The Florida State League plays a significant role in baseball in Tampa Bay. Each team plays a 70-game schedule, resulting in 480 total local games. Minor League Baseball starts a week after Spring Training ends, and ends in the first week of September. Minor League Baseball in Florida plays a shorter season than Major League Baseball in the area, which leaves the Rays with a monopoly of baseball in September and possibly October.
Last week, we passed the midway point in the season for each of the local Florida State League teams. While last year, I posted a chart looking at Florida State League midseason attendance for each team since 2007, this year I want to go a step further and compare midseason attendance to final attendance numbers.
Do teams see drops in attendance as the year goes on?
This post will deep-dive into the monthly trends of each individual team. I’ll stay out of guessing why in this post. The first step is to show what’s happening. Later, we can try to determine the cause.
It is important to remember Minor League Baseball attendance is more local than Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball pulls from an entire region, usually from within an hour of the stadium. Minor League Baseball is more hyper local, typically drawing from within a 30-minute radius.
Let’s begin by charting midseason attendance trends of every Tampa Bay area Minor League team since 2007:
This season, the Threshers are the only team seeing a midseason increase. Tampa Yankees midseason attendance has decreased the last three years. And while the Dunedin Blue Jays midseason attendance stayed relatively stable, the Bradenton Marauders midseason attendance decreased for the first time ever.
Now let’s look at each team’s midseason attendance trends individually and look for trends or patterns.
We will start with the Clearwater Threshers.
Going back to 2007, we see Threshers attendance nearly corresponds with Rays attendance trends. When Rays attendance increased from 1.3 million in 2007 to 1.8 million in 2008-2010, Threshers attendance decreased in the second half of the season. This could be a reason. Other reasons could be increasing inclement weather throughout the Florida summer or varying responses to promotions. But the Rays effect on the Threshers attendance should not be discounted, especially in 2008-2010.
As well, as the Rays ceased being playoff contenders in recent years, Threshers 2nd half attendance grew slightly. Again, we are not sure if this is because of the Rays or because of Threshers’ promotions, weather, etc.
Let’s now look at the Tampa Yankees.
The Tampa Yankees have seen a second half attendance decrease every year since 2007. There is no correlation with Rays playoff chances either. I have noticed the Tampa Yankees hold well-attended School Day promotions in May where local schools bring students to Steinbrenner Field. That promotion is usually the Yankees most attended game of the year. When the second half of the season doesn’t have such a large promotion, an attendance drop can be expected. We will have to look to see what other factors affect Yankees attendance. Perhaps weather also plays a role.
Here is the midseason trend of the Dunedin Blue Jays.
Dunedin Blue Jays midseason attendance trends show little pattern. The Blue Jays small attendance numbers makes any attendance change count. Perhaps looking at weather patterns or rainouts could shine light into the Blue Jays attendance trends.
Finally, let’s look at the Bradenton Marauders midseason attendance trends.
The Marauders are the opposite of the Threshers. While they began play in 2010, they saw second half increases their first four seasons. During the last two seasons however average attendance has gone down in the second half of the season. We will have to explore weather or promotions or some other reason to determine why. Looking ahead, 2016’s average attendance is similar to 2011 average attendance. Will we see an attendance increase similar to 2011?
Based on the second half trends for each of the Tampa Bay area Minor League teams, we can estimate Threshers average attendance will increase from now to September and Tampa Yankees attendance will decrease. Without deeper analysis, predicting the Dunedin Blue Jays and Bradenton Marauders is difficult.
One of the biggest unknowns in Florida State League attendance is the weather. Teams average 3 to 4 doubleheaders per season. These double headers have an affect on attendance as attendance only counts for one game. If a game with a well-attended regular promotion is rained out (Threshers $1 Tuesdays, for example), then average attendance may suffer.
What specific days have been rained out would make an interesting study. Then again, we can’t predict the rain well enough to come to a long term strategy to mitigate its impact on attendance. So it is just a “nice to know” – interesting, but unless promotions change days,, overall lacking in use. But it does emphasize why the Rays need a roof, no matter where in Tampa Bay their new stadium is built.
As I mentioned, diving into Minor League team attendance by month is going to be the next big step. That might show us who is going to games and when. Then we can explore rainouts per month and other factors.
I believe Minor League Baseball in Tampa Bay provides us an interesting look at fan behavior. While not as large as Rays attendance, it does show us the patterns of purchase and popularity of alternate baseball options in the region.