This year has been fretful for Phoenix sports fans and those dependent on them. The football and basketball teams had complete management turnovers. The “done deal” for the hockey team sale collapsed. Sports are important to the Phoenix economy. On February 9, there was optimism abounding in one venue critical to the economic health of downtown Phoenix: the Arizona Diamondbacks held their annual Fan Fest at Chase Stadium.
DBacks CEO Derrick Hall, General Manager Kevin Towers, and announcer Greg Schulte were on a panel that discussed strategy, hopes for this season, and answered fans’ questions. DBacks ticketholders expressed trust in the dramatic rebuilding approach. Hall discussed concern for fan satisfaction. While some long-time protégés, like Justin Upton, never panned out and have been traded, the fans seemed happy with the appearances of the players that Towers acquired. Popular radio commentators like KTAR620’s Ron Wolfley, conducted reassuring interviews with new and returning players.
Right now, 62% of baseball fans are 18-49 years old. However, as ticket prices increase, television increases popularity in sports, like football, and kids’ schedules are being filled with soccer and video games, baseball is in danger of losing future generations. So the Diamondbacks stressed that this was a family affair. There were plenty of kids-only activities at Fan Fest.
Season ticket holders were made to feel special, as they were given opportunities for early entry to the event, reserved seats for talks, and front-of-the-line access to autographs and photographs. There were new exhibitors (e.g., Safelite Autoglass), longtime sponsors (Chevrolet), and non-profits participating.
There were glitches—misunderstandings about how many tickets could be ordered and how to do that online, confusion among the many lines overlapping in the narrow corridors of the concourse, and Ian Kennedy not showing up in time for the first signings. As an example of the DBacks’ desire to maintain great customer service and its most loyal audience, they promised season ticketholders with Kennedy tickets a private signing later, during the season.
The DBacks were 19th (of 30) in MLB attendance in 2012, with a slight increase in average attendance over 2011. The success of the DBacks is needed to fill restaurants, bars and hotels in downtown Phoenix this summer. Though it was chilly, especially when Chase’s roof was opened, the clouds dissipated and the sun shone on Fan Fest, which may be a good omen for both the DBacks and Phoenix in 2013.