SBD/March 25, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Cactus League Attendance Down 3.2% With 10 Teams Seeing Double-Digit Declines

The Rockies and D'Backs "have enjoyed the largest spring training attendance increases in baseball" at their new 11,000-seat, $179M Salt River Fields at Talking Stick facility, but "all but one of the remaining 13 Cactus League teams have suffered a decline," according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Cactus League attendance is "down 3.2% compared with the same number of games a year ago, but 10 of the 15 teams have suffered double-digit losses and four teams have dropped more than 20%." Perhaps "most alarming is that the attendance declines have hit the Cactus League's marquee teams." The Dodgers and Angels "have each plummeted by 19.5% this spring," while the Cubs, "who traditionally have been the strongest draw in Arizona, have suffered a 21% decline, the third-biggest drop in baseball." In addition, the Indians are down 22% and the Mariners have dropped 20%. Nightengale writes the Cactus League "has essentially been divided into the haves and have-nots, with nine of the 15 teams located on the economically troubled west side of Phoenix." Fans in Arizona are "choosing to watch games on the Valley's east side," where the Giants, Rockies, D'Backs and Cubs are "responsible for more than one-third of the Cactus League's draw." Meanwhile, the Grapefruit League's attendance "has been steady, down 0.8%," as only the Marlins (-17.4%) and Cardinals (-10.6%) "have suffered double-digit declines." Both teams train at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Despite a "slight overall spring training attendance decrease of 2.1%," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that he is "optimistic baseball will surpass 2010's regular-season attendance of 74 million" (USA TODAY, 3/25). The figures do not include six games rained out on March 21 that have yet to be made up. Meanwhile, the Rockies and D'Backs have seen an increase in average attendance of 104% and 58%, respectively, at Salt River Fields (David Broughton, SportsBusiness Journal).
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