By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek, BusinessWeek
Meet Me in St. Louis for MLB All-Star Break 2009
What a difference a year makes. While it’s been 43 years since the last time St. Louis hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, the economics surrounding the event have perhaps changed more dramatically in the past 12 months than they have in the four decades.
That, of course, has as much to do with the circumstances surrounding last year’s Midsummer Classic—the last such event to be held at old Yankee Stadium—as it does with the recession. Last year’s All-Star game created an unprecedented economic impact of nearly $150 million—more than double the estimated $60 million this year’s July 10-14 events at Busch Stadium in St. Louis are likely to bring in.
This year, about 230,000 people are expected to attend part of the weeklong celebration, according to the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Assn. Almost half of those fans are anticipated to come from out of town, partially since only about 1,000 tickets—less than 3% of the normal capacity at Busch Stadium—have been made available to the general public. Direct visitor spending on Cardinals operations and on hotels, dining, and retail is expected to top $32 million, triggering another $27 million in indirect spending in the region.
In keeping with the economic climate, MLB and the host Cardinals are emphasizing elements of community service and charity like never before. MLB anticipates generating up to $5 million for national and local charities including Stand Up to Cancer and Cardinals Care, while most sponsors of the event, including heavy hitters Anheuser-Busch, InBev and Pepsi, are incorporating cause-related marketing efforts.
While St. Louis is the host city for the All-Star Game, MLB pays most of the bills and hires vendors and businesses for All-Star-related events, focusing heavily on local companies and minority and women-owned businesses, while the Cardinals have been planning every aspect of the celebration since 2006. Under baseball’s guidance, caterers, event planners, hotels, restaurants, bars, limo drivers, and many others are stepping up to the plate this weekend.
Over 2,500 members of the press from around the world have requested credentials in St. Louis, representing a tremendous opportunity for St. Louis to market itself. More than 100 million households tune in to the game itself on FOX, and to ESPN’s Home Run Derby; the events are broadcast in 225 countries in 12 different languages.
Tickets to the All-Star Game range from $100 to $360. Last week, SRO tickets on StubHub were listed at $362 apiece; bleacher seats are priced at $550, and some field box tickets are set at $2,500. EBay is offering two diamond box seats for $6,500.
MLB All-Star Break: The Buzz and the Events
“One swing of the bat, 1 million tickets…No pressure. We play in New York,” said Mets third baseman David Wright on ABC’s Good Morning America, about a promotion in which 1 million fans could win tickets to the July 24 opening of Disney’s G-Force movie if a member of the National League squad hits a grand slam during this year’s All-Star Game. That level of drama pretty much summarizes all the events comprising the All-Star Break.
St. Louis hosted a weeklong extravaganza of All-Star activities, including FanFest at America’s Center, the Home Run Derby, a 5K fun run, a red carpet parade, lots of sponsor parties. And that’s all before the All-Star Game itself.
Elvis Costello joined Missouri native and nine-time Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow at the 2009 MLB All-Star Charity Concert.
An event under the Gateway Arch was free to fans and presented by Pepsi, which is also financing complimentary streaming on MLB.com. Budweiser, Taco Bell, and Sharp are also backing the event, a benefit for Stand Up to Cancer; MLB donated $1 million to the organization. Between 60,000 and 70,000 people attended.
Not long after the final crack of Monday’s Home Run Derby, roughly 4,000 people took the party even farther, outside of Busch Stadium to a massive tent in Ballpark Village for the All-Star Gala. Invited guests enjoyed food created by St. Louis chefs and hot local bands. After these guests faded away, a new wave of workers clocked in at 2:30 a.m. to start setting up for the All-Star Pregame Party.
While there are fewer than 70 All-Star players, it takes a very deep roster of dedicated people to pull off the series of events surrounding the game year after year.
MLB All-Star Break: The Techno Side
Each year, it seems, baseball gets more tech-savvy. This season, baseball’s signature Advanced Media group is poised to break a record for online All-Star Game fan voting after passing the 200 million vote mark late last Wednesday night.
According to MLBAM, last year’s fan voting generated 214.7 million votes, with more than 41 million votes being cast on the final day. 2009 voting concluded at midnight last Thursday night. Once again, the National League’s Albert Pujols was the leading vote-getter for the Midsummer Classic, collecting 5,397,374 votes, the second-highest total in MLB history behind Ken Griffey, Jr.’s 6 million votes in 1994. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was the leading vote-getter in the American League.
MLBAM has also announced a mobile premium product for the new Palm Pre smart phone. The MLB.com Mobile Premium for the Pre contains many of the same features as the popular MLB.com At Bat app, including live audio feeds, in-game video highlights, and greatly expanded scoreboards. The mobile Web-based product will go for $14.99 for the rest of the season, including the postseason, or can be had for $2.99 per month.
Not to be digitally outdone, Fox Sports will expand its @mlbonfox Twitter account during the MLB All-Star Game. Announcers will tweet during the game, while reporter Ken Rosenthal will answer Twitter-submitted questions.
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