Ballpark Figures

Now that the Houston Astros have Randy Johnson, can they afford to sign him to a long-term contract? His first two starts in the Astrodome boosted attendance by 20,000 fans a night. At an average ticket price of $10, that means his economic impact was $200,000, plus an additional $30,000 from six thousand more cars at $5 a car, plus another $200,000 from an average concessions expenditure of $10 a person. Johnson is scheduled to pitch two home games in September, but one is against St. Louis, which is drawing huge crowds everywhere as Mark McGwire chases Roger Maris’ home-run record, so his effect on attendance for that game won’t be as great. Still, Johnson’s impact on the Astros’ bottom line will likely end up being at least $1.5 million for only four games—and much more if he can pitch the Astros into the World Series. In a full season Johnson would make at least sixteen starts at home, which figures to $6 million in extra revenue, and that doesn’t count the increase in season tickets sales that would bring in money even when Johnson isn’t pitching. The only problem: The Big Unit wants a multiyear, $10 million a year contract. And that leaves the Astros about $4 million a year short.

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