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Volume 20 No. 42
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MiLB declares attendance victory over rain

The Indianapolis Indians led the minors in attendance, averaging 9,159 fans.
Photo by: MiLB
Despite the largest number of recorded rainouts in organization history, Minor League Baseball posted a final 2017 attendance of 41.83 million, up 1 percent and its fifth-largest turnout ever.

The attendance number marks the 13th straight year above 41 million for the affiliated minors and reverses a 2.8 percent slide at the gates last year. MiLB’s 2017 turnout comes despite 562 dates lost to weather during the year. That rainout figure was up by 21 percent from 2016 and is the largest such figure in any season since MiLB began tracking that data in 2005.

MiLB estimates the rainouts cost its clubs about 400,000 fans during the year. But David Wright, MiLB chief marketing and commercial officer, said the 2017 total represented a key early step in the organization’s goal of reaching 50 million in annual attendance by 2026.

MiLB attendance:

Top ten highest years

2008 43,216,802
2007 42,812,812
2015 42,561,445
2014 42,411,194
2017 41,832,364
2006 41,710,357
2009 41,644,518
2013 41,553,781
2010 41,432,456
2016 41,377,202

Source: Minor League Baseball

“This was a great step in the right direction,” Wright said. “Each of the individual clubs continued to push Minor League Baseball as affordable family entertainment and did great work in their respective markets. You layer that in with the things we’re trying to do collectively, and it speaks to the level of optimism we have in this business.”

The overall figures include the 14 affiliated leagues, ranging from the rookie level to AAA, as well as the Mexican League.

Fourteen MiLB clubs set franchise single-season attendance records this year, and 22 set single-game marks, up from nine and eight clubs, respectively, in 2016.

Also fueling the increase was a greater level of sharing of best practices among clubs as MiLB advances the idea of the affiliated minors as a powerful collective entity to fans, sponsors and business partners instead of merely a disparate network of local clubs. That message took form foremost this year in a new national marketing campaign entitled “It’s Fun To Be A Fan” that later was expanded as part of a large-scale Hispanic outreach initiative.

Those collective efforts will continue this week with MiLB’s annual Promotional Seminar in Greenville, S.C., that has been expanded this year to include a ticketing summit with, newly designated last month as MiLB’s official ticketing partner.

“We’re continuing to get better management, better ownership and better business practices,” said Chuck Greenberg, managing partner for the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans, Frisco (Texas) RoughRiders and State College (Pa.) Spikes. “We’ve reached a period in our business now where team ownership is much more collaborative with each other, has more of a business background, and is more open to new ideas.”

The Class AAA Indianapolis Indians led the affiliated minors in per-game attendance with an average of 9,159, edging out 2016’s leader, the Class AAA Charlotte Knights, who averaged 9,109. The Frisco RoughRiders led Class AA teams with an average of 6,812. And the Dayton (Ohio) Dragons led Class A and rookie-level clubs with an average of 8,038 as its team sellout streak remains intact at 1,247 consecutive games and counting, dating to 2000.

There was also a noticeable Tim Tebow attendance effect in MiLB as the New York Mets farmhand and former Heisman Trophy winner generated a total incremental lift of about 225,000 fans compared to the prior averages of the teams he played for and against. MiLB estimates that translated to roughly $4.5 million in additional ticket revenue to the involved clubs.