ISU assistant director of media relations
TERRE HAUTE —
Though a group of Indiana State University students learned about statistics in class, they discovered even more at a baseball stadium.
Students in the Business 305 course taught by Ken Jones, lecturer of operations management and analysis, analyzed attendance data of the Terre Haute Rex, a summer collegiate baseball team in the Prospect League.
The students reviewed attendance figures and additional information, such as theme nights and average attendance for all the Prospect League teams, to determine what influences fan turnout. The project incorporated some of the classroom lessons to a project that can help the baseball organization.
“It just applies the concepts to real-life situations, not just numbers and stuff on a paper,” said senior Seth Bayless, a business administration major from Robinson, Ill., who worked on the project. “It’s something you can actually see, and you can grasp the big picture. It makes you think more analytically.”
The group created two different models, one predicting the Rex attendance, and a different one which incorporated league-wide attendance factors. The class found some interesting results: Rain on game day impacted attendance figures more than the day’s temperature, and a correlation existed between the number of players who eventually played for a Major League Baseball team and high turnout.
“With the Rex, we had our own information, and we did everything ourselves, so we were using what we actually learned in a real-life situation, so it actually made more sense once you look at the data,” said Halee Myers, a senior accounting major from Terre Haute.
Students also found that the average income of community residents did not influence attendance figures. A community’s size also did not significantly impact fan turnout – the Outlaws of Nashville, Tenn., attracted the fewest fans per game of any team in the league, according to figures on the Prospect League website. Nashville is much larger than most other league cities, which include Terre Haute, Danville, Ill., and Chillicothe, Ohio.
The Outlaws’ attendance may have been hindered by ownership issues, said Casey DeGroote, operations manager for the Terre Haute Rex. The Prospect League website posted a newspaper article in June that the league at the time was searching for a team owner. DeGroote thinks that the Nashville team’s attendance could increase within the coming years.
“The market down there is flooded with entertainment, so it might take a little longer than it probably did for us to get a fan base,” DeGroote said. “With us, I think the community is so yearning for baseball that we didn’t really have to do much.”
Additional factors, such as team success, also affected the attendance figures. That factor benefited the Rex, which made the postseason in just the team’s second year in the league. The team’s attendance increased by about 190 fans from its inaugural season to just over 1,000 fans per home game this year.
“Our last three games were three of our biggest nights, so that was right when the playoff hunt was going on,” said Matt Foster, finance manager for the Terre Haute Rex. “The class presented that winning percentage has a lot to do with your attendance, and that really showed towards the end of the season.”
DeGroote and Foster attended a presentation by the stats class students, who discussed their findings about the data. Foster said the information from the project will help with forecasting budgets and ticket sales next year.
“There are a lot of unknown variables in there, such as whether it will rain, so we have to be conservative when we are forecasting,” he said after the presentation. But the project “shows the affect it has on attendance, so it will help with forecasting that for next year.”
Jones conceived the idea for the project after learning about the Rex, which plays its games “literally about four or five blocks” from ISU’s Scott College of Business.
“Initially, we thought as a class that maybe we could perform some classic analysis in the classroom -- looking at win-loss records or socioeconomic demographics,” Jones said, “but very quickly, we deduced that maybe there was more we could do to help the Rex organization operationally, to help them succeed in some way.”
The project also will help the participating students become more employable, since they can reference the experience in which they used class lessons to benefit an organization, Myers said.
The Rex members hope to keep the momentum from this season going into next year, as they plan to build off increasing attendance this season.
“We need to bring them in that one time,” DeGroote said of fans. “If they enjoy it, then I think we can lure them in, which is pretty important on our end … to try to create a fun atmosphere for them.”