HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-The Huntsville Stars have been given the green light to move to Mississippi, but one more season in Huntsville as a lame-duck franchise could present serious revenue challenges for the ball club.
As first reported by WHNT News 19 on Wednesday, Southern League owners gave approval for the Stars to relocate by majority vote during a teleconference. But the move will not take effect until after the 2014 baseball season, and marketing experts say the potential backlash from advertisers and fans could get ugly.
"Of course, it's going to be difficult," said Robert Lane, a marketing and PR expert who runs Carleton Public Relations in Huntsville. "They [Huntsville Stars] will probably end up losing money, and they probably don't care...The loyalty factor is just gone. That's why they have to sell something different."
Lane said the Stars will likely try to minimize the financial bleeding by offering a large number of discounts next season, knowing that the revenue losses from fans and advertisers who see the team as abandoning the city are almost inevitable. Lane believes the Stars are banking on making up the year of lost revenue when the team arrives at its new ballpark in Biloxi in 2015.
The Stars already have the worst attendance figures in the Southern League, but one long-time fan said he wasn't too upset, citing his belief that Huntsville will land another Southern League team in the near future.
"As a fan it's disappointing," said Marcus Routon, a Huntsville native who has followed the Stars since childhood. "But I think we'll get another team soon. Huntsville is too big a market not to have a team here."