Taxpayer-funded baseball stadium in Biloxi hasn't met attendance goals
The study predicted that a baseball park in Biloxi would be among the attendance leaders in 10-team Southern League and it hasn't materialized.
The $25,000 study predicted total annual attendance at 280,000. Since 2015, the Biloxi Shuckers — the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers — aren't even in the ballpark with that lofty goal..
This year, the Shuckers have drawn 160,364 fans, a number that will go up slightly since the Shuckers are battling the Jackson (Tennessee) Generals for the Southern League title in a best of five games series.
That averages to 2,430 fans per contest, 40.9 percent less than the study predicted (4,117 fans per game) and the worst showing since the team moved to Biloxi in 2015.
Biloxi was sixth in attendance this season after being consistently in eighth place for the first three seasons the Shuckers played in Biloxi.
The city of Biloxi borrowed $21 million to help build the $36 million stadium, which was also funded with BP settlement money and tourism rebate money from a state program. The team was lured from Huntsville, Alabama after playing in front of sparse crowds for years at an aging stadium.
Biloxi Baseball LLC could also receive up to $6 million from the state from the Tourism Rebate program. The state also provided $15 million in money from the BP settlement to help build the park.
There have been some legal issues with the team's owners and the city of Biloxi.
The city sued the team's ownership group because it was unable to determine how much it owed the city for rent, advertising and ticket sales. The two sides have settled the lawsuit, but the terms have not been released.
The team, under its original lease with the city, was to pay $150,000 each year in rent plus a $2 surcharge on every ticket sold up to 231,250.
The inaugural season was a rocky one for the team, the owners and the city. The first year the team was in Biloxi was marred by construction delays with the stadium, which didn't open until June 6. The minor league baseball season starts in April.
The team had a total attendance of 164,076, which averages to only 2,604 fans per game. That figure can be excused by the Shuckers having to play their first 25 "home" games at other stadiums that included their old home field in Huntsville.
In 2016, the first full season of the Shuckers at their new digs at MGM Park, attendance wasn't much better. The team drew 180,384 fans, which averages to 2,692 fans per game.
Attendance declined in 2017, as the Shuckers drew 167,151 fans, an average of 2,572 per game.
Even using the 2016 numbers from MGM Park, the attendance in Biloxi was far less than the inaugural seasons at new ballparks in the Southern League. In 2004, Montgomery, Alabama, opened Riverwalk Stadium and the Biscuits averaged 4,820 fans per contest.
Trustmark Park opened in Pearl in 2005 and the Mississippi Braves averaged 3,848 fans per game.
In 2012, Bayfront Park opened in Pensacola, Florida, and 4,826 fans per game turned out to watch the Blue Wahoos.
Birmingham’s team, the Barons, moved in 2013 from suburban Hoover to Regions Park in downtown and 5,669 fans on average went through the turnstiles.