Krause: Guessing game ends today By Steve Krause Thursday, September 28, 2006
The decision has been made. Now, we just have to wait until North Shore Spirit owner Nick Lopardo tells us what it is.
Last week, in a lengthy interview relayed in The Item, Lopardo said that he'd have to let the CanAm League know by yesterday what his intentions were for the 2007 season. Yesterday's meeting came and went, and while Lopardo has decided on the team's future, he said last evening that he does not feel ready to release that information until today, when the league meetings conclude in Brockton.
Lopardo, whose team just completed its fourth season in Lynn, didn't sound last week like someone intending to stay. However, there were indications yesterday that he could be softening some of his positions.
Lopardo's basic issue was that despite his best efforts, and those of his promotions staff, he did not meet his goal of averaging 3,000 per home date.
But according to CanAm League figures, 102,639 fans saw the Spirit in 2006, for an average of 2,701. So even if he didn't meet his goal, he wasn't far off.
He said last week that the figures have gone up every year he's been in Lynn. They just haven't gone up enough.
There were other issues, however, and while they perhaps weren't as crucial to the bottom line as attendance, they're the types of issues that could very easily stick to a person's craw and influence his decision to either continue doing business or pull out.
The major one was parking. When Lopardo announced in 2002 that he was bringing the Spirit to Lynn, he heard from many different quarters that "people won't come to watch because there's no parking down there."
And while some people don't consider this a big problem, I would humbly suggest that it is -- especially if you're trying to make the jump from 2,700 to 3,000 per night. It could potentially make a huge difference in walk-up sales when you can't find a space near the ballpark.
Lopardo worked hard to create an amenable parking situation for fans, and then had to watch as the Manning Field project changed it all around again. And while he fully supports the project, he's quick to point out that he lost his main parking area -- one that he worked very hard to create.
He was also a little put out that the city tried to tell him he couldn't light off his usual Saturday night fireworks display for fear of what it might do to the recently-installed artificial playing surface at the new field.
Again, he was quick to point out that the Spirit have been lighting off fireworks for four years, with an artificial turf infield, and could probably tell the city a thing or two about how to do it safely.
These are the types of issues that are easily resolved, and at least one city official said yesterday that all sides have worked hard to iron them out.
Let's hope so. Because even if you're not the world's biggest fan of Independent League baseball, you'd have to say that the Spirit have dramatically enhanced the landscape in Lynn. They give families a place to go, they're kid-friendly, and they employ a whole lot of teenagers and young adults during the summer. And I do not know of one patron who has ever left Fraser Field unhappy with the overall experience of seeing the Spirit play.
Lopardo may look at the situation and see all kinds of reasons why he should leave. I think he has more reasons to stay.
Whatever the decision ... we'll know today.
I betcha all 20 bucks that we don't hear anything today!