Traveling to the ballpark is as old as the game itself. How many live
within a certain distance from it can greatly influence total attendance.
When looking at attendance for sporting events, there are a number of factors in play: how large is the corporate base in the host city, is the team part of the community fabric over time, and of course, is the team winning on the field.
But, core population is a factor. Or maybe it should be said, a core “driving” factor.
When the Montreal Expos were up for relocation, the league asked prospective markets about the size of their market and how many professional sports teams were in the market – the population base per franchise. But, in digging deeper, distance from a ballpark has an effect.
It’s no secret that the location and distance from Tropicana Field has been one of the reasons said that attendance for the Rays has been woeful. Owner Stuart Sternberg is seeking a new ballpark in a location that will get them closer to the urban core. But, is that really the case?
Thomas Kelsey contacted me with data based off the 2000 census showing the population around current, future, and potential MLB markets based on minutes from the ballpark location. Indeed, the Rays have the smallest population core nearest to the ballpark (270,000 at 15 min) and 380,000 at 30 min.
At the same time, there are some with the same issue nearby that have seen incredible attendance growth over the last few years. The Texas Rangers have 280,000 within 15 min. and 560,000 within 30 minutes, but from there, it changes. Attendance jumps to 1.1 million at 25 minutes away compared to just 470,000 for the same distance from The Trop. It’s not until you get 50 minutes away from Tropicana Field that you find a massive population spike. The difference? Rangers drew 2,946,949 (avg. 36,382) and ranked 10 out of 30 in attendance. Rays had 1,476,792 (average of 18,232), or just less than half the amount the Rangers pulled in.
If there is a concern for the likes of the Rays or A’s, at least in terms of population, there are other markets that have larger core population bases. Of course, relocation comes with a host of other issues, none the least of which encroaching on a club’s physical or television territory.
But, location isn’t everything. Just ask the Mets who through a period of losing and an economic pounding from ownership’s relation to Bernie Madoff, have the league’s ballpark with the second largest core population near it ranked 14th overall in attendance (total of 2,378,549 or an avg of 30,108). By comparison, the Phillies, who led the league in attendance this year had 620,000 within 15 min, compared to 2.09 million within the same distance to Citi Field.
But, maybe the best statement on attendance comes by way of the Brewers. The club in baseball’s smallest market ranked 7th overall in total attendance this year (3,071,373) have 520,000 within 15 minutes of Miller Park, and 2.03 million within an hour. Compare that to the Tigers, who ranked 13th overall in attendance (total of 2,642,045), who have 2.27 million… within 30 minutes of Comerica Park
Select READ MORE to see data population data in 10 different incremental measurements based on time from ballparks, along with data for the likes of Newark, Las Vegas, Portland, Charlotte, and more.
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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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