- Associated Press - Monday, July 28, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Ahhhh, how Josh Obeid, general manager of the Blue Mesa Grill, looks back with favor on last year’s baseball season.

The Texas Rangers had a winning record and were in the hunt for the playoffs, and fans were sweating it out at the ballpark - an average of about 39,000 per game. Happy hour was hopping.

Fast-forward to this year.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1nR7mm1 ) reports after 48 games, the Rangers have one of the worst records in Major League Baseball, and paid attendance at Globe Life Park is down to about 35,000 - if they all show up.

For Obeid, whose restaurant is not far from the ballpark, the baseball team’s performance is hurting more than its win-loss record. With fewer people going to games, fewer Rangers fans are showing up for food and drinks.

“I’ve seen a drop of 20 to 30 percent in business from happy hour last year to happy hour this year,” said Obeid, who added that the team’s official attendance numbers don’t reflect how many people actually show up. “We don’t see as many Rangers jerseys.”

When the seats are full, each Rangers game is estimated to pump about $1 million into the local economy. Fewer fans means that less money is flowing into the rest of the economy, including parking lots where teachers, college and high school students make extra money in the summer.

“Everyone feels it,” said Sharon Smith, owner of Stadium Parking, which controls about 600 spaces on the east side of the stadium. Things are so slow that she has hired two fewer people this season.

“It is interesting that all the Rangers-related businesses are seeing the same drop,” she said. “That just shows what the Rangers and AT&T; Stadium bring to the local economy.”

Well aware that there are more empty seats in the stadium this year and of the ripple effect beyond the box scores, Rangers spokesman John Blake said the team is looking at what it can do to lure people back to the ballpark.

“It’s been a tough year,” Blake said. “We realize it has an effect on a lot of things and the last few years (attendance) has been an all-time high. So we’re working hard to get the fans to come out.”

Make no mistake, you’ll still hear the roar of a crowd at a Rangers game.

Before last weekend’s homestand, the team posted paid attendance of 1,681,907 this season, for an average of 35,039 per game, ranking seventh in the majors behind powerhouses such as the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, according to ESPN’s MLB.com.

But over the past two seasons fewer folks have gone through the turnstile at the ballpark. (The Rangers, by the way, don’t talk about the actual number of people who hit the bar as they walk through. If you hold a season ticket, or bought one ahead of time, it’s all the same to them.)

Last year, nearly 3.2 million were reported by the Rangers. This year the team, with 33 home games left and assuming the same average head count, is on pace to bring in 2.8 million fans, a drop of about 340,000. It’s a far cry from 2012, when the team ranked third in the majors with 3.46 million attendance.

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