The month began with a slew of attention-grabbing promotional announcements, but recently things have been pretty slow here in the world of Minor League Baseball. I call it the calm before the storm. Pretty good expression, right? Feel free to use it.
Therefore, now is a good time for a good ol’ fashioned bouillabaisse blog post (and, yes, for those keeping score at home, I always spell bouillabaisse correctly on the first try). If, for some reason, you need to use a restraining device while using your computer, then now would be a good time to buckle up. A bubbling stew of delectable Minor League morsels and mixed metaphors await you.
For the second year in a row, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats are featuring fans on their season tickets. Pretty cool, right?
Note, also, that the Fisher Cats (who for a short but glorious period of time were known as “The Primaries”) have unveiled their “Bipartisan” Opening Day jerseys. Fans get to vote on the accompanying hat. Pretty cool, right?
Speaking of politics, eminently qualified presidential candidate Donald Trump recently issued a “53 degrees or free” guarantee on behalf of the Syracuse Chiefs. Take that, Rochester. Until this video was released, I hadn’t realized just how much Trump looks like Chiefs general manager Jason Smorol. Pretty cool, right?
David Kronheim, aka “The Number Tamer”, has released his 2015 Minor League Baseball Attendance Analysis. It doesn’t get any more thorough than this (for more on the Number Tamer, read THIS ARTICLE and/or THIS GUEST BLOG POST). Pretty cool, right?
As I think I’ve mentioned before, the California League has a 75th anniversary logo.
I bring this up because every team in the league has its own specific logo, courtesy Brandiose. Pretty cool, right?
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are one of many teams that host Scout Night ballpark sleepovers. They are the only team (so far as I know), to issue scouts their own team-logo badges. Pretty cool, right?
Update: Fort Wayne TinCaps creative director Tony DesPlaines has creatively directed my attention to the fact that his club has been doing this for years.
Update to the Update: The Vermont Lake Monsters have been doing this for years as well.
Update to the Update to the Update:
— Trenton Thunder (@TrentonThunder) March 16, 2016
Update to the Update to the Update to the Update:
— Delmarva Shorebirds (@shorebirds) March 16, 2016
Update to the Update to the Update to the Update to the Update:
— Keith Meyer (@koyote19) March 16, 2016
The following item isn’t just pretty cool. It’s really cool (and something I’ll surely cover in more detail at a later date). The Harrisburg Senators are opening up a “Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame” at the ballpark. Vlad Guerrero will be the first honoree, and will be attending his undulating enshrinement on April 16.
The Sacramento River Cats have announced a multitude of improvements to their home of Raley Field. Of especial note is the installation of 472 solar panels and five SMA inverters. Pretty cool, right?
It’s now time for me to say solar, farewell. But I hope we meet again. Thank you for perusing this, the latest and greatest and always-spelled-correctly bouillabaisse. It was pretty cool, right?
In January of 2014, I wrote an MiLB.com article about David “The Number Tamer” Kronheim, a Queens-based “freelance advertising copywriter and marketing research analyst” who annually produces hyper-detailed (and deeply informative) baseball attendance reports. In conjunction with that article, Kronheim contributed a guest post to this blog in which he further elaborated on his methods.
Another year has come and gone, which means that it’s once again time to check in with Kronheim. In this, his most recent guest post, he elaborates on 2014’s biggest attendance gains throughout Minor League Baseball and the common factor which united them all. Unruly digits beware, the Number Tamer is on the case!
New Cities and New Ballparks Had Big Attendance Increases in the Minor Leagues in 2014
By David Kronheim – Numbertamer.com
The big attendance story in 2014 for the affiliated leagues of Minor League Baseball was the huge increases posted by three teams that moved to new cities or new ballparks.
A Mexican League team moved from Minatitlan to Tijuana. Attendance in Tijuana was 419,169 in 2014, up 298,658 from the 120,511 that this team drew in Minatitlan in 2013.
El Paso opened a great new ballpark, and a Pacific Coast League team moved there from Tucson, where it had drawn 200,077 in 2013. In 2014, the El Paso Chihuahuas attracted 560,997, an increase of 360,920.
The biggest attendance increase in 2014 for any Major League or Minor League Baseball team was by the Charlotte Knights of the International League. They moved from the suburb of Fort Mill, South Carolina to a magnificent new, mass transit-accessible ballpark in the uptown section of Charlotte.
The Knights led Minor League Baseball in total attendance in 2014, drawing 687,715. Their previous high was 403,029, in 1993. The 2014 total was the third best ever by an International League team. Average attendance per date in Charlotte was 9,686, tops among all United States Minor League teams.
In 2013, in Fort Mill, the Knights drew 254,834. Attendance at the new ballpark in 2014 was up 432,881. This was the third-highest increase in Minor League history for a team that moved from one ballpark to another in the same geographic market. Buffalo had a 650,891 increase when they moved into a new park in 1988. Memphis posted a 462,512 gain in 2000, the year they relocated from Tim McCarver Memorial Stadium. (Tim McCarver says that the ‘Memorial’ part of that stadium’s name was in memory of his throwing arm.)
Tijuana, El Paso and Charlotte had a combined 2014 attendance increase of 1,092,459. Such huge growth by teams moving to new markets and/or new ballparks has not been unusual in recent decades within the Minor Leagues.
Much of the tremendous growth in Minor League Baseball attendance since the late 1970s has been the result of so many markets opening new ballparks, either for a team they already have or to attract a new team. Here are some examples:
The first of a new era of Minor League ballparks was Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. In 1977, the Clippers moved there from Memphis, and attendance increased from 364,278 to 457,251. From 1953 through 1976 only one U.S. team, Hawaii in 1970, had drawn that well. In 1979, Columbus drew 599,544, the highest Minor League total since the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League drew 606,563 in 1948.
Columbus got a new park in 2009 and continues to be one of the best draws in the Minors. In 2014, the Clippers drew 628,980. It was the fifth time in the last six years that the Clippers topped 600,000, and the 28th time in 36 seasons that they drew above 500,000.
In 1982, a team moved from Springfield, Illinois to Louisville and began to shatter attendance records. The 1982 Louisville club drew 868,418, breaking the then-Minor League record of 670,563 by the 1946 San Francisco Seals.
Louisville’s gain of 747,881 from the 120,537 that the franchise drew in Springfield in 1981 is still the biggest year-to-year attendance increase in Minor League history. In 1983, Louisville became the first Minor League team to draw one million, averaging 16,191 per date. That year, Louisville outdrew three Major League teams (Cleveland, Minnesota and Seattle) in total attendance, and those teams plus Cincinnati and the New York Mets in average per date.
Louisville has now topped 560,000 for 15 straight seasons. The Bats have drawn better than 500,000 in 29 seasons, more often than any other team.
As noted earlier, the Buffalo Bisons had a 650,891 increase in 1988 when they moved to Pilot Field (now Coca Cola Field). The Bisons had drawn 495,760 in 1987 at War Memorial Stadium, which was quite an accomplishment. The old park had been home to the Buffalo Bills until 1973, and was where the acclaimed baseball film The Natural was shot. But this facility had seen better days.
Pilot Field was the prototype for all the retro-minded ballparks that have been built since then. It was designed with Major League expansion in mind, and the fans in western New York certainly made the effort to convince MLB to give them a team. In 1988 the Bisons drew a Minor League record 1,146,651 fans. They went on to top the one million each season through 1993, led by 1991’s total of 1,188,972 (1,240,951 including post-season games). No team has reached a million since 1993, but, through 2014, attendance in Buffalo has been above 500,000 in a record-setting 27 straight seasons.
In 1994, Salt Lake City got a Pacific Coast League team from Portland, Oregon. Attendance rose 527,214.
Starting in the 1990s, teams from some of the lower classifications posted huge gains as a result of relocation. In the Class A Midwest League, the 1994 move of Waterloo to West Michigan (near Grand Rapids) resulted in a gain of 423,883. Also in the Midwest League, in 1996, the Lansing Lugnuts drew 498,858 above their 1995 attendance figures in Springfield, Illinois.
In 2000, five teams playing in brand-new ballparks had a combined increase of 2,486,321 over what those franchises drew in 1999. Louisville opened a new park, and their attendance rose 324,444. A new park in Memphis resulted in a gain of 462,512. Sacramento drew 861,808, a then-record high for a Pacific Coast League team, and 620,347 above what the franchise had attracted in Vancouver in 1999. Round Rock, then in the Texas League, drew a Double-A record of 660,110 (up 560,870 from what the team drew in Jackson, Mississippi in 1999).
In 2000, Dayton drew 581,853, then the highest-ever in Class A. This was a gain of 518,148 from their 1999 totals in Rockford, Illinois. The Dayton Dragons have been an incredible success story, topping 570,000 every year, and they now have the 15 highest attendance totals ever in Class A. They’ve sold out all 1,051 home dates that they’ve played, including playoffs and two league All-Star games. This is the longest sellout streak in North American pro sports history! The Boston Red Sox, whose sellout streak covered 794 regular season and 26 postseason dates, hold the Major League (in any sport) sellout streak record.
There have been more huge attendance increases posted since 2000. In the Class A South Atlantic League in 2001, Lakewood and Lexington each drew more than 420,000 above the 2000 attendance totals they had posted in Cape Fear and Kissimmee. respectively.
The top short-season team increase took place in 2001. The Brooklyn Cyclones drew 289,381, which was then the highest attendance ever by a short-season team. The gain was 250,719 above what they had attracted while playing in Queens in 2000. The Cyclones compete in a location unlike any other in pro baseball. MCU Park is right off of the famed boardwalk at Coney Island, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the amusement rides. Brooklyn has led all short-season teams in attendance every year, topped by a record-high 317,124 total — and 8,345 average per date — in 2002. Throughout their history, Brooklyn has achieved a higher average per date than nearly all teams below the Class AAA level.
Honors for the best gain since 2000 go to Frisco of the Texas League. In 2003, the RoughRiders drew 666,977 — 642,408 more than the team they replaced drew in Shreveport in 2002.
Tijuana, which had a big gain with a new team in 2014, also got a new team in 2004. They drew 474,573 more fans than the Dos Laredos club they had replaced. The team left Tijuana after the 2008 season.
Also in 2008, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Allentown, Pennsylvania) reached 602,033 in their inaugural season. This marked a 475,139 increase from the total of 126,894 the franchise drew in Ottawa in 2007. (This club’s name comes from the term ‘pig iron,’ which is used to make steel.) The IronPigs are the only team to top 600,000 in each of the past 7 years. Their ballpark seats 8,089, making it one of the smallest Triple-A parks. In the team’s seven seasons, attendance has exceeded the seating capacity of the ballpark 392 times in 491 dates (including the postseason). They’ve sold out all seats, lawn seating and standing room in 132 of those dates.
More new ballpark-related increases may come to Minor League Baseball in 2015. Biloxi, Mississippi gets a Southern League team, the Shuckers, who moved from Huntsville, Alabama. A short-season New York-Penn League team relocated from Jamestown, New York, to Morgantown, West Virginia, where it will share a new ballpark with West Virginia University. The Nashville Sounds open First Tennessee Park, which, just like the old park, will have a guitar-shaped scoreboard in recognition of Nashville’s role as the ‘Music City.’
You can get much more information about 2014 and historical Minor League and Major League Baseball attendance from my website – numbertamer.com. Just go to the ‘Baseball Reports’ page on the site to get your free downloads of the attendance analysis reports.
Thanks to David Kronheim for once again taking the time to share his expertise. Meanwhile, if YOU have Minor League Baseball-related expertise that you would like to share then please get in touch with me about the possibility of writing a guest post.
Last Friday I composed an MiLB.com feature focusing on the annual Minor League attendance report written by David Kronheim (aka “The Number Tamer”).
The information contained in the feature, while copious, was a proverbial drop in the bucket when compared to the statistical largesse one can find in the full report. Therefore, I asked Kronheim if he would be willing to write a guest post in which he further expostulated upon MiLB attendance trends as well as the methods behind his numerical madness. He graciously obliged, and now my only hope is that you will be so gracious as to read it.
FOLLOW-UP ON THE 2013 MINOR LEAGUE ATTENDANCE ANALYSIS ARTICLE
By David Kronheim, Numbertamer.com
Benjamin Hill provided a very good overview of my 2013 Minor League Baseball Attendance Analysis in his article on the Minor League Baseball website. He has asked me for my thoughts on the main points of the report, as well as information regarding how I compiled all of this data.
OVERALL ATTENDANCE GROWTH
Minor League Baseball is a great example of how a business that was dying in the 1950s and 1960s rebuilt itself very successfully. Its growth goes beyond ticket sales. Food and merchandise revenue has hugely increased, as have other income sources, along with the value of teams. The days of being able to buy a Minor League team by just assuming its debts are long gone.
The Minor Leagues had a big attendance boost following World War II, but then suffered a very rapid decline. Attendance went from nearly 40 million in the late 1940s to less than 10 million by the early 1960s, with most lower level leagues and teams going out of business. Run-down ballparks, home air conditioning, and easier access for many fans to Major League ballparks were among the causes of this drop in attendance. But the introduction of television was by far the biggest factor.
The Pacific Coast League was good example of this. That league had the highest caliber of Minor League players, good ballparks, and large markets. Between 1946 and 1949, the teams in this league had an average attendance of 475,006 per team, per season. Just a few years later, from 1954 through 1957, Pacific Coast League teams averaged only 212,226 per team, per season, a 55.3% decline. Major League attendance was down 16.9%, when comparing these same 4 year periods.
The PCL still had teams in the biggest markets on the West Coast before the Dodgers and Giants moved to California in 1958. The closest Major League teams were over a thousand miles away, in St. Louis and Kansas City, yet P.C.L. attendance plunged, mainly due to the availability of television.
Now, Major League Baseball attendance is at near-record-high levels, with teams all over the mainland United States, plus a team in Canada. Baseball and other sports are available on television and other devices every day. Yet Minor League Baseball attendance, with far fewer teams than 65 years ago, has been approaching 50 million fans a year (including the independent leagues). The basic causes of this attendance growth are simple: new ballparks and effective marketing.
Many of the newer Minor League ballparks offer the same comforts, conveniences, and amenities as a Major League park, just on a smaller scale. Re-branding of teams and gameday promotions certainly helped grow attendance. More importantly, Minor League Baseball has promoted itself as low cost, fan-friendly, family fun in a safe and pleasant environment. It works! Just look at how many kids you see at the games.
MINOR LEAGUE ATTENDANCE IN MAJOR LEAGUE MARKETS
The return of Minor League Baseball to some of the largest markets in the U.S. is one of the more striking changes in this industry.
For years it was thought that a Minor League team located near a Major League team could not survive. In 1976, only 4 Minor League teams were located with 60 miles of a Major League team. In 2013, there were 60 Minor League teams (including the independent leagues) located in the same TV market as a Major League team. Or, if they were in a different TV market, they still were within 60 miles of an MLB team.
20 years ago there were no Minor League teams in the New York TV market. In 2013 there were 10, including two (Brooklyn, Staten Island) within the borders of New York City itself. Some Minor League Baseball teams draw quite well even in this market, which has nine teams in the four major sports leagues.
Near Philadelphia, the Reading Fightin’ Phils were drawing under 85,000 per season as recently as the mid-1980’s. Now they have topped 420,000 for 16 years in a row, despite playing in an older ballpark and being just 60 miles from Citizen’s Bank Park (home of the Philadelphia Phillies). Plus, there are now Minor League teams in much newer ballparks, in nearby cities such as Trenton, Allentown, Lancaster, and Harrisburg. They all draw well, and even more competition in Reading comes from a modern indoor arena that is home to a minor league hockey team. Yet none of this has hurt the Fightin’ Phils at the gate.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, there are the Dayton Dragons. This Midwest League club, located 60 miles from Cincinnati, have had 983 playing dates in their 14 year history and have officially sold out every single one of them!
MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ATTENDANCE GROWTH COMPARED TO GROWTH IN OTHER LEAGUES
My research found that, over the past four decades, Minor League Baseball attendance has increased at a much faster pace than almost all other leagues. Comparing 2013 to 1999, the only U.S. pro sports league that has grown faster than Minor League Baseball is Major League Soccer.
I looked at total and average attendance per team for 2013 vs. 1999, 1989, 1979, and 1969, and compared the growth rates in those categories for Minor League Baseball (affiliated leagues only) and for MLB and other sports.
The 2013 vs. 1999 comparison covered MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, and Minor League Hockey. Minor League Baseball average attendance per team (up 18.1%) increased by at least double the pace of any of these leagues except for Major League Soccer, which was up 38.3%.
For 1989, 1979, and 1969, the comparisons were made with MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL. In 2013, the Minor League Baseball average attendance per team was 67.6% higher than in 1989. The NHL, up 21.6%, had the next best growth.
Comparing the 2013 vs. 1979 growth rate shows that Minor League Baseball’s average per team attendance rose 119.6%, more than double the pace of any other sport. The 2013 vs. 1969 increase was 250% for the Minors. The next best increase was 191.5% for the combined NBA and the old American Basketball Association. (If you look at NBA teams only, their average per team rose 129.2%.)
HOW THIS DATA IS COMPILED
I also compile and write a report covering Major League Baseball attendance. Both analyses can be found on the ‘Baseball Reports’ page of numbertamer.com.
I have no inside information, and I’ve never been employed by any sports league or team. I began to keep track of sports attendance when I was a radio sportscaster in college, because I knew that teams often made personnel decisions based, in part, on attendance. I also worked on sports-related accounts in my advertising career, so I had to keep up with the business side of sports. These reports are part marketing analysis and part journalism. Most of the news regarding Minor League attendance is positive. But I also make sure to report on those teams that don’t draw well.
All of my data comes from sources that are available to the public and to the media. The charts and tables in both reports were all originally done by me; often, quite a few calculations were needed to create them. But the raw data I used can be found by anyone.
In addition to what you see in my reports, I have created huge databases of both Major and Minor League Baseball attendance information. For example, I have listings of each current Minor League city’s yearly attendance going back to at least 1947. My Major League data goes back to 1900 and has each team’s yearly total attendance, their yearly average attendance per date, and much more.
It would be far too cumbersome to publish all of this data, but I’m always willing to share it for free. All I ask is that you list my name or numbertamer.com as the source of this information if you use it.
My major sources for Minor League data have been the Sporting News Baseball Guides (no longer published), the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (edited by Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff), independent league websites, and the office of Minor League Baseball (with special thanks to Steve Densa, their Executive Director of Communications.)
For the Major League report, my main sources of information for recent years are the Major League Baseball Information System which reports all Major League statistics, and the team media guides. Much historic data is from Total Baseball and from the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, both edited by Pete Palmer (among others). Retrosheet.org is a very valuable source, especially when it comes to determining how many home dates each Major League team played every year. I have many other sources of information, and they are listed near the front of the Major League Analysis.
If you are a baseball fan who cares about attendance records and statistics, I hope you find my reports interesting. After all, attendance is the only sports statistic created by the fans.
Thanks to David Kronheim for taking the time to compile these reports every season, they are an invaluable source of information for fans and the industry alike. At least one more post will appear on this blog before the week is out, and all I can tell you is that it will contain considerably less information than this one. That’s a guarantee.