Drawing 454 fans a game and under bankruptcy protection, the San Angelo Colts — once a standard bearer in the league — are an example of the issues facing independent United League Baseball.
The league is down to four teams this season, playing out of three ballparks (Fort Worth, Harlingen, San Angelo) and drawing poorly: just 79,192 fans this season in the entire circuit, drawing 861 fans a game. That’s far fewer than the 1,600-1,800-per-game figure needed for an independent league to break even. To put the numbers in perpective: the Madison Mallards (156,367) of the summer-collegiate Northwoods League have outdrawn the entire ULB in fewer than a third of the openings.
The problems facing ULB are summed up at Foster Field, where the league has struggled to attract fans to what was once a solid, profitable franchise. From the San Angelo Standard-Times:
Over the last few seasons, the big crowds have disappeared and excitement has waned.
The stadium’s luster has faded, illustrated by broken chairs, splintered wooden benches and tables, missing seat backs in section N, and a downtrodden playground area down the left-field line.
Foster Field is showing its age.
It doesn’t sound like the Colts are offering a shining in-game experience: there are few between-innings games and promotions, there are no game broadcasts, and there are limited food offerings. The rest of the league is struggling as well: the Fort Worth Cats, drawing some 1,493 fans per game to LaGrave Field, are responsible for drawing more than half the attendance to the league, with the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings attracting some 552 fans per game. Things don’t appear to be on the upswing with one team under bankruptcy protection, and it may be time to rethink the entire United League Baseball business plan, as independent baseball may not be the best path forward. The league owns LaGrave Field outright, and as that’s basically the best asset for the entire circuit, any new business plan should involve taking advantage of that asset.
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