Despite the wettest season that resulted in the most rainouts since 1997, Major League Baseball saw a slight increase in paid attendance from 2010 for the 2011 regular season. Baseball saw an increase of under 1 percent (0.71%) with a total attendance of 73,451,522 over 2,420 games, or just shy of 400,000 more tickets sold than last year (397,715) when the league drew 73,053,807 over 2,424 games (an average paid attendance of 30,138).
While the increase doesn’t seem that much, it’s an amazing feat when you consider that the Los Angeles Dodgers, besieged by an opening day attack on a fan that left him in a coma, the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt, as well as the club falling into bankruptcy. The Dodgers saw paid attendance drop a staggering 627,181 from 2010 and drew less than 3 million in paid attendance for the first time since 2000. If the Dodgers had held steady to last season’s attendance number, MLB’s attendance percentage of increase would have been more than double what the final outcome was.
And, it wasn’t just the Dodgers that put the attendance increase in jeopardy. The Tampa Bay Rays, who have beat the odds by being in the postseason 3 out of the last 4 seasons, saw the second largest drop in paid attendance. The club, who is still alive in the ALDS, was second to last in total attendance (29th out of 30) behind only the Athletics, a drop of 17.05 percent (314,257 fewer ticket sold than in 2010). The drop was greater than the Astros (down 264,474 or 11.34 percent) who lost an MLB worst 106 games. While the economy and location of Tropicana Field continue to be issues raised as an explanation for the Rays’ attendance woes, television ratings for the Rays also dropped 37.5 percent from last season. For the final three games of the regular season, where the team's postseason life was in the balance, the Rays drew Monday (18,772), Tuesday (22,820), and Weds, the last day of the season (29,518).
But, attendance was up across the league, so the slack was picked up elsewhere. While 13 of 30 clubs saw paid attendance declines (one, the Rockies, were almost flat down just 0.05%), some of the increases were seen in both expected, and unexpected places.
Notably, the Phillies bumped the Yankees from the top position as the most tickets sold in MLB for the 2011 season. The team that won the NL East drew a whopping 3,647,249 in paid attendance or 103.5 percent of Citizen Bank Park’s capacity. In a sign that the Phillies are an exceptionally strong draw, the increase was less than 1 percent from last year, a sign that fans have been supporting the team over time.
The biggest increases from last year came by way of the Indians (up 30.35%), Pirates (up 22.77%), Rangers (up 17.63%), Blue Jays (up 11.84%), and Giants who got a bounce from being 2010 World Series Champions (up 11.52%).
Overall, ballparks were sold to 70.11 percent of capacity compared to 68.53 percent last year an astonishing feat given the wetness of the season and the fact that this year no new stadiums came online, a key factor in the sustained attendance growth MLB has seen during Commissioner Selig’s tenure (next season, the Marlins will be in their new stadium in Miami, but no other ballparks are slated to open in the foreseeable future thereafter).
Select Read More to see a table outlining data for each of the 30 clubs in MLB. The data shows:
- 2011 ranking
- Total games played in 2011
- Total paid attendance for 2011
- Average 2011 paid attendance
- Percentage of capacity for 2011
- 2010 ranking
- Total games played in 2010
- Total paid attendance for 2010
- Average 2010 paid attendance
- Percentage of capacity for 2010
- Rank increase/decrease from 2010 to 2011
- Total paid attendance increase/decrease from 2010 to 2011
- Percentage of increase/decrease from 2010 to 2011 based on average attendance
Click to see details
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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