A few weeks ago, the Florida State League season came to an end and the Bradenton Marauders won the FSL Championship. The championship concluded the FSL playoffs, which went two rounds and lasted from September 6th to September 13th.
While the Florida State League Playoffs are a big deal to the teams and to the organizations, they usually do not make much of a difference with the fanbases in the Tampa Bay area. As a matter of fact, often Florida State League playoffs in Tampa Bay draw less than the team’s average attendance during the season.
According to other articles and observations, lack of interest in Minor League playoffs is a nationwide phenomenon.
This article from 2013, for example, details the attendance postseason decline for the Durham Bulls, one of the most popular teams in Minor League Baseball.
A few weeks ago, the Minor League Baseball Promotions account tweeted this:
Because the games can happen on such short notice, sometimes attendance struggles in the Post-Season. Please support playoff baseball!
— Minor League Promos (@MiLBPromos) September 10, 2016
Postseason attendance struggles are not limited to Tampa Bay or the Florida State League.
But unlike some teams that have little local competition, there are several factors unique to Tampa Bay and the Florida State League that might affect Minor League post season attendance.
- College football season
- Pro football season
- Major League Baseball season
- Labor Day beach visits
There isn’t much buzz to Minor League Baseball in the Tampa Bay area to begin with, so when football – both college and the NFL begins – even the best accomplishments of the local Minor League teams will be pushed to the backpages. Combined with the fact that the Rays are still playing and the beach is still a viable option, it is no surprise the Florida State League playoffs struggle at the gate.
Our next step is to find out how much do they struggle and does attendance lag for one team moreso than any other? Does any of Tampa Bay’s four Minor League teams do well at the gate in the postseason?
Since 2007, there have been 26 Florida State League playoff games in the Tampa Bay area. Each team has made the playoffs at least twice, with the Dunedin Blue Jays reaching the playoffs 5 times in the last 10 years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016).
Total postseason games played by Tampa Bay area Florida State League teams:
- Tampa Yankees: 10
- Bradenton Marauders: 6
- Dunedin Blue Jays: 6
- Clearwater Threshers: 4
Let’s look at each team’s postseason games since 2007 and see how well they performed at the gate.
On the following charts “Team Avg Wkend/Wkday Attendance” is the average weekend or weekday attendance for that team for that year. Typically, there is a 30% or more difference in weekend attendance and little difference between individual weekdays or weekends.
The Yankees have played the most games due to their playoff runs – they won the FSL championship in 2009 and 2010 and lost in the finals in 2016. But only 6 of their 10 games were played in Steinbrenner Field. In 2016, Tampa Yankees playoff games were played at the park of their opponent, Dunedin and then Bradenton. This was due to construction scheduled at Steinbrenner Field (which might be a perfect example of the priority placed on the Florida State League playoffs.)
The Tampa Yankees only exceeded their average weekday/weekend attendance once – 9/8/2009 versus Brevard County.
The Marauders started play in 2010 and immediately made the FSL Playoffs. Attendance-wise, their 6 playoff games have had mixed success. Of their 4 weekday playoff games, on 9/6/2011 drew far less than their weekday average attendance.
In 2016, the Marauders played their first weekend playoff games. These games drew far less than the Marauders weekend average.
Dunedin Blue Jays:
The Dunedin Blue Jays have perhaps the best postseason attendance among Tampa Bay area Florida State League teams. They have exceed their average attendance in 50% of their postseason games since 2007. Unfortunately, their biggest difference came in their one 2016 postseason game. We will see what future trends are.
The Clearwater Threshers have been in the fewest playoff games in the Tampa Bay area since 2007. Three of their games occurred in 2007 and each drew far less than their weekday average. Their sole playoff game in 2015 drew better than the 2007 games, but was still less than 60% of their average weekday attendance.
During the regular season, the Threshers, like most teams, capitalize on daily promotions. The late scheduling of the Minor League postseason usually prevents teams from scheduling promotions. The playoffs requires attention from fans of the team. It is the championship-caliber of play that should attract fans. Unfortunately, in the highly saturated Tampa Bay market, it is difficult for Minor League teams to attract fans purely on fan allegiance or quality of play.