BY DAVID BOCLAIR
History suggests that this season will show the Nashville Sounds what they can expect in terms of fan interest for the foreseeable future.
If that’s the case, they won’t be looking at a lot of empty seats.
Nearly one-third of the way through their third season at First Tennessee Park, more fans than ever are coming through the gates. Average attendance is 8,823 through the first 18 games, a 24.3 percent increase over last year’s final average.
“A lot of times, you’ll kind of plateau out around that fifth year [of a new stadium],” Sounds General Manager and COO Adam Nuse said. “But if you look, that first year to the second year typically will drop down a little bit because of the newness factor wearing off.
“A lot of the good teams, you’ll see start stabilizing or rebound in that year three. That’s kind of why we put a lot of pressure on our staff to make sure that we came out in year three with a bigger story to tell.”
So far, so good.
The Sounds open a nine-game homestand Tuesday (four against Omaha and five, including a Sunday doubleheader against Colorado Springs) as the Pacific Coast League’s leader in average attendance. Their current average is nearly 600 more per game than the Round Rock Express, which last year led all of minor-league baseball in attendance.
A look at the Pacific Coast leaders in average attendance (through Monday):
· Nashville – 8,823 (18 games)
· Round Rock – 8,241 (25 games)
· Sacramento – 7,853 (19 games)
· El Paso – 7,707 (25 games)
· Albuquerque – 7,388 (20 games)
With Memorial Day weekend — typically a big time for baseball at any level — on tap, the local Class AAA franchise has a chance to build on its lead.
“We could potentially sell out the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night games,” Nuse said. “That’s a huge opportunity for us to say that we sell out four games in a row. So our staff if working hard to get to the point that we can say that.”
Even if every ticket is not sold ahead of time, that doesn’t mean they won’t be eventually. Nuse said this year’s attendance boost is directly related to the continued growth in Germantown, the neighborhood adjacent to the stadium that opened in 2015.
The opportunity for people to walk out of a restaurant or the front door of their residence and stroll over to the stadium is invaluable. There have been games this season for which as many as 3,500 seats have been sold to walk-up customers (capacity is 10,000).
“That is a big uptake from years past,” Nuse said. “That’s probably a telling sign that there’s a lot of impulse decision to come over. We like that because hopefully that means we’re top of mind as a good, clean entertainment venue.”
A year-by-year look at the Nashville Sounds’ average attendance for the past six seasons:
First Tennessee Park
· 2017: 8,823-x
· 2016: 7,099
· 2015: 7,965
· 2014: 4,909
· 2013: 5,071
· 2012: 4,792
(x-through 18 games)