USA Today ran a story 4/28 on baseball's attendance problems in four Rust Belt cities: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2011-04-28-baseball-attendance-population_N.htm. Some highlights:
Detroit's population has declined 25%; Cleveland's is down 17%; Cincinnati down 10.4% and Pittsburgh is 8.6% smaller since the 2000 Census. The four cities are among the top eight in population losses in the past decade, according to the latest census figures. Cleveland's season ticket base has gone from about 27,000 in 1995-98 to about 7,700 today. The Indians and Pirates rank 30th and 27th in major league attendance, which is down 2% from last year.
Cleveland's population, according to the latest Census, is 396,815, the lowest since 1900. Detroit's population of 713,000 is its lowest since 1910, and unemployment in Detroit is 11.3%. Almost 23% of the city's homes are vacant. The business vacancy rate in Wayne County is more than 62%. In Cleveland, it's 35%. Cincinnati's 2010 population was 296,243. Pittsburgh's current population wasn't cited in the story, but I believe it's somewhere in the mid-to high 300k area, smaller than that of my current hometown, Virginia Beach,VA. Look at that: three long-time major league cities with smaller populations than Virginia Beach, a city that didn't exist as other than a tiny beachfront resort until 50 years ago. As the story points out, teams draw from a larger geographic area, but even cities like Dayton and Toledo are suffering from the same economic and population downturns.
Revenues must go up; costs must go down, or the business model must change. There aren't many other alternatives.