This was the 15th consecutive season that MiLB’s 176 teams in 15 leagues drew more than 40 million fans. Earlier this month we covered MiLB attendance by average, by total, by classification and by league. (For our purposes, we don’t include the Mexican League in our tallies; we cover the 15 United States/Canada leagues and their 160 teams.)
As noted earlier in our rankings, the Las Vegas Aviators (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) led all teams in total attendance (650,934) and average attendance (9,299), while becoming the first team since 2015 to top the 650,000 mark in total attendance. The Aviators recorded 43 sellouts in their inaugural season in Las Vegas Ballpark. Other teams pacing their classifications include the Frisco RoughRiders (Class AA), Frederick Keys (High A), Dayton Dragons (Low A), Vancouver Canadians (Short Season) and Ogden Raptors (Rookie). The league with the biggest gains on the per-game average front: the Pioneer League, up 20 percent in 2019 over 2018.
“Minor League Baseball continues to set the standard for affordable, family friendly entertainment, and topping 41.5 million in attendance is only possible with the tremendous support our teams receive in each of our communities, from those in major metropolitan cities to those in small town America,” said Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball President & CEO, in a press statement. “It is also a testament to the support of our loyal fans and the dedication of our front office staffs across the country and their commitment to making Minor League Baseball the summertime destination for memory making fun and excitement.”
Nine teams set single-game ballpark attendance records in 2019 (Clearwater, Durham, Fort Wayne, Great Lakes, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Omaha, Pulaski and Richmond), while 13 teams set franchise records for single-season attendance in their current ballparks (Amarillo, Asheville, Augusta, Fayetteville, Hartford, Jacksonville, Johnson City, Las Vegas, Ogden, Pulaski, Rocky Mountain, Spokane and Tri-City [WA]). Asheville set a single-season record for the sixth straight year and Johnson City set a new mark for the fourth straight year, while Everett posted its highest season attendance total in 21 years.
Continuing its successful impact on MiLB attendance, Minor League Baseball’s Hispanic fan engagement initiative, Copa de La Diversión, impacted totals at the gate. This year’s Copa de La Diversión promo expanded to 403 games, drawing nearly 20 percent larger crowds than the Minor League Baseball average game attendance. Another promo that proved successful: The MiLB Pride initiative, consisting of 71 event nights, saw crowds that were 12 percent larger than the average game attendance.
The Dayton Dragons’ streak of consecutive sellouts, which began in 2000, and is the longest in professional sports history, sits at 1,385 games, while the Hartford Yard Goats recorded 51 sellouts at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Toledo posted their 500th sellout at Fifth Third Field, while 14 teams reached attendance milestones in 2019: Omaha (15 millionth fan), Salt Lake (13 millionth fan), Portland (10 millionth fan), Trenton (10 millionth fan), Midland (nine millionth fan), Reno (four millionth fan), Richmond (four millionth fan), Cedar Rapids (three millionth fan in new ballpark), El Paso (three millionth fan), Great Lakes (three millionth fan), Gwinnett (three millionth fan), Mississippi (three millionth fan), Hartford (one millionth fan) and Columbia (one millionth fan).
Here’s a look at the winners and losers on the 2019 MiLB attendance front:
|2||Rocky Mountain Vibes||PL||137,294||35||3,923||840||3.67|
|3||Las Vegas Aviators||PCL||650,934||70||9,299||4,746||0.96|
|7||Amarillo Sod Poodles||TL||427,791||68||6,291||4,885||0.29|
|9||San Antonio Missions||PCL||337,484||69||4,891||4,104||0.19|
|13||Johnson City Cardinals||AppL||80,612||32||2,519||2,222||0.13|
|15t||San Jose Giants||CalL||155,253||67||2,317||2,110||0.10|
Ah, the box-office power of a new ballpark. The three teams playing in new ballparks—Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Las Vegas Aviators and Amarillo Sod Poodles—all were in the top 15 when it came to average attendance increases. In addition, the shift of two teams—Colorado Springs Sky Sox to San Antonio, and Helena Brewers to Colorado Springs—led to attendance hikes for those two franchises. Interestingly, a team that’s on the move, the Mobile BayBears, saw a 41 percent rise in average attendance, thanks to aggressive marketing and promotional efforts. New management made an impact with the Elizabethton Twins, as did new ownership and a rebranding for the Syracuse Mets. (Was there a Tim Tebow effect in Syracuse? Probably not, as Tebow was hurt for much of the season.)
|1||Dunedin Blue Jays||FSL||11,757||58||203||450||-0.55|
|2||Florida Fire Frogs||FSL||19,615||60||327||600||-0.46|
|3||New Orleans Baby Cakes||PCL||188,092||64||2,939||3,827||-0.23|
|4||Quad Cities River Bandits||ML||150,905||61||2,474||3,163||-0.22|
|6||Charlotte Stone Crabs||FSL||91,349||67||1,363||1,654||-0.18|
|7t||Lake Elsinore Storm||CalL||172,280||68||2,534||3,071||-0.17|
|9||Binghamton Rumble Ponies||EL||182,990||61||3,000||3,553||-0.16|
|11t||St. Lucie Mets||FSL||83,525||64||1,305||1,520||-0.14|
|14t||Pawtucket Red Sox||IL||331,010||63||5,254||5,982||-0.12|
|14t||Salem Red Sox||CL||171,866||67||2,565||2,919||-0.12|
Including the Dunedin Blue Jays on this list is somewhat misleading. Because of offseason renovations to Dunedin Stadium, the Blue Jays played a limited slate of “home” games at Jack Russell Stadium, a scaled-down version of the former Philadelphia Phillies spring-training home in Clearwater. And it’s also a little misleading to include the Quad Cities River Bandits here as well: massive flooding in downtown Davenport caused the relocation of several games and certainly impacted attendance at the remaining Modern Woodmen Park games. Binghamton did see a 2018 boost when a healthy Tim Tebow played well enough to make the Eastern League All-Star Game, only to see a similar fall in 2019. In addition, several teams that are on the move—Florida, New Orleans, Potomac and Pawtucket—made this list as well.
AppL = Appalachian League
CalL = California League
CL = Carolina League
EL = Eastern League
FSL = Florida State League
IL = International League
ML = Midwest League
NWL = Northwest League
NYP = NY-Penn League
PCL = Pacific Coast League
PL = Pioneer League
SAL = South Atlantic League
SL = Southern League
TL = Texas League