FORT WAYNE – The TinCaps had their best season ever at the turnstiles, meaning the team will hit its attendance goals with the city for the fourth consecutive year.
Through September, more than 377,000 paying fans went to Parkview Field for ballgames, a Bob Dylan concert, social functions and business conferences, according to team President Mike Nutter.
As part of the citys agreement with the TinCaps owner, Hardball Capital, the city has to put $230,000 a year into the long-term maintenance account to maintain the ballpark. The high attendance figure means that, once again, none of that money will come from taxpayers.
The city of Fort Wayne owns the ballpark; its $30.5 million construction cost is being paid for by community economic development income taxes and the property taxes generated by the nearby Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. It will soon be supplemented by taxes on The Harrison.
The first $150,000 of the citys annual contribution to the maintenance fund comes from the citys half of the $300,000 Parkview Health pays for naming rights.
The rest comes from the $1 per person Hardball Capital pays the city for every paid attendee past 275,000.
This year, the fund had a balance of $723,295.
So far, there is $102,000 earmarked for the fund, and Nutter estimates that by the end of the year that figure will reach $125,000 thanks to events already planned.
When we look at all the variables, October, November and December should be tremendous, he said.
Planned events include a Youth For Christ gathering expected to draw 1,000 people, plus 15 company events, 37 lunches, four weddings and dozens of others.
The city is not paid for non-paid attendance, which includes the thousands that were there for Fort4Fitness last weekend and other community events.
Nutter said officials thought this years attendance might be down slightly, because there were not as many big events planned, such as 2010s Midwest League All-Star Game or the Home-Run Derby, but the TinCaps ballgames actually had their best attendance year ever.
Total attendance – both paid and unpaid – for the TinCaps was 408,044, topping the record of 407,394 set in 2010.
The synergy of Grand Wayne Center, Courtyard Hotel and Parkview Field working together is bringing more people downtown, Nutter said, to the point that some conferences being scheduled at Grand Wayne are being set at times to ensure a home game is being played.
Its neat to have some pretty major events building their schedules around us, Nutter said, adding that he expects the synergy to grow with the completion of The Harrison. We think this is awesome.
City officials think its awesome, too: Redevelopment Director Greg Leatherman said the city is pleased with how things are going. And he stressed the project – which has drawn hundreds of thousands of people downtown – is not costing property taxpayers anything. Utilities are the only cost at the stadium for which the city is responsible. They are paid for by parking fees collected on the lots surrounding the stadium and at the parking garage.
This year, the maintenance fund is being tapped for new grass at the ballpark: The sod originally installed in the fall of 2008 was infested with poa annua grass, an invasive, weed-like grass that has caused discoloration and does not make good turf.
The bad turf was the subject of a lawsuit against the Ohio company that installed it, resulting in a lower price for its replacement. Leatherman said the TinCaps will pay one-third of the $140,000 cost of new sod, and the rest will come from the maintenance fund.