Brewers owner: ‘We have a shot at 3 million fans’

MILWAUKEE — As the Brewers’ payroll continues to move toward $100 million, the team is looking for additional revenue streams to enable it to compete against the big-city teams in Major League Baseball.

Principal owner Mark Attanasio — in the news recently for a back-and-forth with the largest-market Yankees’ president, Randy Levine — said this week the team is focusing on increasing non-baseball events at Miller Park and drawing 3 million for the third consecutive season.

Mark Attanasio's Brewers will have a payroll of nearly $90 million.
Mark Attanasio’s Brewers will have a payroll of nearly $90 million.

The team’s payroll for the 2010 season is nearly $90 million, an all-time high, and up from about $27 million when he purchased the team in 2005.

"We don’t have a lot of arrows left in our quiver," Attanasio said. "We are drawing 3 million fans, have increased our sponsorships and are seeing more revenue from concessions and retail. The next area to focus on is bringing in more events to use the stadium when the team is not playing."

Attanasio jokingly referred to wanting to hold a World Wrestling Entertainment event at Miller Park after team announcer Bob Uecker recently was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. "I am waiting to meet (WWE chairman) Vince McMahon," he said.

The key to non-baseball events is that revenue doesn’t have to be shared with other major league teams. (For example, a Bruce Springsteen concert at Miller Park in 2003 earned the team about $600,000.)

Attanasio, a Los Angeles investment executive, talked with the Business Journal of Milwaukee’s Mark Kass about what it would take for the team to draw 3 million fans this season, efforts to sign slugger Prince Fielder to an extension and plans to replace the Miller Park scoreboard for the 2011 season.

Sporting News: Are you surprised that your payroll is almost $90 million this year?
Mark Attanasio: Baseball is a very competitive game. I never thought when I bought the team that we would be near $90 million payroll. Our budget may have a nine in it, but the Cubs have a ($140 million payroll). Our fans have been terrific and allowed us to be in this ZIP code (of payroll).

SN: What is your attendance budget this year? What has to happen to allow you to draw 3 million for the third straight year?
MA: Our budget is 2.7 or 2.8 million. I think we have a shot at 3 million fans, but pretty much everything has to go right. Years ago we couldn’t use a number like 2.7 million in our budget, so we’ve really made some great progress. On-the-field performance is the most important factor in drawing 3 million, and getting off to a good start is key because it is hard for fans of any sport to go to a game that doesn’t count.

We were a bit of the exception last year on that. We made a decision, which was really not a business decision, but a baseball decision. When we were falling out of contention, we kept all of our veteran players. If we would have traded them, we would have saved money. You could ask, "Why wouldn’t you have traded them if you could have saved a few million dollars?" But we feel that we have a commitment to competitive baseball in this city and it’s hard to say that we’re competitive one day, but not the next. The one thing about being competitive is that you always have to be around .500.

SN: Talk about the renegotiation of your cable contract that you mentioned would add about $10 million in revenue in 2013. What were you able to accomplish, and are you looking at any of your other media contracts to try to get more revenue?
MA: That was quite important because we had one of the three lowest contracts in the major leagues. We did that last year on the strength of making the playoffs (in 2008) and huge ratings. We are in the middle of our radio contract with WTMJ so we don’t have a lot of options there.

We are really focused on keeping the games affordable. We are not looking to do what a couple of other teams have done in dramatically raising ticket prices. You can even argue that if you raise prices and draw fewer fans, you can still make more money. We like drawing 3 million fans and having it be affordable. As a result, we don’t have a lot of arrows left in our quiver.

Will Prince Fielder re-sign with the Brewers?
Will Prince Fielder re-sign with the Brewers?

SN: You made several upgrades to Miller Park over the offseason. What are you looking at for future upgrades?
MA: Next year, we will have a new scoreboard, which will make a dramatic difference in how fans get to experience the game. In fact, it will make such a difference that we are a bit concerned it will actually overwhelm people with new graphics. We don’t want the scoreboard to overwhelm what is happening on the field. We are also going to overhaul the 20 founders suites on the first level after this season.

SN: Will you be able to sign Prince Fielder to a new contract to keep him in Milwaukee?
MA: There is mutual intent on both sides to try and make it work. It’s a very complex transaction. It does not get done with a quick conversation and a handshake.

This story first appeared in the Milwaukee Business Journal, a sister publication of Sporting News.

MILWAUKEE — As the Brewers’ payroll continues to move toward $100 million, the team is looking for additional revenue streams to enable it to compete against the big-city teams in Major League Baseball.

Principal owner Mark Attanasio — in the news recently for a back-and-forth with the largest-market Yankees’ president, Randy Levine — said this week the team is focusing on increasing non-baseball events at Miller Park and drawing 3 million for the third consecutive season.

Mark Attanasio's Brewers will have a payroll of nearly $90 million.
Mark Attanasio’s Brewers will have a payroll of nearly $90 million.

The team’s payroll for the 2010 season is nearly $90 million, an all-time high, and up from about $27 million when he purchased the team in 2005.

"We don’t have a lot of arrows left in our quiver," Attanasio said. "We are drawing 3 million fans, have increased our sponsorships and are seeing more revenue from concessions and retail. The next area to focus on is bringing in more events to use the stadium when the team is not playing."

Attanasio jokingly referred to wanting to hold a World Wrestling Entertainment event at Miller Park after team announcer Bob Uecker recently was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. "I am waiting to meet (WWE chairman) Vince McMahon," he said.

The key to non-baseball events is that revenue doesn’t have to be shared with other major league teams. (For example, a Bruce Springsteen concert at Miller Park in 2003 earned the team about $600,000.)

Attanasio, a Los Angeles investment executive, talked with the Business Journal of Milwaukee’s Mark Kass about what it would take for the team to draw 3 million fans this season, efforts to sign slugger Prince Fielder to an extension and plans to replace the Miller Park scoreboard for the 2011 season.

Sporting News: Are you surprised that your payroll is almost $90 million this year?
Mark Attanasio: Baseball is a very competitive game. I never thought when I bought the team that we would be near $90 million payroll. Our budget may have a nine in it, but the Cubs have a ($140 million payroll). Our fans have been terrific and allowed us to be in this ZIP code (of payroll).

SN: What is your attendance budget this year? What has to happen to allow you to draw 3 million for the third straight year?
MA: Our budget is 2.7 or 2.8 million. I think we have a shot at 3 million fans, but pretty much everything has to go right. Years ago we couldn’t use a number like 2.7 million in our budget, so we’ve really made some great progress. On-the-field performance is the most important factor in drawing 3 million, and getting off to a good start is key because it is hard for fans of any sport to go to a game that doesn’t count.

We were a bit of the exception last year on that. We made a decision, which was really not a business decision, but a baseball decision. When we were falling out of contention, we kept all of our veteran players. If we would have traded them, we would have saved money. You could ask, "Why wouldn’t you have traded them if you could have saved a few million dollars?" But we feel that we have a commitment to competitive baseball in this city and it’s hard to say that we’re competitive one day, but not the next. The one thing about being competitive is that you always have to be around .500.

SN: Talk about the renegotiation of your cable contract that you mentioned would add about $10 million in revenue in 2013. What were you able to accomplish, and are you looking at any of your other media contracts to try to get more revenue?
MA: That was quite important because we had one of the three lowest contracts in the major leagues. We did that last year on the strength of making the playoffs (in 2008) and huge ratings. We are in the middle of our radio contract with WTMJ so we don’t have a lot of options there.

We are really focused on keeping the games affordable. We are not looking to do what a couple of other teams have done in dramatically raising ticket prices. You can even argue that if you raise prices and draw fewer fans, you can still make more money. We like drawing 3 million fans and having it be affordable. As a result, we don’t have a lot of arrows left in our quiver.

Will Prince Fielder re-sign with the Brewers?
Will Prince Fielder re-sign with the Brewers?

SN: You made several upgrades to Miller Park over the offseason. What are you looking at for future upgrades?
MA: Next year, we will have a new scoreboard, which will make a dramatic difference in how fans get to experience the game. In fact, it will make such a difference that we are a bit concerned it will actually overwhelm people with new graphics. We don’t want the scoreboard to overwhelm what is happening on the field. We are also going to overhaul the 20 founders suites on the first level after this season.

SN: Will you be able to sign Prince Fielder to a new contract to keep him in Milwaukee?
MA: There is mutual intent on both sides to try and make it work. It’s a very complex transaction. It does not get done with a quick conversation and a handshake.

This story first appeared in the Milwaukee Business Journal, a sister publication of Sporting News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*