What is the Value of a New Ballpark? Check Out the Attendance Leaders.

For proof of the power of a well-run new ballpark, simply take a peek at the current attendance leaders. As the season crosses its midpoint, two of the top three draws in the minors are teams that recently struggled in outdated, out-of-the-way stadiums only to see the potential of their markets realized with moves to new downtown stadiums.

The Charlotte Knights (International League) have hardly slowed down in their fifth season at BB&T Ballpark, topping the minors by averaging 8,790 fans in 36 openings. Two spots down the list resides the Nashville Sounds (Pacific Coast), which likewise have continued to fill First Tennessee Park since its opening in 2015 and rank third in the minors this season with an 8,316 average in 39 openings.

Charlotte Knights BB&T Ballpark
Charlotte has been among the top-drawing teams since moving into BB&T Ballpark in 2014.

The high times for Charlotte and Nashville are a far cry from their recent past. The Knights regularly ranked near the bottom of the IL in attendance during much of their time at Knights Stadium, which was located just over the state line in Fort Mill, S.C., and was designed with the possibility of expanding should Charlotte land a major league franchise. The ballpark had few amenities and lacked the appeal of modern venues.

Nashville, too, ranked near the bottom in PCL attendance during its latter years at Herschel Greer Stadium, which hosted the Sounds for 37 years. Greer Stadium no longer met minor league facility standards and was located in a part of town with little nightlife appeal. A distinctive guitar-shaped scoreboard was the ballpark’s calling card that has been updated and replicated at the new ballpark.

Nashville Sounds First Tennessee Park
A guitar-shaped scoreboard is still a highlight for Nashville Sounds fans at First Tennessee Park.

Indianapolis led the minors in average attendance last season and should make another run at the title with summer now in full swing. Nine of the top 10 attendance leaders finished last season in the top 10—El Paso currently replaces Buffalo among the top teams. Like many teams in the Northeast and Midwest, Buffalo and Indianapolis were impacted by an extended winter early this season.

Minor League Attendance Top 20

Minor League Baseball Attendance through June 25

In 2015, I surveyed over 100 people who work in minor league baseball to determine the top 25 ballparks in the minor leagues for an article in Baseball America (unfortunately, that story is no longer on BA’s website). Charlotte topped that list—and was first again in an updated top 10 conducted by BA this year. Nashville was not considered for my rankings because First Tennessee Park had just opened; it did not make BA’s updated top 10. Of the teams currently ranking in the top 20 in attendance, 13 were included in my top 25.

What follows is the overall minor league attendance list for full-season clubs as sorted by average attendance.

Team Total Openings Average
Charlotte Knights 316,442 36 8,790
Round Rock Express 323,298 37 8,738
Nashville Sounds 324,332 39 8,316
Columbus Clippers 256,438 32 8,014
Lehigh Valley IronPigs 286,558 36 7,960
Dayton Dragons 306,248 39 7,853
Indianapolis Indians 301,202 39 7,723
Albuquerque Isotopes 267,078 36 7,419
El Paso Chihuahuas 273,679 37 7,397
Sacramento River Cats 284,413 39 7,293
Durham Bulls 277,692 39 7,120
Buffalo Bisons 219,131 32 6,848
Oklahoma City Dodgers 243,951 36 6,776
Frisco RoughRiders 237,505 36 6,597
Iowa Cubs 223,982 35 6,399
Toledo Mud Hens 227,576 36 6,322
Birmingham Barons 208,265 33 6,311
Louisville Bats 265,008 42 6,310
Fresno Grizzlies 241,781 40 6,045
Richmond Flying Squirrels 200,839 35 5,738
Salt Lake Bees 223,330 39 5,726
Rochester Red Wings 194,292 34 5,714
Hartford Yard Goats 222,463 40 5,562
Tulsa Drillers 200,135 38 5,267
Portland Sea Dogs 157,139 30 5,238
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 191,023 37 5,163
Fort Wayne TinCaps 194,843 38 5,127
Memphis Redbirds 199,149 39 5,106
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 157,959 31 5,095
Reading Fightin Phils 180,587 36 5,016
Pawtucket Red Sox 182,675 37 4,937
Greenville Drive 166,390 34 4,894
Springfield Cardinals 185,177 38 4,873
New Hampshire Fisher Cats 160,461 33 4,862
Norfolk Tides 164,795 34 4,847
Trenton Thunder 203,571 42 4,847
Las Vegas 51s 192,108 40 4,803
Corpus Christi Hooks 190,708 40 4,768
Reno Aces 175,118 37 4,733
Omaha Storm Chasers 165,442 35 4,727
Greensboro Grasshoppers 170,165 36 4,727
Kane County Cougars 141,694 30 4,723
San Antonio Missions 188,611 40 4,715
Akron RubberDucks 160,271 35 4,579
West Michigan Whitecaps 145,113 32 4,535
Tacoma Rainiers 161,524 36 4,487
Lakewood BlueClaws 134,375 30 4,479
Northwest Arkansas Naturals 156,277 35 4,465
Lexington Legends 162,936 37 4,404
Tennessee Smokies 143,955 33 4,362
Charleston RiverDogs 143,597 33 4,351
Winston-Salem Dash 167,226 39 4,288
Pensacola Blue Wahoos 149,714 35 4,278
Arkansas Travelers 140,787 33 4,266
South Bend Cubs 152,160 36 4,227
Augusta GreenJackets 129,125 31 4,165
Lansing Lugnuts 155,240 38 4,085
Harrisburg Senators 138,483 34 4,073
Midland RockHounds 140,234 35 4,007
Altoona Curve 139,303 35 3,980
New Orleans Baby Cakes 138,448 35 3,956
Frederick Keys 130,305 33 3,949
Columbia Fireflies 145,484 37 3,932
Wilmington Blue Rocks 129,332 34 3,804
Syracuse Chiefs 112,136 31 3,617
Montgomery Biscuits 141,855 40 3,546
Chattanooga Lookouts 129,162 37 3,491
Potomac Nationals 119,925 35 3,426
Colorado Springs Sky Sox 116,413 34 3,424
Bowie Baysox 118,691 35 3,391
Gwinnett Stripers 110,560 34 3,252
Lake Elsinore Storm 113,695 36 3,158
Binghamton Rumble Ponies 95,897 31 3,093
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 90,406 31 2,916
Inland Empire 66ers 104,600 36 2,906
Delmarva Shorebirds 107,385 38 2,826
Carolina Mudcats 95,689 34 2,814
Peoria Chiefs 103,858 37 2,807
Salem Red Sox 97,888 35 2,797
Stockton Ports 104,394 38 2,747
Lake County Captains 84,039 32 2,626
Clearwater Threshers 96,674 37 2,613
Myrtle Beach Pelicans 88,793 34 2,612
Quad Cities River Bandits 99,215 38 2,611
Bowling Green Hot Rods 90,131 35 2,575
Biloxi Shuckers 86,414 34 2,542
Asheville Tourists 86,283 34 2,538
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 96,246 39 2,468
Erie SeaWolves 84,532 35 2,415
Rome Braves 81,940 35 2,341
Modesto Nuts 82,644 36 2,296
Mississippi Braves 89,178 39 2,287
Great Lakes Loons 67,870 31 2,189
Lancaster JetHawks 82,008 39 2,103
Daytona Tortugas 54,985 27 2,036
Cedar Rapids Kernels 75,290 38 1,981
San Jose Giants 69,822 36 1,940
Fort Myers Miracle 63,585 34 1,870
Hickory Crawdads 63,968 36 1,777
Visalia Rawhide 68,820 39 1,765
Down East Wood Ducks 58,246 33 1,765
West Virginia Power 54,092 31 1,745
Charlotte Stone Crabs 51,514 31 1,662
St. Lucie Mets 56,771 35 1,622
Lynchburg Hillcats 53,377 34 1,570
Jackson Generals 59,336 38 1,561
Clinton LumberKings 57,240 38 1,506
Bradenton Marauders 46,698 37 1,262
Mobile BayBears 42,370 36 1,177
Tampa Tarpons 43,416 38 1,143
Kannapolis Intimidators 31,508 29 1,086
Hagerstown Suns 29,484 30 983
Lakeland Flying Tigers 30,417 32 951
Jupiter Hammerheads 28,949 32 905
Burlington Bees 25,491 30 850
Palm Beach Cardinals 26,612 32 832
Beloit Snappers 21,358 30 712
Florida Fire Frogs 20,404 31 658
Dunedin Blue Jays 16,403 34 482
Buies Creek Astros 12,270 35 351

 

 

 

 

Since it has been a little while since we took a look at the overall minor league attendance figures

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