Strasburg’s debut worth $1.5 million to Nationals

No matter how much fans want a certain player, the bottom line for the bottom line is that most players don’t pay for themselves.

When they do, they’re usually rookies who have low salaries and they are playing for a team that isn’t particularly doing well at the box office.

At a four-year, $15.1 million contract, Stephen Strasburg(notes) is not your typical low-priced rookie. But that doesn’t mean he can’t pay for himself pretty quickly.

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In fact, if Strasburg is as good as advertised, the Nationals might be able to do more than $15 million in business on Strasburg alone by the end of next season.

What we do know is that we’re projecting that Strasburg’s debut game Tuesday night in Washington is worth more than $1.5 million to the Nationals. And that’s likely more than any one player has ever been worth to an organization for a single game.

Let’s show you our math on how we got there for tonight’s game.

The Nationals average 21,559 fans per home game, but on a weekday against the Pirates, they’d average significantly less. Jim Lackritz, associate dean of the college of business at San Diego State, where Strasburg played in college, believes Strasburg puts about 24,000 more fans in the seats Tuesday night.

With an average ticket price of $30.63, according to Team Marketing Report, that’s $735,120 in additional revenue. Add to that the 2,000 standing room seats that will likely be sold today at $10 and suite seats that they’re selling in blocks of two and we’re up to $780,000.

But we’re still not done on tickets. Since the Nationals didn’t immediately announce Strasburg’s debut, fans were forced to play a guessing game. Some guessed it would be Monday and some guessed it would be Wednesday. Lackritz says the team probably sold 10,000 tickets on each day just from people guessing. That’s an additional $612,000 for the team.

And wait, there’s more. Some fans, in order to get tickets for tonight’s game, had to buy four-game ticket packages for the price of three. With a two-ticket minimum and a low of $45 per seat, that’s $270. If 500 fans did that, that’s another $135,000.

What’s our total so far? $1,527,000.

Then there are the concessions, which Lackritz conservatively estimates will be at least $7.50 a person, though likely more because this is an event of sorts and people will arrive to the ballpark early. Remember, revenue from Strasburg’s jerseys and shirts are shared among all teams. The addition of 24,000 people is worth $180,000 more in concessions to the Nationals.

And let’s not forget about parking. Most of the 24,000 Strasburg fans, let’s call them, will be taking the Metro. But let’s say that 2,000 people park in the Nationals lots. On average, let’s say the team nets $15 each from those people – that’s another $30,000.

The Strasburg pop now has us at $1,737,000. The Nats pay 10 percent gross back to the city in taxes and that gets us to $1.56 million for the team.

Strasburg won’t quite do what Dontrelle Willis(notes) was doing in 2003, which was essentially earning his salary every game he pitched. At a salary of $235,000, the Marlins were drawing 20,000 more fans for his starts.

But if Strasburg continues to be the real deal, and the team starts him through the rest of the season, Lackritz says the team can bank on him drawing 15,000 additional fans per game versus games that he does not start. That will equal more than $5 million in ticket revenue alone.

If ratings for Strasburg games give the local network MASN a bump, the team could also cash in on additional ad revenue.

Questions? Comments? Email SportsBiz@cnbc.com. Or check out more Sports Biz with Darren Rovell.


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Updated Tuesday, Jun 8, 2010