The great MiLB makeover by MLB also meant a change in the structure of independent baseball, where the American Association, Atlantic League and the Frontier League linked with MLB as Partner Leagues, while the Pioneer League transitioned from an affiliated league to an MLB Partner League.
In this listing, we will focus on the four MLB Partner Leagues. There are other independent leagues in the baseball marketplace, including the Mavericks Independent Baseball League and the United Shore Professional Baseball League, where multiple teams play at a single venue. While the Pecos League is now at 14 teams, that league does not report attendance, so we cannot include those teams in this ranking.
This year’s ranking of MLB Partner League attendance features some dramatic changes from the 2019 edition. For starters: 2019 saw a listing of Can-Am League teams in the rankings, but that league merged with the Frontier League. Some formerly independent teams, such as the St. Paul Saints and Somerset Patriots, transitioned to affiliated baseball, while others, such as the New Britain Bees, joined the summer-collegiate ranks. (We decided to base our comparisons on the last full season, 2019. Many of these teams operated in 2020, albeit under very limited circumstances.) There were also several teams, including the Kane County Cougars and Tri-City ValleyCats, that operated as affiliated teams through 2019.
As we compiled these numbers and had a chance to chat with many team owners, front-office workers and league commissioners, one sentiment stood out: COVID-19 had a huge impact on attendance, even when teams were cleared for full capacity. (Conversely, most front-office types working for a team shifting from MiLB to MLB Partner Leagues did not see that being a huge factor in any lower numbers.) Another issue: virtually every team was hamstrung by uncertainty entering the season. This limited promotions planning, and when teams did receive permission for full houses, supply-chain issues limited those efforts as well. And with uncertainty at the beginning of the season, group-sales efforts were hamstrung. Just because fans can show up does not mean they will show up, a lesson we’re seeing on the pro soccer front this season. We saw that same trend play out in the summer-collegiate attendance numbers as well. (This is not a baseball issue: check out our Soccer Stadium Digest site to see how MLS, NWSL, USL Championship and USL League One numbers are all down significantly this year.)
Here is our list of 2021 MLB Partner League attendance, ranked by total attendance. Later we will post a ranking by average attendance.
|1||Long Island Ducks||AtL||224,120||56||4,002||328,194||-0.32|
|3||Kane County Cougars*||AA||177,705||50||3,554||350,305||-0.49|
|9||S. Md. Blue Crabs||AtL||148,982||53||2,811||200,889||-0.26|
|13||Rocky Mountain Vibes||PL||124,762||44||2,836||137,294||-0.09|
|15||Gastonia Honey Hunters||AtL||111,416||58||1,973||NA||NA|
|17||Idaho Falls Chukars*||PL||109,647||47||2,333||102,859||0.07|
|18||High Point Rockers||AtL||108,200||57||1,898||144,486||-0.25|
|19||Kansas City Monarchs||AA||102,257||49||2,087||156,058||-0.34|
|21||New York Boulders||FL||99,693||44||2,266||123,999||-0.20|
|23||Charleston Dirty Birds*||AtL||85,398||54||1,581||118,444||-0.28|
|24||Sioux Falls Canaries||AA||82,932||54||1,536||114,452||-0.28|
|25||Washington Wild Things||FL||82,420||48||1,717||90,638||-0.09|
|26||Sussex Co. Miners||FL||79,762||48||1,662||72,594||0.10|
|29||Grand Junction Rockies*||PL||73,518||45||1,634||88,476||-0.17|
|32||Lake Erie Crushers||FL||70,062||44||1,592||100,915||-0.31|
|33||Southern Illinois Miners||FL||66,099||44||1,502||101,441||-0.35|
|34||Windy City ThunderBolts||FL||65,022||46||1,414||79,171||-0.18|
|35||Great Falls Voyagers*||PL||62,976||44||1,431||43,920||0.43|
|37||Sioux City Explorers||AA||59,802||53||1,128||51,618||0.16|
|41||New Jersey Jackals||FL||43,722||42||1,041||76,658||-0.43|
*Played 2019 in Minor League Baseball.
Here are the totals for the four MLB Partner Leagues:
*Played 2019 in Minor League Baseball.