County says ballpark sell-out games a good sign for return on investment

Yankees/Cardinals games sold out two straight days
Posted at 6:50 PM, Mar 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-21 04:54:41-04

Thirty-one games in 30 days. The new ballpark of the palm beaches is about halfway through their training season for the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.

The county invested tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to build the ballpark but is the investment worth it?

County leaders say yes, it is a good investment -- especially considering days like Monday. It was the first day/night double header game at the ballpark with the Yankees and Cardinals selling out.

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"I think it's wonderful, we used to go all the way out to Tampa so now we can go here," a New York native, who now lives in Palm Beach County.

About 7,000 fans packed into the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches Monday, a good majority of them spring breakers from out of town. Many of them from New York, supporting their Yankees.

"Back where I am right now, it's got a lot of snow, so this is great," said Barry Lefkowitz, who is from New Jersey.

"From Michigan, it's a little colder there," joked Rick Prudhomme, who is visiting family on Spring Break.

Daniel Dorrian, a New York transplant that now runs his own business in downtown West Palm Beach, is one of many Yankees fans seizing the opportunity to see their team in their own backyard.

"West Palm Beach has a lot of New Yorkers here. It's like another suburb or borough," he said. "I think this stadium is going to do a lot for the community, it's a beautiful ballpark."

The sold out crowd is a promising sight for Palm Beach County mayor, Paulette Burdick.

"It's been a very exciting time now that the new baseball stadium of the Palm Beaches has opened," she said. "Fans will travel ungodly distances in my opinion to follow their team."

Like Howard Balter and his family from Toronto, Canada.

"Any baseball game, anywhere, anytime. But these are the former Expos, so go Nationals!" he said, supporting the Washinton Nationals, which used to be the Montreal Expos many years ago.

Balter travels across the country to see his teams play.

"I go to ballparks, I go hockey arenas, i go any where any time, any sports. You name it I'm there," he said. "It's better than snow up in Canada and it's a beautiful day."

While County mayor Burdick still believes the ballpark is worthy investment of taxpayer dollars, she says it's not all about baseball and ticket sales.

"Throughout the year, residents in Palm Beach County will have the opportunity to utilize some of those fields," she said.

She said the sports commission is planning for concerts, festivals and races to take place during the baseball off-season. The site, which is complete with artificial lakes and parks, is about 160 acres -- making it the largest physical site in spring training.

"So it will be used year round, so we feel it is a good investment," Burdick said. "There is an economic benefit to having two teams in an area, so we felt that by recruiting the Astros and the Nationals, it was good for Palm Beach County."

Ballpark general manager Brady Ballard says ticket sales depends on the day of the game and the team.

"We've got the Yankees in town a lot of of course Northeasterners, big Yankees fans. So I see the turnout made our home teams feel like a road team for a day or two," he joked.

He says since opening day, ticket sales are growing with several games selling out. Teams from the Northeast like the New York Mets, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox bring the bigger turnouts.

"It's been a fast and furious entry into a spring training for us at the ballpark," said Ballard. "We're continuing to build toward the second half, of course were seeing spring break in the area making more people available."

Despite ticket sales starting slowly, ballpark officials are hoping spring break will make for a strong finish.

"We got a lot to learn about the market but it's been a successful year as we continue to grow," said Ballard. "And we're excited about the 30 year commitment that the teams are here for."

The last training game is on March 29, before the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros head for their regular season homes. There's about nine more games left and tickets are still available.

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