River Cats face financial hardships during pandemic

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WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Sutter Health Park can seat just over 14,000 baseball fans at capacity when the Sacramento River Cats play at their home ballpark.

The regular season consists of 70 home games with an average of 8,000 attendees per game. That is over a half million tickets sold between April and the end of August, making it one of the biggest sources of revenue for the team.

“It certainly is a challenge because we rely on large gatherings, large public gatherings,” River Cats General Manager Chip Maxson told FOX40 Wednesday. “We don’t have big TV contracts like some of the Major League clubs do or the NBA or NFL, so we rely on our local fans.”

While major league baseball appears committed to starting their season at some point, it is not as clear what will happen to the minor league schedule.

Many anticipate it will get started in summer and could last until the end of October, yet there are no guarantees.

“If we play this fall, great. And there will certainly be a hit as you talked about, but we’ll be able to operate,” said Maxon. “If for some reason, we’re not able to play until 2021, that will be 18 months between our playoff run in the fall and opening day 2021. No business is set up to go 18 months without revenue.”

The River Cats don’t receive money from the San Francisco Giants to operate. They are owned by Sacramento locals the Savage family. Sutter Health Park is privately financed, meaning the Savage family owes money on it every month.

“We’re applying for some of the government loans and to be honest, there has been conversations about additional help and support,” said Maxon.

As of Wednesday, the River Cats have had to lay off two-thirds of their full-time employees and another 600 seasonal personnel.

“All those folks that work our storefronts, concession stands, merchandise, our ushers, parking,” said Maxson.

When it is time to play ball, the River Cats are hopeful they’ll be allowed to at least put a cap on the number of fans allowed inside the ballpark, depending on the health guidelines at the time.

“When baseball does come back there will be allowances in place to start up at a smaller scale to make sure that everybody is safe and then we can work back up to full capacity,” said Maxon.

The River Cats say the best way to help them during this unprecedented time is to hop on their website. They have got a few, select ideas listed there, most of which are related to merchandising, so fans can be ready when the season starts.

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