Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ominous news?

FROM THE DAILY ITEM... emphasis, mine

Lopardo reflects on Spirit season

By Steve Krause
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Though no firm decision has been made, North Shore Spirit owner Nick Lopardo says that just the idea that he has to think about whether to stay in Lynn or move the franchise elsewhere is a "huge disappointment."
"I've spent $9 million on this franchise in cash, and capital improvements," Lopardo said Wednesday in a wide-ranging interview. "I was pretty serious back in 2003 when I said we were bringing professional baseball back to Lynn. I just thought we'd be farther along right now than we are."
Lopardo, whose team just completed its fourth season in Lynn, has until next Wednesday's CanAm League meeting in Brockton to decide the Spirit's future.
"(The Spirit management) is meeting this week to take a look at the season, and to take a look at what went on," Lopardo said. "And until I have that information, I won't be making any decision."
He split the season into two categories: baseball and business. The baseball, he said, was "fantastic.
"We had the best ballclub we've had in four years," Lopardo said. "The team performed very well, and I was happy with that."
But, he said, business was a different story.
"From a business side, I don't think things went very well," he said. "I don't think we got the crowds we'd hoped for, even though the season started well. We could have had more sponsors. And we didn't meet the 'break-even' point we'd hoped for."
This past season, the Spirit drew 102,639 fans for an average of 2,701 per game. Lopardo was hoping for an average of 3,000 this season.
While conceding that each season has seen better attendance figures than the last, "we're still a ways away," he said. "We're not close to breaking even.
"In my accounting class, red was bad and black was good. We're still not in the black yet."
Lopardo obtained a lease for the summer months at Fraser Field in 2002. He refurbished the facility, putting in an artificial surface infield, a new scoreboard, a new press box, and modern amenities. The initial investment cost $3 million.
He also made several philanthropic gestures to the local athletic community, including giving the town of Saugus $20,000 to help bail out its spring athletic program.
With all that, he is at a loss to explain why his franchise isn't doing better.
"I think we brought great baseball back to Fraser Field," he said. "But there are a few questions you have to answer.
"Can we continue to throw money at the situation, and expect it to turn around? I don't know what more we can do with Fraser Field, from a capital point of view. You can put skyboxes there, but is anyone going to buy them? You can put more seats in, but is anyone going to fill them when they're not being filled now?"
Second, he asked, will this area support minor league professional baseball?
"I'm the fifth attempt at it," he said, "and I think our attempt has probably proven far better -- by double -- than anybody else. So you have to say to yourself, 'Will it work? Does it work?' Those are the questions our staff has been looking at."
Lopardo was also displeased that delays in the construction of the new Manning Field disrupted his parking situation, and points to his Saturday night fireworks crowds -- which decreased with each date -- as proof of how the reconfiguration of the land around Fraser hurt his attendance figures.
"When you move buildings and take away parking, it hurts," Lopardo said. "The first Saturday night of fireworks, we had 4,560, which was the largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game at Fraser Field.
"The second crowd was 3,800. The third was 2,700; the fourth was 2,400 and the last one was a little over 2,000."
And Lopardo was quick to point out the irony that "When we came here, one of the first things people said to us was that nobody would come to the games because there wasn't any parking. We fought for four years so that wouldn't happen."
All he knows, now, is that "You can't keep losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and expect to keep going," he said. "It's disappointing."


average fan said...

There's no question about it that the parking situation hurt attendance. On opening night, I couldn't park in the lot that I had already paid for as a season parking pass. Yes, this was quickly corrected. But for people who came early in the season must have been frustrated like me and gave it a second thought before coming back again. I would like to think that with the New Manning Field just about completed there will be enough well lit parking areas to make people feel safe.
I can only hope (and yes-pray) that I will get the oportunity to see this next year.

benoit emond said...

this is the second article like this -- the other was in the salem paper - and lopardo doesn't do himself or the team any good by taking this tone. it really appears that he is looking for an exit strategy.

in the last sentence he talks about the parking before he talks about the money. i think that the parking thing and the way that the city of lynn treated him is the real problem here.

i'm quite sure that the team did not lose money this year -- remember that the team and the concessions are two different companies -- so he may be correct when he says that the baseball operation lost money-- but he's not adding in the concessions.

but that's not the real issue here.

in my opinion the team will be sold. i would welcome the goldklang group. after reading this i'd be shocked if lopardo stayed.

DaveCo said...

I went by Fraser wasn't the best atmosphere or the worst atmosphere. It seems like they're going about business as usual there....but I don't totally know. Every sign I've seen points to this team staying here next season....but there's also the signs of change and departures. I'd like to think that the excersing of contracts is a bright light that they're staying,but it don't mean a whole lot.

The parking WAS a problem this year,but next year I don't think that'll be a problem. Mannign Field will be almost completly done and parking/attendance may go up significantly. I hope that the Spirit is around next season....but if Nick leaves I still would understand why.

I'm wondering when exactly it would be that we know that they make the Thursday or over that weekend. WHO KNOWS?! :-p

PPS: AHHHHHHHH,Joe READS the Item. (there's something I didn't think I'd EVER say.)

Joe Grav said...

Then what you described, Dave, would lead me to believe that Nick's selling the team but it's staying in Lynn.

average fan said...

I think that Nick has taken the team as far as he can. Maybe it's time to let a new group with fresh enthusiastic ideas take over and take it to the next level. Let them finish what he has started.

TonyTheTiger20 said...


that was an informative and nerve-racking article.

wooden said...

Putting informative and Steve Krause in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

My brother is a CPA and has audited NFL teams and we've discussed the tricks they play to make it APPEAR they're losing money. As has already been pointed out, the team and the concessions are two separate entities and it's probably true that the baseball operations is "losing money" if you amortize the cost of upgrading Fraser Field. But I am SURE that the parking & concessions folks are like porn sites -- making money hand over fist.

Nick, I love that you brought the team here, but it's time to stop bitching and make like John Henry instead of Marge Schott

benoit emond said...

well said wooden. i agree, if nick goes (i think that he's trying hard to sell the team) it won't be because of money.



1.Jeff Gordon -- runs great here
will win from the pole
2.Mark Martin -- if he can survive
talladega he's gonna
win it all
3.Matt Kenseth -- great driver,
great crew chief
4.Dale Earnhardt -- if his team
doesn't kill him
5. Elliot Sadler-- two top tens
in a row

TonyTheTiger20 said...

benoit, no offense dude but u seem like u REALLY dont have a f***ing clue wtf ur talking about lol.

benoit emond said...

a lot of people tell me that -- people who are much more intelligent than you.

Anonymous said...

The Greater Fool theory (I was a fool to buy this asset, but somewhere in baseball, there's a greater fool) says that an owner who makes enough of a capital gain to cover the money he's plowed into Fraser gets the last laugh.

I like the Goldklang Group (slogan: "Fun Is Good"). They (like the current club) understand, top-to-bottom, the hospitality-industry nature of small-town baseball. The fan experience would be just as good. But I don't want to see the Can-Am league get like Nashua's old Atlantic League, which through common ownership essentially has a Kalafer division and a Harrelson division. If you think some of Miles's decisions raised eyebrows this year, imagine if the Goldklang Spirit underperforms in 2007, but New Haven is in contention, and they start getting our best players through fishy trades.

Joe Grav said...

That's what I've been saying all along.

Joe Grav said...

johnson, kenseth, biffle, newman, kahne