Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interesting Attendance Figures

A fun post by the Bug Boys today about Belmont's Memorial Day card. The title "10,099 Happy People" struck me a bit. I started thinking about the comment Canterbury announcer Paul Allen made early in yesterday's card about the crowd, wagering lines and please bet early so you don't get shut out. That, in turn, sent me to the Daily Racing Form charts to see just what was attendance here and at some selected other Thoroughbred tracks where attendance is recorded.

Monmouth - 11,565
Belmont - 10,099
Canterbury - 7,622
Hollywood - 6,591

I wanted to get numbers from Arlington and Philadelphia as well, but neither were available (nor were Churchill or Golden Gate for that matter).

The population in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area is right around three million. Three million. The NY/NJ Megalopolis is about nineteen million and the Greater Los Angeles Area is approximately thirteen million (US Census press release data).

How in the world can Canterbury only draw about 2400 less people than a major market racetrack and actually outdraw Hollywood Park?? Less to do in the TC area? Maybe, but the official kick-off of summer was gorgeous here and it is the weekend that folks start to head to cabins on the lake (pick one, we've got 11,000+). On the way back from Wisconsin this weekend, the St. Croix river was dotted with boats out cruising and fishing. Folks were out - but they were also at the track. The Red Sox were in town to play the Twins right up against first post time, so that didn't help either. The summer season in Minnesota is so short that when there are nice days to be had, camping, fishing, off-roading, biking and any other kind of outdoor activity takes over and people hit the outdoors in droves. Yet it appears that Canterbury is one of those options.

Maybe a clue why can be taken from Bert Blyleven's (Twins' color man) comments during the telecast to his broadcast partner, Dick Bremer. I'm paraphrasing here, but Bert went on a little roll about how much fun it was at Canterbury. He brought the kids and they watched the horses run, he placed a few bets, watched the call of the races by Paul Allen for a bit, ate and generally talked about the good time. The banter went on for a couple of minutes between the tandem, with both talking about going back soon and making sure they take in the races a few more times this summer. There was even a brief discussion about the difficulties of race calling. You can't buy that kind of publicity.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Canterbury is a boutique meet, but it is interesting that Monmouth - another summer happening - out-drew it's cousin to the north while Canterbury out-drew fabled Hollywood Park. I'll be the first to admit that this wasn't a scientific study by any means. The Bug Boys post got me thinking and I just did some cursory comparisons, but there may be something to learn here. Maybe the proponents of less is more are right? I don't know for sure, but it sure was interesting to take a look at the numbers.


Cangamble said...

If you are so inclined, you can actually count the people at Fort Erie by hand. Just as long as you know how to count to around 800, you'll be OK.

Alan H. said...

Thanks for the link, Ted. It's always a pleasure to read your thoughtful posts.

David M. Miller said...

Ted, Thanks for pointing this up. The success of the Canterbury Park meet should be studied by every racing executive in this country -- especially the guys at CDI who act as if live racing doesn't matter anymore.

The message is clear: If you spend the money on upkeep of your racing plant and teach your employees that customer satisfaction is key, you will put bodies in the stands. Yes, we always wish they would bet more, but we are glad that they have an interest in the game.

One neat feature that has been added this season is the footrace for kids at the end of every Sunday card. This past week, the track held heats for older and younger kids. Who knows how many of those kids will be coming to the track in seasons to come?

Ted Grevelis said...

@ Cangamble - That's sad. I've never been there, but that is so depressing to see on the TV.

@ Alan - No worries. You guys write great stuff AND you were, after all, the inspiration for this entry.

@ David - I'll have to remember the kid's races. Ben will be all over that this summer. I completely agree with you re: Canterbury. Each and every summer it is a great way to spend time and it's the racing, staff and physical plant that make it so. Too bad more executives don't take advantage of the Claiming Crown to come up and see for themselves...

tim patrick said...

Yup, Ted, yer right. It's because the Sampsons know how to run an entertainment gig. CBY has a lot in common with Monmouth (my real home track) in that it is a very pleasant place to spend a summer day. I couldn't believe it on Memorial Day, I stopped in to play a couple of races at CBY and could hardly find parking. Note to other racing execs: Run a clean track with friendly help and make families welcome, jeez, that would do a lot to cure your "attendance problems."
-- Tim Patrick, "the loose horse" blog