81 home games per season. Also lost in this are all the minor league players who are depending on things like Shin-soo Chu’s generosity as they wait for the season to start.
I’m hoping that we see a shift in focus on what’s important. Baseball players have a luxury compared to most other sports. NFL players deal with their teams being tethered down by the salary cap. Baseball players don’t. Does Mike Trout really need to be making $35.8 million per year under his 12 year contract extension? Does Giancarlo Stanton need to be making $26 million this year, and $29 million next year? Especially when so many more people who work at Yankee Stadium rely more on our butts being in those seats than Stanton does?
We’re all struggling right now. We want baseball back just as much as the players, owners, and seasonal employees want baseball back. And while it’s great to see us all banding together as we are, the importance of how much money is being lost right now can’t be stated enough. So many people who aren’t the Stanton’s, Gerrit Cole’s, and Mike Trout’s of baseball depend on these games to be played. It’s imperative that not only we get the season started soon, but we do it in a safe way to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved. The Nippon League is seeing a rough start to its delayed start to the season as there are players testing positive for the coronavirus. And while some states are being spared the same ravages the disease has inflicted on states like New York, California, and Louisiana, there’s no certainty that Arizona won’t become the new hotbed for the virus if all 30 teams are playing baseball in the state. That’s 780 players (under the new 26 man roster), plus all their coaches, training staff, scouts, and medical staff.
Here’s hoping something is figured out soon. Because I’m dying to go up to the ticket booth at a ball field and proclaim “Shut up and take my money!”