Earlier this week, attendance totals for Minor League Baseball were released. According to MiLB.com, 83 of the 176 teams in MiLB saw attendance increases and overall attendance was the third highest total ever. In 2015, 42,561,445 fans saw Minor League Baseball. That’s an average of 241,826 per team.
But there is an untold story in Minor League Baseball’s good news. Simple math says that if 83 of 176 saw increases, then 93 either stayed the same or decreased. That’s not good. That means growth was not equal across the board, but occurred in only a few key areas. Perhaps new teams or perhaps at new stadiums.
Meanwhile, in the Florida State League, there was more bad news than good in 2015. On the positive side, the Fort Myers Miracle set a new franchise attendance record with an 11% gain and over 133,000 fans in attendance.
And that wraps up the good news.
Overall, Florida State League attendance declined 5.4% from 2014. The follow chart depicts the increase or decrease of each team and the league total.
There is a lot of red on that chart.
Even worse for the purposes of this blog, of the 10 teams whose attendance declined, the top 3 were Tampa Bay area teams.
- Tampa Yankees: -20.2%
- Dunedin Blue Jays: -14%
- Clearwater Threshers: -11.9%
The Bradenton Marauders only declined by 1.6%, which was the second smallest decline of the 10 teams.
Regionally, Minor League attendance was 422,651, the lowest regional total since 361,200 in 2010. 2015 was the first regional decline in attendance since 2009.
A lot more work will have to go into seeing how the Florida State League and its teams stack up to attendance trends across the country. Are there other teams that saw double figure declines? Are there other regions that saw attendance drop across the board as bad as the Tampa Bay area did?
In the next few weeks, I am also going to dive into the attendance of the local Minor League teams. There were a lot of factors that could have played a role in Tampa Bay’s regional attendance decline. By looking at monthly trends against past years’ attendance, we can try to isolate when the declines occurred.
Were the declines in July and August during the 30-or so days of continuous rain and flooding throughout the Tampa Bay area?
Were the declines during April and May while most area eyes were on the Tampa Bay Lightning?
And what, if any, role might the Rays have played in the decline of Minor League attendance in the Tampa Bay area?
To date, Rays attendance has declined 13%. Not as much as the Tampa Yankees or Dunedin Blue Jays but more than the Clearwater Threshers and Bradenton Marauders.
Are any of these declines related?
Could the regional Minor League teams face the same market obstacles that the Rays do? Are they a canary in the coal mine when it comes to market circumstances?
Hopefully, one day I will be able to answer these and many other attendance questions.