The minor league season may not conclude until Monday, but a new attendance champion could very well be crowned by the end of Thursday evening. The Charlotte Knights hold the slimmest of leads over the Round Rock Express—averaging just 115 more fans through last night’s games—with each team having just two more home games on the schedule. Whichever team pulls in the biggest late-season crowds are likely to take the attendance crown from the defending champion Indianapolis Indians.
Then again, there could be a dark horse looming in this race. More on that in a minute . . .
A weeknight game in late August can be a tough time of year for a team to pad its attendance figures, and that proved to be the case for Charlotte (International League) and Round Rock (Pacific Coast) last night. The Knights drew 8,437 fans to BB&T Ballpark last night, slightly below their season average of 8,932. Meanwhile, the Express also saw their average attendance take a dip to 8,817 after bringing in 7,134 fans to Dell Diamond.
Round Rock does hold the edge over the Knights in total attendance by a 599,537 to 598,413 margin, but will also have the benefit of one more home date; the Knights are not making up a previous cancellation.
Indianapolis and Nashville still have an outside shot of catching Charlotte and Round Rock. The Indians are averaging 8,697 fans per game this season with four home dates remaining, including this Friday and Saturday. The Nashville Sounds aren’t far behind in fourth place, with an 8,653 per-game average and a four-game homestand beginning Friday still on the schedule.
Indianapolis has consistently been among the best draws in the minors in recent years thanks in part to ownership’s continued reinvestment into 23-year-old Victory Field. In 2015, I ranked Victory Field as the sixth-best ballpark in the minors (behind top-ranked Charlotte and ahead of No. 11 Round Rock), with one executive telling me that the team keeps the ballpark “so clean you could eat off of the concourse floor.” However, not even the meticulous Indians could overcome miserable spring weather to keep pace with Charlotte and Round Rock.
Of course, there is no official attendance champion, nor does Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner pass out an attendance crown to the winner. And in reality, teams are typically too focused on their own bottom lines to follow how others are drawing at the gate during the season. Yet being able to boast that you led all of minor league baseball is a nice way to show off for your fanbase and sponsors, and likely leads to a little late-night boasting at the Winter Meetings.
On a side note, the Iowa Cubs topped the minors last night with a crowd of 9,041. Wonder if it had to do something with an appearance from a certain third baseman?