Attracting Younger Fans Critical to Cactus League's Future

February 20, 2013
Marketing and Promotions, Cactus League Association
Chris Calcaterra, Vice President

A recent survey of Cactus League fans shows they are getting older, not just by a little, but by a lot. Today, that’s ok because truly the older fan spends more money than the younger fan. But it’s not good news for the future of spring training baseball in Arizona. Without question it is a challenge for the host cities and the Major League Baseball teams that train here.

The survey shows the average age of the Cactus League fan who traveled here from out of state in 2012 was 52.5 years old. That’s “older” than the average local fan and up a couple of years on average since the last survey was done in 2007.

Data compiled for the Cactus League Association by FMR Associates in Tucson also shows that 77 percent of the visiting baseball fans did not bring kids last year!

It makes sense to start growing new fans now. If you believe the data it appears we have a big mountain to climb. Nevertheless, Cactus League ballparks around the Valley are doing more to encourage adults to bring their kids to the games.

Most Major and Minor League teams offer kids clubs to families in their home cities, but Peoria is the first to do it here in the Cactus League. Now in its second year, members get a special Club backpack, personalized membership card, discounts at both the Team Shop and concession stands and even a private meet-and-greet with select San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners players.

Many ballparks, including Goodyear, Surprise and Peoria have kids’ zone areas or kid-size baseball fields where young fans can have some spring training fun too.

Of course, kids come to the games, but they are most often boys and girls from around the Valley. We can boost our local numbers by working more with Little Leagues and youth baseball travel teams, to build excitement and educate younger fans.

But if the Cactus League is to continue to grow attendance each season, we’ve got to get more kids on planes with their parents and grandparents when they come here from out of state.

So far finding the answer to that question seems almost as tough as getting a solid hit off an accomplished knuckle ball pitcher.