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MLB Season Attendance Dips Below 73 Million For First Time Since 2000

Monday, October 2, 2017   (0 Comments)

by Maury Brown | Forbes

A combination of hurricanes hitting Texas and Florida combined with some clubs with high seating capacities seeing declines in the standings added up to a down year for attendance for the 2017 Major League Baseball regular season.

Unaudited numbers for the regular season that ended on Sunday shows 72,670,423 total attendance or an average of 30,042 over 2,419 dates. It ranks as the 15th-highest total but also ranks as the first time MLB has seen attendance dip below 73 million since 2000.

Year-over-year total paid attendance was down 488,621 from last season’s 73,159,044 which ranked 11th-highest, or a drop of under 1% (-0.67%), a sign that the cyclical nature of what teams are performing well in the standings and the total seating capacities they have can impact attendance.

The 2017 MLB regular season marks the third consecutive season of total attendance declines, and five out of the last six that saw drops.

Overall, seven clubs saw attendance over 3 million (Blue Jays, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants, and Cubs). No clubs saw attendance over 4 million. The Dodgers, once again, led the league in attendance with a total of 3,765,856 or an average of 46,492.

Seven clubs saw attendance below 2 million including the Rays, A's, White Sox, Marlins, Reds, Phillies, and Pirates.  The Rays, still stymied by the need for a new ballpark and lackluster support, came in last at 1,253,619, or an average of 15,670 per game. The Rays have ranked last in attendance in Major League Baseball in consecutive years dating back to 2012.

The biggest reason was several large dips in attendance as teams that had seen successful runs in prior seasons dropped in the 2017 standings. The Kansas City Royals saw the largest drop in attendance from 2016 to 2017 dropping 337,342 for the season compared to 2016 or 4,165 per game. They were followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates (-329,754 total or -4,071 per game), and the New York Mets (-328,980 total or -4,061 per game). Overall, 18 clubs saw attendance declines to 12 teams increasing attendance over 2016.

The club with the biggest increase had some help getting there. The Atlanta Braves, who opened their new ballpark in Cobb Co. outside of Atlanta saw attendance increase nearly 450,000 over their last season at Turner Field. The increase of 484,338 or 5,979 per game helped offset some of the down turn.

The Braves were followed by the Cleveland Indians for biggest increase in 2017. After coming one game from winning last season’s World Series, and making a case as the team most-likely to win the 2017 World Series, fans in Cleveland flocked to watch the team play. The Indians saw total attendance at Progressive Field increase 456,471 or 5,635 per game. The Braves and Indians were the only clubs to see attendance increase over 400,000 over last season. Other increases were by the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

As noted, the hurricanes that hit the US during the season absolutely took a bite out of attendance. The Houston Astros who ran away with the AL West saw the sixth-largest increase over 2016 (+97,048 total) but would most assuredly have seen that number higher if not for Hurricane Harvey that brought much of Texas to a halt as they attended to flooding.

The league’s high-water mark was 2007 when total attendance was 79,503.175. The 2017 final total attendance figures show a -8.59% decline since then.