Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
It’s hard to get a handle on how $4-a-gallon gas is affecting attendance at Valley League games this summer. I’ve scanned the box scores to try to get some feel, but the best I can say at this point is that the jury is still out, and probably will be for a while.
As with many other parts of life impacted by high gas prices, it’s coming across to me that this is more a feel thing than anything else.
That said, people across the league aren’t feeling all that good right now.
“It’s either going to really hurt us because people aren’t going to have money to travel to the games or even come to the games, or it’s really going to help us, because people are going to stay home and come to the games,” Teresa Wease, the co-owner of the Harrisonburg Turks, told me at a Turks-Waynesboro Generals game last week.
I’m inclined to side with the latter perspective myself. And that seems to be the general perspective being offered up by local tourism officials. We’ve all been hearing about what are being called staycations, where people are making vacation plans that keep them close to home to avoid as much of the sting of the prices at the pump as possible.
“Gas is terrible. It takes a lot to fill your tank up. A lot of people aren’t going to be going on a five or six or seven hundred mile vacation,” Valley League commissioner Dave Biery told me earlier this week at a Staunton Braves game.
The commish was his own marketing guy.
“With the Valley League, you can get family entertainment at a real good price, and don’t have to go far. You can go 30, 40, 50 miles and get some good entertainment, some good family entertainment,” Biery said.
“A lot of people are moaning about the gas, but I think very likely it will help us during the season,” Biery said.
Waynesboro Generals owner Jim Critzer is taking that approach.
“You’re going to find some people who can’t afford to go on a vacation, they can’t afford the gas prices. But if you think about it, the most you’re going to do is burn three, four gallons of gas to get to most of the parks in the league. You’re talking 20 bucks, tops,” Critzer told me.
“Hopefully gas comes back down some. People can say, This can be our vacation. We can go around and see the different fields, see the different people, the atmosphere of the league, and get to watch some good college players who will hopefully get to play Major League baseball one day,” Critzer said.
“The gas could actually help because people could decide that this is the way to get their entertainment,” Critzer said.