Although this site focuses primarily on professional baseball in Tampa Bay, I do occasionally need to mention the University of South Florida. USF is a Division-1 school with an academic population of over 40,000 in a population dense area of Tampa.
(Disclaimer: I am also an MBA candidate there.)
Besides its student population, USF baseball attendance is also comparable to the area minor league teams. Last year, the Bulls averaged 1,363 fans per game, almost 500 more fans per game than the Dunedin Blue Jays and only 250 less per game than the Bradenton Marauders.
Granted, there are major differences between the college and Minor League Baseball. Many of the USF tickets are acquired by students who not only have strong school loyalty but also get in for free – or more directly, pay for tickets through their tuition. There is also less variance in USF attendance. In 2014, for example, attendance for every USF baseball game was between 1,000 and 1,800 fans, except for two games versus Florida State University, one of which drew over 3,600 fans.
So opponent matters when looking at attendance for USF Baseball, especially if the Bulls play a team with a large alumni base in Tampa. This is another difference between USF Baseball and the local minor league teams, whose attendance is not often driven by opponent.
But the subject of opponent brings us to last night’s game. Along with FSU, the University of Florida also has a large alumni base in the Tampa area. The USF Bulls opened their 2015 season versus the Gators in front of a crowd of 2,059.
Despite a larger alumni base, the crowd for UF versus USF in 2015 was smaller for than it was for USF versus FSU last year. Perhaps the presence of Heisman Trophy winner and football star Jameis Winston on the FSU baseball team brought many Seminole fans to USF’s Red McEwan Field in 2014.
USF doesn’t play UF or FSU in Tampa anymore this season, although they do play Florida A&M and regional rival the University of Central Florida before the season ends. Attendance probably won’t be as high for USF baseball’s other games as it was for Opening Night, but the Bulls should probably draw somewhere near what they did last year.
I will continue to keep an eye on the Bulls, especially as the weather warms and attending professional baseball becomes an option. Because as I mentioned in a previous post, a fan who attends USF Baseball over local professional baseball has made a choice. And choices are important when examining a market.