Forecasters are calling for a brisk, sunny spring afternoon as the Minnesota Twins open their fifth season at Target Field on Monday.
But team officials are already sweating over what could prove to be another year of sagging attendance numbers.
Twins leaders know that their modern, inviting ballpark can only do so much to lure in fans. They accept that to really put fans in seats, the team has to win games.
And while it's early and hope springs eternal among the Twins faithful, the Twins are not expected to finish well this season.
"We've got to get our act together on the field to re-ignite the marketplace," Twins President David St. Peter told the Pioneer Press.
Many teams would envy the average 30,588 fans who came to Twins games last year. Compared to other clubs, the Twins ranked 17 out of 30 for average attendance, despite being one of the worst teams in the league. However, last year's attendance was 23 percent lower than it was in 2010 – the Twins first season at Target Field – when the team averaged almost 40,000 fans, according to ESPN statistics.
The Twins have been fortunate to draw that many fans after losing 90-some games for three straight years. Only 18 other teams have had three-season stretches that bad since Major League Baseball expanded in 1961, and the 2011-13 Chicago Cubs and Twins are the only two teams to have drawn more than 2.47 million fans each season despite those dismal losing records, the Pioneer Press says.
As for the drop in ticket sales, St. Peter has said "Shame on us." He had predicted the team would level off at 2.7 million fans after Target Field's initial seasons, but he didn't anticipate losing 90-plus games the past three years.
St. Peter told WCCO his goal is to increase season ticket sales this year. To do so, he knows his team has to win games. So far this season, the Twins are 3-3, sitting second in the American League Central Division heading into a nine-game home stand.
The club expects to sell out Monday's home opener, but after that, it all depends on the weather, Michael Nowakowski, president of TicketKing of Minneapolis, told the Pioneer Press. Just look at the finale of the White Sox-Twins series last Thursday afternoon – wind chills were in the 30s and it was rainy. The official attendance was just over 11,000, but Red Eye Chicago says it seemed as if only 800 fans were in their seats.
People tend to wait until game day to buy tickets to afternoon games, so they can decide based on weather. Luckily for the Twins – and Minnesotans – the forecast showsspring-like temperatures in the 60s this week.
Nowakowski adds that if the Twins hadn't nailed the ballpark design, they'd have real attendance issues. But because Target Field is a unique venue, people want to go there and hang out – even if their team is losing.
The Pioneer Press says the stakes are high this season as the Twins prepare to host the 2014 All-Star Game July 15 in the "trendy stadium that is outperforming the ballclub."
The Twins host the Oakland Athletics Monday at 3:10 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday at 12:10 p.m. Tickets are still available for all the games in the series.