It has taken the Toronto Blue Jays only nine years to rise to the top of the toughest division in professional baseball. In the process of becoming contenders for the American League pennant, the team has generated record home attendance at Exhibition Stadium of 2,177,071 as of last Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. But one achievement the Blue Jays have not realized so far this season is moving into the black on the balance sheet. Said Pat Gillick, the
Jays’ widely respected executive vicepresident of baseball operations: “Right now I think that if we don’t make it to the league championship series and the World Series, we’re probably going to lose some money.”
Better: The Jays’ winning season could not have come at a better time. Although the team made $1.5 million in its first season and broke even for several years after that, last year it lost more than $500,000. One reason is the steep decline of the Canadian dollar. The Jays —owned by a limited partnership of John Labatt Ltd., Newsco Investments (wholly controlled by Imperial Trust Co. president R. Howard Webster) and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce —must pay their players and many subsidiary bills in U.S. currency. Declared Jays executive vice-president of business operations Paul Beeston: “We’re a U.S. business operating in Canada. Every time the U.S. dollar goes down by a penny it costs us $185,000.” As well,
players’ salaries have risen astronomically. When the Jays were born in 1977, the average was roughly $52,000. Now it is $490,000. With a payroll of $15 million, Beeston said, “it costs us almost four times as much to run the team now as it did during our first year.”
Increase: And while Jay fever has increased attendance, Jays director of ticket operations George Holm declared, “The increase is in the cheap seats—because we do not have that many good seats.” And if the Jays bring
the World Series to Toronto, even that will cost the team and the stadium an extra $520,000 just for three new press rooms to accommodate the 600 expected media representatives. Beeston said that extra revenue which the games will generate will not offset those costs.
But John Hudson, director of media properties for Labatt’s, owner of 45 per cent of the team—the book value has increased by about 400 per cent in eight years—said that financial difficulties were of little concern. Added Hudson: “It is fair to say that we believe there are some intangible benefits to being a 45per-cent owner of the Blue Jays and that it is somewhat different from owning other companies. There is the name association, the promotional value and, ultimately, more beer sales. That is our bottom line.”
-GLEN ALLEN with HAL QUINN, ANN WALMSLEY and JAMIE WAYNE in Toronto
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