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.
Down the stretch they come. The Charlotte Knights and Round Rock Express are neck and neck in the race for minor league baseball’s attendance crown as the season enters the stretch run.
The Knights, in the midst of a seven-game homestand, hold just a four-fan lead over the Express. Charlotte, through 58 openings, is averaging 8,912 fans per game. The Express, which return from an eight-game road trip on Tuesday, is averaging 8,908 fans per game through 60 openings.
Do minor league teams care about whether or not they lead their sport in attendance? Absolutely. Being the top-drawing team in minor league baseball provides another way to market yourself to your fanbase, advertisers and sponsors. It also provides a little extra bragging rights.
Do teams follow the attendance standings daily, tracking how they compare with their peers? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.
Attendance is hardly an exact science and not all teams calculate it the same way—actual fannies in the seats vs. paid (and comp) tickets. One Minor League Baseball official once told me that teams are allowed leeway in how they determine their attendance so long as they follow the same method throughout the season.
No matter how you add it up, this season is particularly exciting. With a little more than a month to go, the Charlotte Knights (International League) and Round Rock Express (Pacific Coast) are in a near deadlock for the top spot in minor league attendance. Through Tuesday’s games, the Knights lead the Express by a mere 50 fans in average attendance. Each team had 49 openings this season, with Charlotte tallying an 8,898 per-game average compared to Round Rock’s 8,848 average . . . I know!!
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.
Goodness gracious, the trend continues. The top crowd of yesterday came on—wait for it—an Education Day promotion. This time the kids in Indianapolis took a break from school by filling Victory Field with 12,279 screaming schoolchildren. Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon.