Throughout the world, baseball is shut down due to the coronavirus. The sole exception is Taiwan, where the CPBL started this week without fans in the stands. But elsewhere clubs struggle to stay afloat.
Take Europe for example. Baseball season hasn’t started yet and the question remains if there WILL be any baseball in 2020. Since most of European baseball is on an amateur level, clubs struggle to make ends meet. No ticket sales, no money from amenities. Nothing. In the Netherlands and Belgium, some clubs are selling vouchers for food and drinks so they will have some income. But then again, when the season starts eventually, they will lack the income again as they have to deal with those vouchers.
These clubs also face another dilemma. With no games to be played, do you have to charge your members membership fee? And what happens with the rent of the playgrounds? Will municipalities still charge these clubs for the rent? Problems, problems.
But also in the USA, clubs face similar problems. Especially in the minor leagues. Those ball clubs are totally depending on the sale of tickets and food and drinks. Without income, they have a hard time staying afloat. Sure the MiLB owners are not the poorest persons on earth either but their kind of business is much smaller than MLB is.
Take the Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League (A-Advanced affiliate of the San Diego Padres) for example. The club invested in upgrading its ballpark for about $ 2 MM. One of the upgrades was a $400,000 video board. With no baseball, how will the club earn back its investments?
As MLB is looking for other options to start the season (playing in Arizona, playing in with the Cactus League and Grapefruit League alignments or playing in Japan), MiLB clubs do not have that possibility. They are bound to their own ballpark and league. Even if MLB would decide to let their farm teams play on the MLB spring training facilities, the minor league clubs are still without revenue.
“Minor league baseball is about community and affordable family gatherings,” says Brent Miles, president of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (California League, A-Advanced affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers). “If you can’t do those things, playing games doesn’t make sense.”
The further the minor league is postponed the more the regular schedule of 70 home games per club must be abandoned, meaning that the clubs will lose money. But better play a part of the season than totally nothing.
But then again, Minor League Baseball has no say in this. They have to comply with what the US government and MLB are telling them.
Clubs are looking for a different kind of use of their ballpark. The Lake Elsinore Storm is mulling on organizing movie nights (attendants must keep the six feet distance of course) to generate some income. But the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes do not have that possibility. The lease they have with the city of Rancho Cucamonga is about seventy home games and nothing more.
Hard times indeed.