Bloomberg News

Tigers in Playoffs Means Detroit Bonus as Boston Bars Lose

September 30, 2011

(Adds starting time for Tigers-Yankees game in ninth paragraph.)

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Art Neely says he considers the $5 beer he downed before the Detroit Tigers’ final game of the regular season two nights ago a down payment on the $200 he expects to spend at each playoff game.

“This town is going to go crazy,” the 43-year-old season- ticket-holder said from a table at the Elwood Bar & Grill across the street from Comerica Park, where the Tigers will play their first home game of the Major League Baseball postseason against the New York Yankees on Oct. 3. “Every bar will be jam-packed to the wall.”

The throngs of Tigers fans may bring as much as $74.4 million in tickets, food, parking and merchandise revenue to the Motor City, where 22.5 percent unemployment and the bankruptcy of two automakers have left residents hungry for good news, a Michigan sports marketer said. In Boston, the Red Sox’ record September collapse out of a postseason berth means that city will miss an estimated $38 million in business, according to the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

For the 75-year-old Elwood, 56 steps from the Tigers’ home field, there was no such letdown this year. It was the first playoff appearance for the Tigers since 2006 and the first division title since 1987. Detroit clinched during a 12-game winning streak that ran into mid-September, the longest since 1932.

Game-Night Crowd

Licensed to hold 123 patrons, on a good game night a few thousand will stop in or sit on the Elwood patio for a Coney dog, a Ty Cobb salad and a beer, said Liz Markle, 41, who’s managed the Elwood since it reopened in 2002 after being moved to make way for Comerica Park.

Jason Orban flew in from Honolulu for the Sept. 28 victory over the Cleveland Indians, his third this season. He was with his brothers Lee Hamann; Lee’s wife, Beth; and Dave Harvey, who drove in from Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the Elwood four hours before the first pitch.

Orban, 28, who is stationed in Hawaii with the Army, said he’ll have six or seven $8.50 beers at the stadium when the Tigers are playing well, which has been often this year. On a bad day, he said he’ll have about a dozen. He figures his group spent $800 to attend the game this week.

“Price don’t matter to me,” Orban said. “How often do you get to come down here and support the team?”

The Tigers open their best-of-five first-round playoff series against the Yankees at 8:37 p.m. today. The winner will face the Texas Rangers or the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Championship and a spot in the World Series. The National League playoffs, where the Philadelphia Phillies meet the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks play the Milwaukee Brewers, begin tomorrow.

How Much Spent

The plane flights, beers, jerseys and game tickets from fans like Orban and Neely add up to about $5.3 million a game in the first round of the playoffs, $6.7 million for the American League Championship Series and $12 million each if the Tigers make it to the World Series, said Eric Smallwood, senior vice president of Front Row Marketing Services in Port Huron, Michigan.

It also means as much as $36.8 million in advertising exposure from in-stadium signs and other mentions for Dallas- based bank holding company Comerica Inc. if the Tigers were to play all the potential home games and win the World Series, he said.

“It was a spark plug for the city,” Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, Rookie of the Year in 2006 when the Tigers last made the playoffs, said in an interview after the game. “Everybody rallied around us and it really boosted the economy.”

Nine-Game Lead

In Boston, where the Red Sox blew a nine-game lead in September in losing a playoff spot to the Rays, missing the playoffs won’t have a major effect on the city’s $7 billion annual revenue from visitors, “but it’s like found money,” said Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau whose $38 million estimate excluded ticket sales.

Without a Sox playoff season, yearly sales at the Cask ‘n’ Flagon pub could be reduced by 5 percent, according to Dana Van Fleet, a co-owner. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007 and have made the playoffs six of the past 10 years.

“Playoff baseball is very important to us,” said Van Fleet, whose establishment is so close to the ballpark that home runs sometimes land on its roof. “Not just financially, but for the overall excitement it brings to the restaurant.”

Back in Detroit, the city may be reaping gains from more than the Tigers, who last won the World Series in 1984.

Business From Sports

With the Detroit Lions at 3-0 for the first time since 1980 in the National Football League and the season starting for the Detroit Red Wings, who haven’t missed the National Hockey League playoffs since 1991, the trio of downtown stadiums has the potential to bring in $140 million in September/October revenue, said Mike Bernacchi, a business and marketing professor at University of Detroit Mercy.

“The intangible value is immeasurable,” said Daniel Loepp, chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and chairman of the executive committee of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which advocates development in the city. “The excitement level and civic pride will help us tell a more positive story about Detroit.”

Blue Cross has a 60-foot-square billboard near its Detroit headquarters with a looming Old English “D” -- the Tigers’ logo -- and the phrase “We Believe.” Loepp, who grew up in the city, was 11 years old when he attended the fourth game of the 1968 World Series, which the Tigers won in seven games over the Cardinals.

“I took the bus from Detroit’s east side with my older brothers and we sat behind a pole in left field,” he said. “It was pouring rain and the Tigers lost 10-1 and it still felt like you’d won the lottery just to be there. It was a great day.”

--Editors: Michael Sillup, Dex McLuskey.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Green in Southfield, Michigan, at Jgreen16@bloomberg.net; Mark Clothier in Southfield, Michigan, at mclothier@bloomberg.net; Tom Moroney in Boston at tmorrone@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net


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