Big games, small crowds for Boise Hawks

The Hawks draw 1,702 fans for two home playoff games this week.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comSeptember 7, 2013 

Though they were in the hunt for their first Northwest League championship since 2004, the Hawks played in front of two of their smallest home crowds of the season.

On Tuesday, an announced crowd of 632 watched the Hawks fall to Salem-Keizer in the South Division playoffs. On Friday, in the opener of the Northwest League Championship Series against Vancouver, the crowd was 1,070. The Hawks averaged 2,486 fans during the regular season.

The dropoff isn't just a phenomenon in Boise. Salem-Keizer drew only 537 fans for its playoff game Wednesday against the Hawks, and Vancouver, which averaged 4,843 during the regular season, had 1,796 on Tuesday against Everett.

"The typical difficulty in minor-league sports is that these games aren't on a schedule, they're not on a fireworks night, not on a giveaway night,'' Hawks General Manager Todd Rahr said. "We've pushed the entertainment portion so much, the baseball is a little bit secondary.''

Rahr noted that the Hawks had two days to get the word out about tickets between clinching a playoff spot Sunday and the home game Tuesday. Playoff games also are not part of season-ticket packages or planned group events, which cuts into attendance.

Then there are the outside factors - September games during the week are often on school nights, and the fall often turns fans' minds toward the pigskin.

"There are a lot of things going on, football fever's started, school's started,'' said Hawks manager Gary Van Tol, a Boise resident since 2008. "It's part of the reason we love it here, you've got a lot of options.''

Few things can get a player more motivated than hearing a big crowd's boisterous cheer after a big hit or a nice defensive play, but the realities of starting out a professional baseball career have players enjoying any sort of crowd.

"Of course you'd like as many people out there as possible, but it's all about winning the game, if we've got one or 50,000 out there,'' Hawks second baseman Danny Lockhart said. "Most of us started out in rookie ball, where we were lucky if we had anyone there at all.''

Regardless of the crowd, Van Tol noted the team was happy to play at home.

"I didn't hear much from the guys about the attendance - the people that came were vocal - but just being in a comfortable place, at your home park, should give you an advantage,'' he said.

Said Rahr: "If we can draw 1,000-1,500 for a playoff game, it's a success. Certainly, the more people here, the better for everyone involved. For those that come out, it's a cool thing for any town to make a championship run. A ring's a ring.''

Dave Southorn: 377-6420

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