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Published September 08 2010

RedHawks hoping for better attendance in this postseason

Most of the Northern League’s four eligible minor league baseball teams will see a significant dip in attendance when their postseason starts today.

But this is nothing new. It’s been the trend for the last several years, except for Winnipeg, where the Goldeyes have been able to routinely fill Canwest Park regardless of the time of year.

With high schools and colleges in session once the playoffs get under way, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks Chief Executive Officer Brad Thom says his club focuses on making the experience as pleasant for the players and fans as possible with discounted tickets and concessions.

The goal is to simply finish the postseason in the black.

“We treat it as a separate entity,” Thom said. “We have a lot of expenses with busing the team, paying for hotels for the team on the road, meal money for players. And we’re paying the players longer.

“We just hope to break even.”

The RedHawks have had robust attendance figures at Newman Outdoor Field since joining the Northern League as an expansion team in 1996.

The team has averaged 3,751 fans a night the last five seasons. And things seem to be picking up despite a sluggish economy.

Fargo-Moorhead has increased its total regular-season attendance in each of the last five years. This year’s attendance of 183,143 ranks third in RedHawks history.

The Northern League added four games to the schedule this season with the addition of expansion teams Lake County and Rockford.

The average at Newman Outdoor Field for the postseason has dropped each of the last four seasons, going from 2,562 in 2006 to 1,505 last year.

However, the RedHawks hosted just one game at home in 2007 and 2008.

“It’s a tough sell in the United States,” Thom said of independent minor league baseball postseason games. “It’s not a money-maker, for sure.”

One of the biggest issues for Northern League teams is the uncertainty of the postseason schedule. The RedHawks have several months to promote and sell single-game and group tickets for the regular season.

This year, Fargo-Moorhead had about a week to get word out about the RedHawks’ first round playoff schedule.

So the team does everything it can to get people in the stands.

The RedHawks discounted tickets purchased in advance to $5 for any seat in the house. Tickets are $7 the day of the game.

Hot dogs have been priced at $1 for all of the postseason.

And, for the first time in the team’s history, current season-ticket holders were given free playoff tickets if they purchased next year’s season-ticket package.

F-M has even made its first-round playoff schedule more fan-friendly.

Today’s game is scheduled for 7:02 p.m. Game 2 is set for 2 p.m. on Thursday –to avoid conflicting with that night’s nationally televised game National Football League season opener between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints.

“That way our fans can go home and watch the Vikings kick butt on the Saints and we can get our players off to the next location,” Thom said, referring to the RedHawks traveling to Gary, Ind., for the third game of the playoff series. “We just play the cards that are dealt to us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com