Brewers owner Attanasio would prefer baseball at Miller Park, without fans at first

As Major League Baseball continues to evaluate ways to start the 2020 season, Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said he would like to see spring training resume at Miller Park leading into a possible late June or early July start of the season.

"Bring the boys back in town," Attanasio said. "I think it'll be a real boost for everyone."

Speaking during the Greater Milwaukee Committee's virtual membership meeting Tuesday, Attanasio said MLB is working on 68-page medical guideline on how to operate under Covid-19. To execute that in Milwaukee,

Attanasio said the team will be talking with Gov. Tony Evers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and health officials such as Dr. John Raymond Sr., CEO and president of Medical College of Wisconsin; Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management; and Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, commissioner for the City of Milwaukee Health Department.

MLB is looking at an 82- or 81-game schedule that will initially not have fans in the stadiums, according to several media reports.

"I think we can make Miller Park absolutely as safe as we can make American Family Fields in Maryvale (Arizona) safe," he said. "I'd like to try to do that if I can."

David Stearns, president of baseball operations and general manager at the Brewers, who also participated in the virtual meeting, said medical guidelines involve some personnel being tested multiple times per week, and some being tested every day.

Stearns also said the team will have to reconfigure its clubhouse to adhere to social distancing. Other changes include Brewers manager Craig Counsell having an assigned seat in dugouts, rules on how close coaches can get to players on the field. and other individuals having to follow personal protection equipment guidelines when coming into proximity to players.

“This will be the ultimate collaborative effort," Attanasio said.

Starting a season without fans will have a significant impact on MLB's and individual team revenue, Attanasio said. If the season happens, MLB will have to pay all costs associated with staging a game, but will not have ticket revenue and other direct revenue from fans to offset some of those expenses. Revenue from tickets, parking and concession account for roughly 40% of revenue for pro baseball, Attanasio said.

"In Milwaukee, given our enormous fan support, it's actually a larger percentage," he said. The team had attendance of 2,923,333 during the 2019 season, or an average of 36,091 per game, which ranked within the top 10 in MLB that season.

MLB typically generates $9.4 billion per year in revenue, half of which goes to player salaries. A half season would yield about $5 billion, and without fans, would be closer to $2.85 billion for the entire 2020 season, Attanasio said.

MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association reached an agreement in March that will see players collectively get a $173 million advance spread over the first two months of the scheduled season and then their salaries will be prorated for the season, depending upon how long it lasts. Paying players' prorated salaries over the course of a shortened 82-game season would result in an average loss of $640,000 for each game, according to a 12-page document obtained by Sports Business Journal, a sister publication of the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The delay of the 2020 MLB season through April may result in an estimated $965 million loss in ticket revenue for the league, according to TicketIQ, a ticketing research agency. For the Milwaukee Brewers, that would be a loss of $38.6 million in ticket revenue for that period.

The Brewers are currently valued at $1.2 billion, according to Forbes, with revenue and operating income from the 2019 season at $295 million and $43 million, respectively.

On the webinar, Attanasio also talked about Brewers Community Foundation creating a $1 million fund to support part-time workers at Miller Park, and working with other community partners to help those working on the front lines of the pandemic.

"Baseball has played a healing role in this country forever," Attanasio said. "It's one of the reasons it's the national pastime. Whether it's in the aftermath of wars, terrorist events, and now we find in the aftermath of a pandemic, we have the opportunity to really be the first sport to get out and play and help repair the damage that's been done."


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