BOB:  All attendance

Major League Baseball (MLB) sold 73.1 million tickets in 2011. As in past years, the news was mixed and MLB spun it to their advantage. It was better then 2010’s 73 million by 0.5 percent and it’s also the fifth highest attendance mark ever. Unfortunately, its still well south of the record hit in 2007 when they sold 79.5 million tickets and it’s hard to tell if this is an upward trend or a momentary blip. Still, several teams had success at the box office while others, not so much.

The Philadelphia Phillies led baseball in tickets sold with a franchise record 3.68 million and a per-game average of 45,441. The Phillies sold out every home game and that brings their consecutive sell out run to 204 games and counting. It was also the first time ever that they’ve led baseball in attendance. Right behind the Phillies and leading in the American League were the perennial contenders, the New York Yankees with 3.65 million fans and a 45,107 per-game average.

In addition to the Phillies, three other teams set franchise attendance records. The Milwaukee Brewers made some noise when they traded for Zach Greinke and Shawn Marcum and, with season ticket sales going up shortly after that trade and a successful playoff run in the National League Central, the team sold 3.07 million tickets. The San Francisco Giants, who finished third overall in attendance, set a new franchise record on the heels of their World Series win last year with 3.39 million tickets sold. Joining them were the Giants World Series opponent, the Texas Rangers, who unlike the Giants made the playoffs. Texas sold a record 2.95 million tickets as they fell just short of the three million mark.

The Boston Red Sox, despite their historic collapse in the final month of the season, sold 3.05 million tickets in 2011. That’s the second most ever and they were able to extend their consecutive sell out streak to 712 games. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sold 3.07 million tickets which put them over the three million mark for the ninth straight season. Only the New York Yankees have a similar streak. The Cleveland Indians saw the largest increase in attendance. Their 1.84 million tickets sold were 449,151 more then last years 1.39 million. In all, nine teams went over the three million mark in 2011, which matches the 2010 total. Twenty teams topped the two million mark which is also the same as last year.

Not everyone was a winner though. The Los Angeles Dodgers saw a steep decline in the number of tickets they sold. The Dodgers were third overall in attendance in 2010 with 3.56 tickets sold but that fell all the way to 2.94 million in 2011 which is their lowest mark since 2000. The Oakland Athletics took over last place in attendance with 1.48 million tickets sold. In second to last, and with the lowest attendance of a playoff team, were the Tampa Bay Rays at 1.53 million. The next worst attendance for a playoff team were the Arizona Diamondbacks who came in at 2.11 million.

For the second year in a row, the Yankees came in first place in road attendance with 33,228 tickets sold per game. Oddly, the Cincinnati Reds came in second with 33,120 tickets sold per game. The worst road team was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with 26,125 tickets sold per game.

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Brad Johnson
11 years ago

Since extenuating circumstances seriously hampered ticket sales for the Dodgers and Mets, I think the attendance news is somewhat rosier than it appears at first glance.

It will be interesting to see how Marlins attendance reacts to a new stadium as that’s a fix that could eventually help the Rays and A’s.

11 years ago

I could imagine the Rays doing better outdoors the way the Twins did (I assume the Mariners and Astros as well).  Having bought 4 of the Oakland tickets, if the A’s draw better in a new venue it will either be because the location is easier for a larger proportion of customers to get to or because the consumer is easily fooled by what others say is better.
If you want to go to a game in Oakland, taking the train is crowded but probably beats driving, the weather is as good as you are likely to get elsewhere, and there is not the dangerous environment you might find elsewhere in the city.  Of course the on-field product has an effect but even 70 win teams are as likely to have an exciting game as a 90 win team (we were fortunate to have gone to a close game ended by a play at the plate).

Trip von Minden
11 years ago

Thanks for posting this information!

My interpretation of this is that attendance peaked at the end of the last economic expansion.  The economy entered a recession in December 2007 according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

Since that time, attendance has been stagnant.  So has the economy with poor growth numbers and high unemployment.  Another recession appears to be looming, unfortunately.

With a stagnant economy overall attendance is unlikely to change much.  However, you will see local market variations due team success (Rangers for example) and failure (Dodger Divorce Disaster).

Best regards,
Trip von Minden

Ted M
11 years ago

Another factor and difficulty in comparing attendance over time is that nearly every ballpark that’s been built over the last 20 years has had a lower capacity than the one it replaced.

In 2007, the Yankees total attendance was 4,271,083
This year it was 3,653,680.

That’s a difference of more than 600K (or 10% of the total difference for MLB in the two years) based almost solely on the fact that the New Yankee Stadium doesn’t hold as many people as the old one did.

11 years ago

The Reds drawing well on the road isn’t really that surprising. The Cardinals and Cubs always draw well, and as you noted, the Brewers drew well this year too. Even the Pirates probably got an attendance boost from being in contention for a good chunk of the year. And the Reds were good enough last year to make them an attractive opponent (unlike the Astros or Pirates).