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The Hall of Fame’s attendance is in decline

Jan 3, 2012, 9:33 AM EST

cooperstown

There’s an article over at Sports Business Journal — sorry, subscription only — about the financials and attendance for the Hall of Fame.

The money part sounds somewhat more dire than it may be in practice. The joint has lost money for seven of the past nine years, including a $2.36 million loss for 2010 (the last year when full numbers were available) and a $4.3 million loss in 2009.  Obviously not great, but as the article notes, it’s misleading given that the Hall is a non-profit and a lot of its income comes from donations that, while counted in the year received, are used to fund operations for several years in some cases.

More interesting to me are the attendance numbers:

Museum attendance has slid from 352,000 in 2007 to 301,755 in 2008, 289,000 in 2009, 281,000 in 2010, and a projected figure of between 265,000 and 270,000 for 2011. Annual attendance topped 400,000 in peak years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A lot of the recent slide is probably due to the recession. If you can’t travel as often, the trip to way-out-of-the-way upstate New York is probably high on the list for sacrifice.

I imagine some of it, too, has to do with casual fans moving away somewhat from baseball in the mid-90s with the labor strife and the overall rise in the popularity of other sports.  Casual fans still go to the games in droves because it’s a relatively low opportunity cost kind of pursuit, but they’re not going to make a special point to go to the Hall. Sports overall have become more fragmented.

All of which makes me wonder — as others have before — what attendance would look like if the Hall were, you know, someplace near a major population center.  It’s an academic point given how deeply the Hall’s management and board are invested in the town of Cooperstown, but it would be a pretty gigantic increase if the place was in New York or Chicago, I’m sure.

  1. mrfloydpink - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    The reason people decided a few years ago that the Hall of Fame was no longer worth their time can be summed up in two words:

    Jim Rice.

    • skeleteeth - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      Nevermind that the Hall was setup under false pretenses in the first place.

    • Detroit Michael - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      If one objectively poor player selection significantly harms the Hall of Fame’s attendance, then the Hall of Fame would have closed after the series of poor, crony-inspired veterans committee selections four decades ago when Frankie Frisch led that committee. While I’m not a fan of the Jim Rice selection, it’s fairly ignorant of the Hall’s history to seriously believe that one bad selection harms attendance that much.

    • pjmarn6 - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      This was a puff piece by Craig Calcaterra to protect his industry and job. The HOF is as unimportant as a Wax Museum. Real fans of our former National Pasttime, know that what is now in the HOF is as fake as a $3.00 bill. Nothing you see there can be relieved on if it happened in the last 60 years. Tom House gave a very disturbing interview with statistics about Hank Aaron’s career and his use of steroids during the years that Aaron played. The statistics are more convincing and you can find them at http://grg51.typepad.com/steroid_nation/2007/02/hammerin_hank_a.html. It shows the older Hank Aaron got the more homeruns he produced per 100 at bats.
      You have to read and decide for yourself. But going back 40 years drugs were used. The falloff of at attendance is not so much economic pressures as the public realization that baseball statistics and the fame of players is so much horseshit. We are looking at and admiring doped up players, unreliable statistics and accomplishments, one would get from drugged animals. Thank god that horse racing is so well monitored. There is no more HOF. It is a farce dedicated to people who cheated and were rewarded for cheated. One has to go back at least 50 years to see real players playing unjuiced. I imagine the HOF will close soon and baseball will still exist and player’s will never have a chance to challenge these illegal stats and for many many years few players will get in as HOFers. Their records should be removed and like the blackshocks players banned from baseball at any level and their stats banned. The home run champion is Roger Maris. Ted Willions really did hit over .400 and DiMaggio really did have that hitting streak. Larsen did pitch that perfect game and Berra did jump into his arms. Killibrew was a great hitter. Ford was a great pitcher but perhaps there should be a committee established by 100% honest delegates to fine tooth the players and records and any hint or whisper of drug use should automatically disqualify a player or a stat. Radical surgery is the only way to save the HOF otherwise the patient will die.

  2. thefalcon123 - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    I live in NYC and lemme tell ya…the HOF is such a pain in the ass to get to. It’s located in a tiny town with a population of 2,000 in the middle of nowhere and requires a two-lane highway for the last 15 or 20 miles. The nearest city is Albany, 80 miles away.

    These are the actual, unmodified Google Driving directions from my neighborhood of Sunnyside, Queens to the HOF.
    1. Take I-278 North
    2. Take exit 47 for I-87 North
    3. Exit 7s for I-95 South
    4. Exit 72A for NJ4 West
    5. Exit onto NJ17 North
    6. Merge onto I-87 North for 0.6 miles (wasn’t I just on that?)
    7. Merge on to NY17 West
    8. Continue on US6 West
    9. Continue on NY17 West (huh?)
    10. Take NY-206 toward Roscoe
    11. Slight Right Onto Bridge St.
    12. Left onto Delware St.
    13. Right on CO 21 (back to the highway after this in-town detour)
    14. On to NY-357 East
    15. On to NY-28 N
    16. Into Cooperstown.

    • contraryguy - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      eh well Utica’s a bit closer than Albany, but no point in splitting hairs, this post is dead on the money as far as the effort it takes to get there. I stopped by the HOF on my way back to Ohio from the Adirondacks a few years ago, and while I’d say it was worth the visit, I can’t see going back anytime soon, even for Larkin’s ceremony (assuming he gets in).

      • jwestc - Jan 3, 2012 at 4:58 PM

        Ohio-whoopee as well.

    • Gobias Industries - Jan 3, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      *10. Stop at Roscoe Diner for some French Toast.

    • woodenulykteneau - Jan 3, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      What a shock: A whiny New Yorker that can’t fathom driving more than two blocks.

      • thefalcon123 - Jan 3, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        What a shock, another dumb douchebag who thinks it’s clever to make “whiny New Yorker” comments when someone makes a post pointing out the comically complex driving directions to get there.

      • kellyb9 - Jan 3, 2012 at 12:32 PM

        I’m from Philly, and I completely agree with the person from NYC. It’s terrible to get to, and there’s nothing to do once you’re there (except the HOF). It would be easier to get to if it was in L.A. or Paris (sarcasm… sort of).

      • adenzeno - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        We flew in from Texas twice and drove from Albany to Cooperstown-Beautiful drive, very easy, a bit under an hour-took the back roads and there was minimal traffic. Not a hard drive at all, but granted we were coming from Albany. Of course here in Texas we will drive 3 hours to watch the Astros or Rangers(some drive farther) and often we drive an hour just to eat some quality BBQ.. :-)

      • woodenulykteneau - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        @thefalcon123 – It’s only complex to someone of your intellect.

    • pjmarn6 - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      With any continued realization that the HOF is a farce, it will soon shut down and you wouldn’t have to worry about getting to it.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      I remember when my fiancee and I visited, we got lost about five miles away and asked an elderly couple and their daughter, who were sitting on their lawn in Laz-E-Boy chairs, how to get there. Their “rural” language was not exactly simple to decipher, either.

      Your point is well made, falcon.

      • jwestc - Jan 3, 2012 at 5:00 PM

        I imagine you get lost five miles form your trailer…

    • jwestc - Jan 3, 2012 at 4:57 PM

      as if ANYONE not from the garden spot of Queens wants to GO to Queens! just because you are a NYC centric person who uses computer directions (lame and often not done well-look at the map it comes with already!)…means nothing. get out of (fabulous as it is (!?) Queens sometime (maybe have someone else drive?) and see some of the rest of NY, or the US, or the world even. god forbid you get out of your junker and even touch the ground, much less a (horrors!!) two lane road-OMG. geez…what an urban wus-get on with it-you could surprise yourself IF you wanted to, maybe.

  3. jkcalhoun - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    The New Baseball Hall of Fame can be located in Hoboken, which is easily accessible by PATH train from downtown Manhattan.

    I nominate Joe Posnanski to chair a committee for the establishment of induction rules.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      I can imagine the zillions of times we’d hear “Summer Wind” if it was in Hoboken.

  4. girardisbraces - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    Craig, I used to travel from Utica to Cooperstown on a yearly basis with my father and other family members to see the Hall of Fame Game. In my mind, the separation of Induction Weekend and the HOF Game, and then the subsequent death of the HOF Game (replaced by the ghastly “HOF Classic”) is largely to blame for this decline.

    I submit that fewer people wish to see aging former players over current stars and up and coming farm system prospects.

    • sportsdrenched.com - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:31 AM

      There maybe something to that. Every fall thousands upon thousands decend upon out of the way college towns to watch games. Put a game there that means something and attendance might pick up.

      Also, politics aisde. MLB’s 2010 estimated revenue was over $7 Billion. Surely the HOF is worth some financial support from MLB. I think that would be money better spent that and a lot cheaper than say, proping up the Mets Organization.

    • pjmarn6 - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      I rather see the honest aging players and look at their untarnished records than the BS current stats and see that they cheated to get where they are.

  5. loge23 - Jan 3, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    Yes, it is a trek. I once made the trip from my former residence in upstate NY (Northern Catskills) and it took awhile. From NYC, it’s an all-dayer. The HOF is well worth the trip for any BB fan.
    Cooperstown is one of the most beautiful little towns you’ll ever see – in any season, but you’ll have to stay there to take in the HOF. Options are somewhat limited, unless you want to shell out the Otesaga rate.
    Can’t see moving the place though. I guess the solution is in Marketing.

    • jwbiii - Jan 3, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      I camped at Glimmerglass State Park at the other end of Lake Otesaga, about 15 miles away.

      • sportsdrenched.com - Jan 4, 2012 at 9:59 AM

        Since I’ve been out of college all of my vacations have been in camping in some remote locations, only venturing into cities to buy supplies like beer, and do laundry.

        The only thing I know about upstate NY is that it’s mostly forest, and there are hills/mountains. When I read that Cooperstown doesn’t have a lot of lodging my first thought was: I bet there’s a sweet campground nearby.

        Baseball & Camping? I’m almost ready to scrap my current vacation plans and drive to NY this summer. It would be a lot cooler there than on the Buffalo River in Arkansas.

  6. denny65 - Jan 3, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    I’ve said for years that I won’t visit the HOF until Pete Rose is inducted. That still holds true.

    Keeping one of baseball’s greatest players out of the Hall renders it’s whole point meaningless.

    • Lukehart80 - Jan 3, 2012 at 12:35 PM

      There will soon be even better players getting kept out, so that’s exciting.

    • 18thstreet - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      Good lord, I hate the Pete Rose fanatics. Get over it. Your hero broke a rule that’s posted on the G.D. walls of every last G.D. clubhouse from Anchorage to Key West. You can’t bet on baseball.

      He signed a statement saying he bet on baseball. Go Google Baseball Rule 21. It’s on all the Internets. Here: http://baseball1.com/files/rose/rule21.html

      (d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or
      employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in
      connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared
      ineligible for one year.

      Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall
      bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which
      the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

      He did it. He did it. He. Did. It.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 3, 2012 at 4:31 PM

        Out of baseball? Fine, he is out. Out of the baseball museum? Then what is the point of having a museum?

        Frankly, I think the Hall would be a lot more interesting if they added a scofflaw wing and finally represent guys like Shoeless joe, Pete, Bonds, Clemens, Perry, etc…

  7. sisqsage - Jan 3, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    Singling out a player as a reason not to visit the HOF is absurd, and deprives you of a great experience.

    I went in August 2005 and loved the HOF grounds and the quaint “Village of Cooperstown”. With the nearby lake, it’s all a beautiful slice of Americana.

    The declining numbers reflect a fact that is at least two decades old now: the “too slow” sport is losing young kids to video games and other activities, especially in urban areas. If a kid doesn’t want to beg his dad to take him to the HOF because he doesn’t care about baseball, he likely won’t want to go to Cooperstown in his adult years either. You lose a patron for life.

    The attendance will keep dropping because visting the HOF is a unique experience. You don’t desire to do it every year. With the younger generation tuning out, the economic pie gets smaller, and so do the number of visits.

    The recession is a factor, no doubt, but those attendance numbers have been down for a longer time than that.

    The location is a challenge, but those numbers also indicate that when more kids were still tuned into baseball, the family still made the trip. If you really like baseball, sooner or later, you go.

  8. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 3, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    I can’t help but wonder if, on top of economical reasons and all that, if any number of people don’t want to visit the HOF right now in light of the voters’ questionable views on PED candidates.

  9. aceshigh11 - Jan 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    My father and I actually went to the Hall of Fame for the first time the day after Christmas last week (it feels like forever)…

    I grew up about 50 miles south of Albany, and it took us about 2 1/2 hours to get to Cooperstown…it is DEFINITELY not an easy trip, even if one lives in NY state.

    The town itself is gorgeous, but looked near-abandoned (not surprising, given the time of year) but there were more people at the Hall than I expected.

    Overall, we had a great time. It’s sad that the attendance is declining.

  10. The Rabbit - Jan 3, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    When I lived in South Jersey and my son was young, we would make a yearly trek to the Hall.
    It took forever, because as noted in the above Google directions, it’s in the middle of nowhere and the Eisenhower highway system didn’t include an interstate. At the time, other than camping, some local motels, and B&B’s, there was no place to stay within 20 miles, either.
    That said, if you have innate curiousity, there were always things to do. The Hall has a research library, part of which was open to the public. Cooperstown had a number of fine artisans with galleries. The Farmers Museum recently featured on the Travel Channel held some interesting items and trivia. The small towns and farm country in Upstate New York hold its own charms.
    If you enjoy the outdoors, the fishing and hiking are good and the area is beautiful in the fall.
    My last trip was solo on a motorcycle. When I pulled in, I attracted the attention of Clete Boyer who lived there during the summer. He asked for a ride. We talked baseball and I accepted his invitation to join him later at his burger restaurant for dinner. At the time, I was unaware he was Roger Maris’ roommate in 1961. For the next three hours, he shared childhood and Yankee stories. For a baseball fan like myself, this was perfection.
    If you are like me and find the journey more interesting than the destination, it’s absolutely worth the trip.

    • cur68 - Jan 3, 2012 at 3:21 PM

      Rabbit I have no trouble understanding why a former baseball player saw a good looking lady and started talking to her. I suspect though, I’d have a very different experience than yourself, not the least of which would involve being hopelessly lost in a foreign land with no chance of anyone taking an interest and speaking a dialect with which I am familiar, unless comparisons to swine were being made (why is it, whenever I think of rural America I think of “Deliverance” and not, say, “Field of Dreams”?). Maybe its just society?

      One of these days I’m going to try to get to Cooperstown. When I do, all I ask is that I do not hear, even once, even in jest, the phrase “Boy, yew gotta pretty mouth”.

      • The Rabbit - Jan 3, 2012 at 5:15 PM

        Thanks for the compliment, cur…I do recognize that I have advantages (most notably, the right one and the left one) that most men don’t have; however, if you get that damned thesis finished and visit, I’ll show you the “Field of Dreams” part of rural America…and maybe we should all take a field trip to Cooperstown.
        Yes, there is a “Deliverance” area in this neck of the woods, but just like parts of urban America that you should probably avoid at night (although I’ve never been smart enough to do that and have never had a problem), the trick is to learn your surroundings.
        I don’t know why you think that you’d be treated differently here. People are people. Most are great; Some are a**holes. I spent a great deal of time in almost every province of your country, including Quebec. My French sucks but I gave it a shot. If nothing else, I gave them a laugh. Not to worry: Your English is better than most Americans.

      • cur68 - Jan 3, 2012 at 5:22 PM

        I’m just a slave to my stereotypical perceptions, Rabbit. Its this igloo I live in. Not much room for freedom of thought in an ice house. And never mind my stupid thesis. Its not stopping me from anything.

  11. mgflolox - Jan 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    I posted this yesterday regarding the possibility of no one getting elected this year, but it seems more relevent to this topic:
    The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was created to get tourists into Cooperstown, NY. Right now, it seems as though the only people who will be getting elected are old-timers and non-playing officials. While that will undoubtedly please Bud Selig and his cronies, people are not going to be showing up for those inductions. When that happens, and the HOF’s financial interests are damaged, you will start to see some reform in the voting pretty damn fast.
    Another thing I might add is that people really need to get the minds wrapped around the fact that PEDs had nothing or almost nothing to do with the offensive explosion from 1993-2004. Unless you believe absolutely everybody was doing it or if you think the effects of the players who did do it was contagious.

  12. rcali - Jan 3, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    I’m waiting for the “Steriod Wing” to be built before I attend again.

    • Old Gator - Jan 3, 2012 at 11:02 PM

      Me too. It’s too bad we don’t have Albert Speer around anymore to design it.

  13. redbirdfan81 - Jan 3, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    It will become relevant when all HOF deserving players get in based upon what they did BETWEEN THE LINES AS A PLAYER, not what they stupidly did as a manager. Look at the NFL HOF and you’ll see Lawrence Taylor, a great player, but piece of garbage, drug addict person off the field and he’s in. Why does baseball maintain it’s moral high ground when it doesn’t really fit?

    • Old Gator - Jan 3, 2012 at 11:00 PM

      Dick Young Syndrome. Only baseball writers and Republican primary contestants seem especially susceptible to it.

  14. umrguy42 - Jan 3, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    Actually, I’m going to try and make the trip sometime this year with my wife (probably – she’s pregnant, so it depends on timing), and a friend of mine who worked the sports section of her local paper for several years. I’m living in Syracuse, so it’s still a couple hours, but I’m looking forward to giving the trip a chance…

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