by Jim Nintzel
So we're apathetic when it comes to supporting the Tucson Sidewinders, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The Tucson Sidewinders are playing their final season before they move to a new $50 million downtown Reno stadium in 2009. SK Baseball purchased the franchise last winter, and the move north was the intention all along.
Former owner Jay Zucker offered a $1.5 million discount if the new owners kept the team in Tucson. It was a magnanimous overture, but it didn't work. And so, after a 40-year run, Triple-A baseball in Tucson will be no more.
"Tucson is lethargic," Rick Parr, general manager and minority partner in the Sidewinders, said just hours after making the rounds to five morning radio shows touting that night's game and fireworks show. "But they've always been that way with certain things, and that's just the way the community is."
The word "Reno" did not go over well in the stands at a recent Sidewinders game. Those who come to the games -- 114,587 in 36 homes dates this year compared with 270,301 in 28 games for the Sacramento River Cats -- love the team. There just haven't been enough of them.
Tucson was last in the Pacific Coast League in attendance last season, averaging 3,983 spectators per game. Things certainly haven't been much better in this a lame-duck year. The team is again last, averaging 3,293 through Wednesday.
The buck-beer promotion got me out to the ballpark on Thursday night, but the crowd was sparse. I talked to a certain high-ranking city official who told me it was worse on Wednesday.
It makes me sad to think that we're not going to have Triple-A baseball in Tucson when the season ends, but the fault surely does lie with the lack of fan support. Jay Zucker did all he could--from fireworks to Bark in the Park nights--but Tucsonans just didn't go out to the ball game.
It also makes me skeptical that a minor-league sports franchise--basketball, hockey, croquet, whatevs--would succeed as the anchor tenant of a new downtown arena...