If you build it, they will come. Or they'll stay home and watch on TV.
Ratings for Padres games on Channel 4 San Diego are rising, which coincides with the team's best April (15-8) since 1998. Seven of the last nine broadcasts drew ratings among the top-10 for the team's young season. Highest rating to date was Wednesday's loss to the Rockies in extra innings. No. 2 was the shutout of the Brewers on April 30.
While that's good news for the Padres and their new play-by-play broadcaster Dick Enberg -- whose seven-figure salary is being paid by both the club and the TV station -- the bigger challenge is attendance. When Petco Park opened in 2004, the season ticket base was more than 20,000. It declined steadily and fell to 8,800 a year ago. For a franchise that ranks near the bottom in local media revenues, attendance is especially important. Somehow, the Padres need to rebuild their season ticket base.
"We'll bring 'em back," Padres president Tom Garfinkel told me recently.
He cited a high retention rate among season ticket-holders. But there's still a lot of work to do. It wasn't a good sign during the last homestand that same-day tickets for the Toyota Terrace were going for $4 or $5 on stubhub.com.
The dual trends in San Diego are similar to those in Toronto, although not as pronounced. The Jays are playing home games before a sea of empty seats, but their TV ratings have soared.