MLB Clubs Change Views On Venue Size Amid Attendance Trends
As MLB "discovers the appetite for live baseball may be shrinking, a third wave" of ballparks are "gradually coming online, revealing franchises' desire to further shrink the ballpark -- be it new or already existing," according to Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY. Every MLB club save for the A's and Rays since '89 have "inhabited a new or significantly renovated" ballpark. The Rays' "failed attempt at building in Tampa's Ybor City aimed for a ballpark with 28,000 seats; they have already reduced capacity at Tropicana Field to 25,000." Meanwhile, the D-backs "can escape their Chase Field lease" in '22 if they build a new ballpark within Maricopa County. But failing that, the D-backs "could follow the lead" of the Rays, Indians and others and "simply transform their 48,000-seat stadium into a smaller venue that reflects an environment where attendance across MLB is projected to decline for a fourth consecutive year." For the D-backs, A's and "perhaps a significant number of clubs that may replace -- or revamp" their ballparks, finding the "sweet spot of atmosphere, accessibility and inclusion will be paramount." The average MLB ballpark in '90 "seated more than 54,000 fans." But by '09, the "wave of new ballparks lopped nearly 20% off MLB's ticket inventory." Average ballpark capacity was 44,000, and the "median club enjoyed a 64% occupancy rate." As pace-of-play and other concerns "roil the game internally, and bottomless entertainment options threaten it externally, it's easy to imagine other markets" going with smaller venues (USA TODAY, 8/9).