Swing And A Miss: FIU Baseball Attendance Problems

Alex Rivera/Staff Writer

Attendance has always been a huge issue for all sports at FIU, and baseball has been no different.

Using the reported attendance for the 2019 baseball season, PantherNOW compared FIU and their Conference USA counterparts with average attendance, which games bring in the biggest crowds, and the dynamics of venues.

Starting with average attendance, FIU ranks seventh within the C-USA for, with an average 502 fans turning out for their games. The best average for attendance goes to Southern Miss, with an average of 3,521 turning out. But these numbers fail to consider the venues of which the teams play in. FIU Baseball Stadium has a capacity of 2,000; Southern Mississippi’s Pete Taylor Park has a capacity of 4,300.

When considering the capacity of their respective venues, Southern Miss retains their number one ranking while FIU improves to sixth. When this is done, the biggest gainer by this metric is the University of Texas, San Antonio. Their average attendance of 9,899 in a stadium of 800 meant having their Roadrunner Field at 43 percent capacity, fourth in C-USA by this metric.

The problem with using averages for this kind of analysis is that the average also includes the games that are outliers, in FIU’s case, their game against cross town rival UM. The game against UM brought in the largest crowd FIU Baseball Stadium saw last season, with a reported 1,923 in attendance. Without the UM game, the average for the season drops to 445.

However, FIU is not alone in having attendance spikes, it is actually a common occurrence.

Another factor for attendance could very well be the fact that there is an increased demand for college baseball, leading to an increase in attendance in for Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi. Both areas lack a major league team meaning the closest ticket is on their campus. FIU however has to compete with baseball at Marlins Park and at the University of Miami.

Within this could be UM baseball having a larger fanbase or playing in a more competitive conference. To take note, FIU and UM played a home and home series, both games on Wednesday nights, UM bringing a crowd of 2,239 at their home game. 

Where does this leave FIU?

Some of their conference counterparts have no issue brining in crowds of over a thousand, Louisiana Tech, FAU, and Rice had their largest turnouts against other C-USA teams. FIU is also situated to the west of the University of Miami and the Miami Marlins, when games overlap, which games would fans prefer to go to?

With the Marlins taking new steps to lower the costs to go to games, from ticket

prices to concessions, selling the idea of spending a Friday or Saturday night watching any other baseball becomes difficult.

From the perspective of selling “big” games, like the intrastate rivalries, wanting a larger venue than the FIU Baseball Stadium would prove problematic. Unlike Charlotte or UAB, Miami lacks a nearby Minor League stadium, and having a game at 36, 742 capacity Marlins Park would be overdoing it.

FIU should look to at ways to bring fans through the gate with C-USA opponents, since it has been shown it could be done. FAU was able to draw in a crowd of 1,250 against Rice, running on promotional concessions and contests for St. Patrick’s Day. 

Another avenue could be looking at hosting a home series between UF and FSU at FIU Baseball Stadium. These two schools have large fan bases in South Florida, and would be a middle ground for playing a team that is relatively close, but not a next-door neighbor.

A fact to remember is that admission to FIU baseball games are free for students, which is a first step. But the numbers across the conference says that there must be other ways to bring fans in. To their credit, FIU Baseball did run a May the 4th Promotion, giving away lightsabers, for what became a doubleheader against C-USA opponent UAB, bringing 386 attendees.

What to do? Their one UM game at home shows that a big-name school brings people in, but FIU plays 15 conference games at home that mean more in terms of a post season. In the Majors and Minors, teams often promote games with a theme or giveaways, which have little effect if no one hears about the promotions.

While we wait for the FIU Baseball season to start, the attendance numbers remain an issue.

FIU baseball are in interesting spot coming off their 23-32 record in 2018. The team is very young and coach Mervel Melendez hopes his young talent has developed enough to be more competitive in 2019.

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