While the stock market has shown a lot of improvement over the last couple of weeks, the spring training ticket market is a telling indicator of the economy in Florida.
I have seen the smallest crowds this spring since before Mark McGwire wore the birds on the bat. In past years I would have been afraid to make the drive to Jupiter without tickets in hand because more often than not, Cardinals spring training games are sell outs. And when tickets are available, they aren't the best. This year I was shocked to see the ballpark about a third empty at both Roger Dean Stadium when the Redbirds were hosting a contest and at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa when the Yankees hosted the Tigers.
Cardinals Hall of Fame Lou Brock delivers the lineup card to umpires before a spring training game against the Nationals March 23. In the background seats sit unfilled.
That's the bad news. But one benefit of the down economy is that there are bargains to be had if you are resourceful.
Hotels are about as full as the ballparks. And, while in the past they flatly refused to make deals because proprietors knew Cardinals fans would come to town in droves, we're staying at the same place we did last year for about 70 percent of the price.
It was the first time in five years of staying at this hotel that the management was willing to negotiate.
It has also been no small favor that gas prices are about half this year as they were in 2008...
Tonight I'll be hitting some of the local watering holes and eateries to see if the same kind of bargains can be had there.