Proving the Capital Region Is a ‘Sports Town’
I laugh when people say that 'the Capital Region is a bad sports town.' Really? When people say that I sometimes feel that they are trying to find something wrong with everything. If you feel like I do, it's time to look at the facts. This is actually a pretty good sports 'town.'
Yes, minor league sports teams have left and folded. Local college teams often play in half empty arenas. People will say 'well, we couldn't even keep the Yankees minor league team that produced stars like Derek Jeter, Andy Petite and Bernie Williams." All of those are true facts but they don't say anything about the sports fans of the Capital Region.
The Yankees left because no one in the area will build them a new stadium. Heritage Park was fine for high school and college games but it wasn't equipped to generate the type of revenue that the Yankees were being offered by other local governments at the time. The Yankee franchise had value but not enough for our government officials to work out a deal. That has nothing to do with the fanbase. Local officials didn't value the franchise and another municipality did. Pro teams are always going to follow the money. That is why they call it "professional" sports.
When it comes to college sports, in normal years without COVID restrictions, Siena basketball is among the top mid-major basketball programs when it comes to attendance. Many of their competitors in that category don't have to deal with another Division I program, UAlbany, right down the road, along with a top Division II program in St. Rose, then the Division III's RPI, Union, Sage and Skidmore, all included in their attendance target market. When Siena and UAlbany have been going well, the two combined to average over 8,000 fans per game. That is 3,600 fans higher than the Division I average and would be in the top 40 in the country.
Circumstances have not been kind to Capital Region teams. The AHL pricing policies stopped allowing the River Rats/Devils to do midweek ticket promotions that stimulated attendance. The franchise ended up bolting for a better lease deal somewhere else. That was no fault of the fanbase.
The same goes for the ValleyCats. Rick Murphy and his crew had Joe Bruno rocking every year until Major League Baseball stripped their affiliation franchise from underneath them. Rick ran one of the most successful franchises in the history of the Penn League right here in the Capital Region and those numbers will be back again next year!
When it comes to major league sports, there is a tremendous population of dedicated fans in the area. Why do you think the Giants drew record numbers for their training camps held at UAlbany for over a decade? The Capital Region has a ton of residents that own season tickets to either the Bills, Yankees, Giants, Red Sox, Patriots, Mets, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders or Devils. Why? Because all of these home venues are a day trip away to go to a game and we have more than our share of dedicated sports fans. That's why all of these teams spend resourses to market in our area!
So, the next time someone says, "sports fans around here suck," you have a few facts to throw their way. If they still aren't convinced, and you don't want to bring up the 6 years that over a million people paid to go to Saratoga Race Course, including this year...walk away. Some people just want to find something wrong with everything.