Last Friday we ran the raw numbers for 2014 Minor League Baseball attendance by league, total and average. Today we put some of those numbers into perspective.
You can find the three listings here:
- 2014 Affiliated Attendance by Average
- 2014 Affiliated Attendance by Total
- 2014 Affiliated Attendance by League
We’ve broken down the numbers one step further: here’s a list of the MiLB teams recording the biggest attendance jumps by average:
|1||El Paso Chihuahuas||PCL||560,997||71||7,901||2,818||1.80|
|3||High Desert Mavericks||CalL||147,231||70||2,103||1,359||0.55|
|4||Johnson City Cardinals||AppL||40,351||32||1,261||826||0.53|
|7||Salem Red Sox||CL||220,782||66||3,345||2,735||0.22|
|9||Dunedin Blue Jays||FSL||60,044||67||896||768||0.17|
|11||Palm Beach Cardinals||FSL||74,887||68||1,101||972||0.13|
|14t||Quad Cities River Bandits||ML||237,005||61||3,885||3,533||0.10|
|17t||Portland Sea Dogs||EL||359,427||65||5,530||5,096||0.09|
|20||Myrtle Beach Pelicans||CL||241,026||66||3,652||3,370||0.08|
(We’re excluding the Mexican League teams from this list: though that league plays under the auspices of MiLB, we claim no particular expertise when it comes to baseball south of the border.)
Some things to note:
- No surprise the top two in this list play in new ballparks and also benefited from lame-duck seasons in 2013: El Paso in Tucson and Charlotte at the old Knights Stadium. Charlotte ended up leading all of stateside Minor League Baseball in total and average attendance, a status befitting the city’s size and health. And the Durham Bulls showed some impressive attendance growth after an extensive ballpark renovation.
- A revamp of the front office propelled the High Desert Mavericks, Johnson City Cardinals, Tennessee Smokies and Reno Aces to impressive growth. In Adelanto, new GM Ryan Cook overhauled operations, sold naming rights to Heritage Field at Stater Bros. Stadium and boosted attendance by some 55 percent. In Johnson City, new GM Tyler Parsons brought new life to an established franchise and enjoyed a similar boost. In Kodak, new ownership and a new front office led by WP/COO Chris Allen led the Tennessee Smokies to a notable 2014. In Reno, Eric Edelstein took the reins of an underperforming Aces franchise and showed some immediate results at the front office.
- Usually a team drops in attendance when talk of a new ballpark dominates the offseason, as it did when the Potomac Nationals presented plans for a new facility. The opposite happened: the team set a new season-attendance record in what many consider to be a second-rate ballpark. Again, the power of having good people leading the franchise — most notably VP/GM Josh Olerud.
- The installation of a Ferris wheel and other amusements certainly pushed the Quad Cities River Bandits to another attendance boost.
- The rookie Appalachian League saw a 11 percent bump in attendance. The youngsters like Tyler Parsons helped lead the way, as the league fulfilled its mission as a proving ground for young talent. For the most part, anyway; it was good to see the Pulaski Mariners register a 4 percent attendance bump with a veteran operator like John Dittrich at the helm.
Here’s a secondary list we put together: the Old Reliables, established franchise that manage to excel every season without big dips or spikes in attendance.
|2||Lehigh Valley IronPigs||IL||614,888||68||9,042||9,016||0.00|
|4||Sacramento River Cats||PCL||607,839||71||8,561||8,435||0.01|
|6||Round Rock Express||PCL||595,700||71||8,390||8,181||0.03|
|10||Toledo Mud Hens||IL||545,265||71||7,680||7,779||-0.01|
|13t||Rochester Red Wings||IL||422,454||66||6,401||6,098||0.05|
|16||Oklahoma City RedHawks||PCL||429,190||71||6,045||5,797||0.04|
|17||Kane County Cougars||ML||415,571||69||6,023||6,154||-0.02|
|18||Fort Wayne TinCaps||ML||406,715||70||5,810||5,766||0.01|
|19||Omaha Storm Chasers||PCL||393,946||70||5,628||5,666||-0.01|
|20||Corpus Christi Hooks||TL||393,769||70||5,625||5,498||0.02|
In general, these represent many of the best-run teams in Minor League Baseball. Hang around MiLB owners and you’ll soon run into discussions of overperforming and underperforming franchises: numbers can be misleading if a team has a good market and great facility and could accomplish much more on the attendance and revenue equations. Now, you could argue that despite the numbers, a few of these teams do underperform for various reasons, but for the most part there are amazing success stories here. The Indianapolis Indians benefited from ballpark renovations in 2014, but the team has been a steady draw over the last several years. By attracting 614,888 fans to Coca-Cola Park in 2014, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are the only Minor League Baseball team to attract 600,000 fans annually since 2008, with six straight years averaging over 9,000 fans a game; Kurt Landes has put in place a machine. The Dayton Dragons have been selling out games since dinosaurs walked the earth. And the Fort Wayne TinCaps continue to amaze with smart promotions, dedicated customer service and a fan-friendly ballpark, all overseen by Mike Nutter, once again breaking a season attendance record — in Year Six of Parkview Field, no less.
All in all, Minor league Baseball had a great year: The final number represent increases in both total number of fans (857,413) and percentage of fans (2.1 percent) from 2013. The 2014 attendance figures follow third only to 2008’s all-time record-setting attendance of 43.3 million and 42.8 million in 2007. All of Minor League Baseball’s top 10 regular season attendance years have been in the last decade.
“The fact that Minor League Baseball has recorded its top 10 attendance totals in the past decade demonstrates the cumulative power of the brand and validates our place among recognizable sports properties,” said Minor League Baseball president and CEO Pat O’Conner in a statement. “MiLB continues to prove year after year that it is a quality product, not just in terms of entertainment on the field, but also as a sound partner in its communities and with both local and national marketing sponsors. The tremendous support of our fans has afforded us the opportunity to accomplish these milestones.”
We will be continuing our attendance analysis after the indy season ends later this month.
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