A ballpark (also written ball park), baseball park or baseball stadium is the structure that encloses the field of play in the game of baseball and the spectator seating areas or any other features around it. Ballparks vary greatly in size and sophistication, from outdoor fields surrounded by a chain-link fence and a few rows of seats, to enclosed complexes with permanent or retractable roofs.
Most teams make their home in one specific ballpark, except on rare occasions. This has not always been the case, both at the major league and the minor league level. Some teams have split their home games between different ballparks in the same city, or in different cities, and others have only had a nominal home park while largely playing on the road. There have been instances of two or more teams sharing one ballpark - sometimes even giving it a different name depending on which team was hosting the ball game, and others where they have played part of their season in a different ballpark - either to test out a new market or because they were forced by circumstances. There is a permanent example of this in full-season Minor League baseball, with the Low-A Jupiter Hammerheads and the Palm Beach Cardinals sharing Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, FL.
Do Ballparks Pay?
Does it benefit a community to build a ballpark good enough to attract a professional baseball team?
The move almost always generates controversy, especially below MLB. History says putting the question directly to voters usually results in a no.
Proponents say "It will make (insert city name) a destination for residents from across the area and it will create jobs and boost our economy." Opponents say "A new ballpark will only attract those people who already go to the existing ballpark." They also say, "This is not the best use of tax dollars!"
This intractable debate generally falls across the irrelevant opinion of whether you like baseball. Regardless of how you feel about the game, this is an economic question.
Let's look at the facts.
Whether because the same people are more likely to come to a newer, nicer ballpark more often because people who haven't been coming to an old ballpark are more likely to come to a nicer, newer one, or because newer, nicer ballparks both provide jobs and draw other jobs into the community, attendance numbers routinely rise - sometimes wildly - in a new ballpark.
Critics dismiss "jobs" as low-paying game-day jobs, but jobs managing them go with them and obviously pay more. The larger possibility, though, is drawing in jobs with new or transferred businesses that locate in part on the "what is there to do in this town" factor. It would take an objective business economist to quantify this, but the number is clearly not zero. Ask at City Hall: When companies go looking for a new place to build widgets, the next question they ask after quality of schools is "What is there to do here?" A professional sports team stands out from libraries and museums in what is a municipal competition for job growth. How many workers/families move in from elsewhere? How many of those workers will go to games? The number is clearly not zero, or companies wouldn't ask the question. Each new resident - or rather, each 2.5-person family - has not been going to games and may now. We may not know how many, but there is no question that this happening is a fact.
Many articles quote studies and experts that say ballparks don't pay for themselves. Our short answers are questions: Then why do cities keep building them? Why especially do they build a ballpark after losing a team so they can get another? Are you economists studying dynamic or only static factors? If you're only comparing direct income - rent, parking, sales tax on concessions and souvenirs - you're missing the bigger picture.
The other loudest argument against municipalities building stadiums is "Not with my tax money! Let these billionaires build their own ballparks." First, few minor league team owners are billionaires; second, these facilities are usually municipally owned and rented by the team, and available for other events that also benefit the community; third, how is that different from giving a manufacturing company a tax break to locate in your town? Both put a dent in municipal resources, whether in reduced collections or capital spent outright, in an effort to increase municipal income.
While any specific project can miss, whether through bad luck or poor execution, ballparks are wonderful redevelopment tools. New stadiums in places like Memphis, TN, and Greenville, SC, are credited with turning around their downtowns. We're seeing it right now in Kannapolis, NC. An area of Nashville, TN, that was a classic example of urban blight now has a stadium bounded on three sides by new residential development and restaurants and on the fourth by a parking garage. (Sorry, Joni; people have to park somewhere.) Oklahoma City, OK, Mayor Mick Cornett - 2005-2018, so not the mayor who got the Bricktown ballpark built - says "No city in America has come as far as fast as Oklahoma City. The ballpark was the beginning of that." Directly inspired by OKC's success, Tulsa pulled together the 90% privately funded project that would become ONEOK Field. The five years following the June 2008 announcement that it would be built saw more than $700 million worth of same-market development projects. Please, economists, do that math. All of it, not just the real estate taxes but all the resulting economic activity.
While the data might look similar all the way back to the 1903 beginning of Minor League Baseball as we knew it through 2020, this research goes only to 1988 openings - the year the transformational "downtown-retro" design caught baseball world's attention with the debut of the Buffalo Bisons' new playpen.
IS there cause and effect? Short of moving to a different market, a stadium change is the most drastic change a team can make - even more than rebranding and especially so for the fans we’re concerned with: those who don't just follow the team but go to games and spend money there.
It should be said, in fairness, that team owners hope attendance goes up every year and more often than not it does. This is especially true in a stadium's mid-life; one of the triggers to ask for a new ballpark is when attendance falls off significantly and/or steadily year-to-year. If a new stadium goes up and attendance goes up more than the ordinary gain, especially if recent history showed a downward arc ... what else has changed?
Here are attendance comparisons between new and old stadiums hosting affiliated teams (not necessarily the same franchise or consecutive years) in the same market; usually same city:
- - first year attendance in the new park, last year in the old
- - averages of the last five and the first five (when available - there was no 2020 season; comparing 2021 attendance is useless because of varying COVID limitations on crowd sizes (which eliminated several successful ballparks that opened that year); teams occasionally didn’t stay five years in one place)
- - their attendance in 2019, the most recent season not impacted by COVID
In 2019, the High-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers drew 246,961 to Segra Stadium in Fayetteville, NC. In 2000, the Low-A Cape Fear Crocs drew 33,510 to J.P. Riddle Stadium in Fayetteville. The Crocs, who were the Fayetteville Generals through 1996, averaged 65,076 per season over their last five seasons at Riddle.
Also in 2019, the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators drew 650,934 to Las Vegas Ballpark in Las Vegas, NV. In 2018, as the Las Vegas 51s, they drew 332,224 to Cashman Stadium in Las Vegas. The Aviators averaged 337,246 per season over their last five seasons at Cashman.
Also in 2019, the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles drew 427,791 to Hodgetown in Amarillo, TX. In 1982, the Amarillo Gold Sox drew 51,812 to Potter County Memorial Stadium in Amarillo. The Sox averaged 64,432 over their last five seasons at Potter.
In 2018, the Low-A Augusta GreenJackets drew 255,155 to SRP Park in North Augusta, SC. In 2017, they drew 178,269 to Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta, GA. They averaged 173,643 over their last five seasons at the Lake and 260,862 their first two years at SRP. They drew 266,569 in 2019.
In 2017, the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats drew 395,196 to Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford, CT. In 2015, as the New Britain Rock Cats, they drew 267,377 to New Britain Stadium in New Britain, CT. In between, the newly minted Goats played 2016 entirely on the road due to construction delays. The Cats averaged 316,040 over their last five seasons, the Goats 406,362 in their first three actually in The Dunk. The 2018 Goats became the first professional baseball team to draw 400,000 to a Connecticut ballpark. They drew 414,946 in 2019.
In 2016, the Low-A Columbia Fireflies drew 261,134 to Segra Park in Columbia, SC. In 2004, the unrelated but also Low-A Capital City Bombers drew 100,798 to Capital City Stadium in Columbia. The Bombers averaged 101,244 over their last five seasons, the Fireflies’ 268,319 in their first four. They drew 245,522 in 2019.
In 2015, the Triple-A Nashville Sounds drew 565,549 to First Tennessee Park (now First Horizon Park) in Nashville, TN. In 2014, they drew 323,961 to Greer Stadium in Nashville. The Sounds averaged 330,877 over their last five seasons at Greer and 568,943 in their first five at FTP. They drew 578,291 in 2019, after topping 600,000 for the first time the season before. Although ranking may be unfair because of varying COVID crowd caps, it's worth noting their 2021 attendance of 436,868 led all of Minor League Baseball.
In 2014, the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas drew 548,937 to Southwest University Park in El Paso, TX. (Their 2014 season attendance was 560,997, but because their new park wasn't ready they played their first four home games in Tucson.) In 2004, the Double-A El Paso Diablos drew 229,243 to Cohen Stadium in El Paso. The Diablos averaged 246,577 over their last five seasons, the Desert Dogs 555,267 in their first five. The C's drew 522,894 in 2019.
Also in 2014, the Triple-A Charlotte Knights drew 687,715 to BB&T Field (now Truist Field) in Charlotte, NC. In 2013, they drew 254,834 to Knights Stadium in same-market Fort Mill, SC. The Knights averaged 288,465 over their last five seasons in Fort Mill and 646,690 in their first five in Charlotte. They drew 581,006 in 2019.
In 2013, the Double-A Birmingham Barons drew 396,820 to Regions Field in Birmingham, AL. In 2012, they drew 204,269 to Regions Park (originally and now again Hoover Metropolitan Stadium) in same-market Hoover. The Barons averaged 266,389 their last five seasons in Hoover and 417,831 their first five back in Birmingham. They drew 379,707 in 2019.
Also in 2013, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders drew 435,839 to PNC Field in Moosic, PA. In 2011, as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, they drew 298,098 to its same-site, same-name predecessor. In between, the 2012 season saw the "Empire State Yankees" play entirely on the road while PNC was completely rebuilt. The SWB Yanks averaged 412,525 over their last five seasons, the 'Riders 420,918 in their first five. They drew 414,891 in 2019.
In 2011, the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers drew 410,326 to Werner Park in Papillion, NE. In 2010, as the Omaha Royals, they drew 406,276 to Rosenblatt Stadium in same-market Omaha. Despite the fact that Werner has less than half of Rosenblatt's capacity, the Chasers averaged 399,404 over their first five seasons after the Royals averaged 349,620 in their last five. The Chasers drew 328,307 in 2019.
In 2010, the High-A Winston-Salem Dash drew 312,313 to BB&T Ballpark (now Truist Stadium) in Winston-Salem, NC. In 2009, they drew 57,665 to Ernie Shore Field in Winston-Salem. The new ballpark had been expected to open that season; various delays eventually knocked it into 2010, which is why the Winston-Salem Warthogs accidentally changed their nickname a season ahead of the new playpen to which they had tied the change. It also led to the attendance crash - almost a three-fold drop from the 'Hogs 2008 tally. The Warthogs/Dash averaged 130,961 over their last five seasons in Shore, the Dash 306,251 in their first five in BB&T. They drew 264,879 in 2019.
In 2009, the short-season Eugene Emeralds drew 125,475 to PK Park in Eugene, OR. In 2008, they drew 130,069 to Civic Stadium in Eugene. The Ems averaged 125,962 over their last five seasons at Civic and 115,065 over their first five seasons at PK. The downturn in both comparisons is rare, but PK - while more modern and comfortable than Civic - was built for college baseball and is much smaller; the stated capacities are 6,800 and 4,000. However, they drew 131,467 in 2019. The Ems have accepted that they will have to get a larger home to stay in Eugene and in Organized Baseball.
Also in 2009, the Triple-A Columbus Clippers drew 666,797 to Huntington Park in Columbus, OH. In 2008, they drew 537,889 to Cooper Stadium. The Clippers averaged 511,536 over their last five seasons at the Coop and 628,263 in their first five at the Huntington. They drew 590,504 in 2019.
Also in 2009, the Triple-A Reno Aces drew 466,606 to Aces Ballpark (now Greater Nevada Field) in Reno, NV. In 1992, the High-A Reno Silver Sox drew 105,346 to Moana Stadium in Reno - a remarkable jump from the previous four years in the 1970s and 1980s. The Sox averaged 85,981 over their last five seasons and the Aces averaged 417,169 in their first five. They drew 336,215 in 2019.
Also in 2009, the Low-A Fort Wayne TinCaps drew 378,529 to Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, IN. In 2008, as the Fort Wayne Wizards, they drew 256,693 to Memorial Stadium in Fort Wayne. The Wizards averaged 257,998 over their last five seasons, the 'Caps 391,924 in their first five. They drew 371,259 in 2019.
Also in 2009, the Charlotte Stone Crabs drew 171,314 to Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, FL. In 2002, the Charlotte Rangers drew 23,988 to same-site predecessor Charlotte County Stadium. The Rangers averaged 35,479 over their last five seasons, the Crabs 146,910 in their first five. They drew 91,349 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
In 2007, the short-season Idaho Falls Chukars drew 104,960 to Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, ID. In 2006, they drew 73,802 to same-site predecessor McDermott Field. The Chukars, who were the Idaho Falls Padres in 2002 and 2003, averaged 64,280 over their last five seasons at McDermott and 96,235 in their first five at Melaleuca. They drew 102,859 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
Also in 2007, the Double-A Arkansas Travelers drew 339,478 to Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, AR. In 2006, they drew 207,507 to Ray Winder Field in Little Rock. The Travs averaged 192,433 over their last five seasons at Winder and 338,154 in their first five at Dickey-Stephens. They drew 311,021 in 2019.
In 2006, the Low-A Greenville Drive drew 330,078 to West End Field (now Fluor Field at the West End) in Greenville, SC. In 2005, as the Greenville Bombers, they drew 115,161 to Greenville Municipal Stadium in Greenville. Together, the 2001-2004 Double-A Greenville Braves and the 2005 Bombers averaged 180,058 over the Muni's last five seasons in Organized Baseball while the Drive drew 337,234 in their first five. They drew 329,733 in 2019.
In 2005, the High-A Stockton Ports drew 205,819 to Stockton Ballpark in Stockton, CA. In 2004, they drew 98,035 to Billy Hebert Field in Stockton. The Ports, who went by the Mudville Nine in 2000 and 2001, averaged 76,894 over their last five seasons at Hebert and 211,089 in their first five at what they call Banner Island Ballpark. They drew 179,465 in 2019.
Also in 2005, the Double-A Mississippi Braves drew 242,423 to Trustmark Park in Pearl, MS. In 1999, the unrelated but also Double-A Jackson Generals drew 99,240 to Smith-Wills Stadium in same-market Jackson, MS. The Generals averaged 144,271 over their last five seasons, the M-Braves 229,005 in their first five. They drew 163,841 in 2019.
Also in 2005, the Low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers drew 407,711 to First Horizon Park (now First National Bank Field) in Greensboro, NC. In 2004, as the Greensboro Bats, they drew 197,037 to World War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro. The Bats averaged 163,516 over their last five seasons, the 'Hoppers 422,289 their first five. They drew 306,136 in 2019.
Also in 2005, the Low-A West Virginia Power drew 233,143 to Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, WV. In 2004, as the Charleston AlleyCats, they drew 125,979 to Watt Powell Park in Charleston. The Cats averaged 128,867 over their last five seasons, the Power 221,189 their first five. They drew 118,444 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
In 2004, the High-A Clearwater Threshers drew 135,101 to Bright House Networks Field (now BayCare Ballpark) in Clearwater, FL - the same season their parent club opened Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. In 2003, as the Clearwater Phillies, they drew 63,655 to Jack Russell Memorial Stadium in Clearwater. The C-Phillies averaged 74,512 over their last five seasons, the Threshers 146,463 in their first five. They drew 180,069 in 2019.
Also in 2004, the Low-A Quad Cities River Bandits drew 173,370 to John O’Donnell Stadium (now Modern Woodmen Park) in Davenport, IA. In 2003, they drew 132,983 to its same-site, same-name predecessor - opened in 1931 as Municipal Stadium. The Bandits averaged 134,926 over their last five seasons at the old yard and 167,752 their first five at the new one - including 2005-2007 as the Swing of the Quad Cities. They drew 150,905 in 2019.
In 2003, the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes drew 576,867 to Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, NM. In 2000, the unrelated but also Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes drew 338,103 to its same-site predecessor, Albuquerque Sports Stadium. The Dukes averaged 316,328 over their last five seasons, the Isotopes 572,562 in their first five. They drew 542,832 in 2019.
Also in 2003, the Double-A Jacksonville Suns drew 359,979 to The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (now Bragan Field at 121 Financial Ballpark) in Jacksonville, FL. In 2002, they drew 230,156 to its same-site predecessor, Samuel W. Wolfson Park. The Suns averaged 233,050 over their last five seasons at Wolfson and 385,344 in their first five at the Grounds. The rebranded Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp drew 327,388 in 2019.
In 2003, the Low-A Peoria Chiefs drew 239,407 in their first full season at O'Brien Field (now Dozer Park) in Peoria, IL. In 2001, they drew 144,772 to Pete Vonachen Stadium in Peoria. The Chiefs averaged 149,792 over their last five full seasons at Vonachen and 239,407 in their first five at O'Brien. They drew 198,545 in 2019.
In 2002, the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies drew 563,079 to Grizzlies Stadium (now Chukchansi Park) in Fresno, CA. In 2001, they drew 292,886 to Pete Beiden Field in Fresno. The Grizzlies averaged 318,064 over their four seasons at Beiden and 522,258 in their first five at The Grizz. They drew 380,090 in 2019.
Also in 2002, the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens drew 567,804 to Fifth Third Field in Toledo, OH. In 2001, they drew 300,079 to Ned Skeldon Stadium in suburban Maumee, OH. The Hens averaged 306,200 over their last five seasons at the Ned and 551,258 in their first five at The 5/3. They drew 481,496 in 2019.
Also in 2002, the Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels drew 196,066 to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, IA. In 2001, they drew 132,722 to its same-site, same-name predecessor. The Kernels averaged 128,671 over their last five seasons at the old Vet and 181,731 their first five at the new one. They drew 150,278 in 2019.
Also in 2002, the Double-A Midland RockHounds drew 276,380 to First American Stadium (now Momentum Bank Ballpark) in Midland, TX. In 2001, they drew 148,292 to Max H. Christensen Stadium in Midland. The Hounds averaged 174,163 over their last five seasons at the Max and 264,375 in their first five at First American. They drew 285,368 in 2019.
In 2000, the short-season Princeton Devil Rays drew 33,215 to Hunnicutt Field in Princeton, WV. In 1999, they drew 33,017 to its same-site, same-name predecessor. The Rays averaged 32,246 over their last five seasons at the old Hunnicutt and 29,934 their first five at the new one. They drew 24,133 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
Also in 2000, the Double-A Tennessee Smokies drew 265,141 to Smokies Park (now Smokies Stadium) in Kodak, TN. In 1999, as the Knoxville Smokies, they drew 119,571 to Bill Meyer Stadium in same-market Knoxville. The Smokies averaged 129,362 over their last five seasons in Knoxville and 259,618 in their first five in Kodak. They drew 208,078 in 2019. A new Knoxville stadium has all the necessary approvals to bring the Smokies back to the city and is projected to open in time for the 2025 season.
Also in 2000, the Triple-A Louisville Bats drew 655,073 to Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, KY. In 1999, as the Louisville RiverBats, they drew 361,419 to Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. The RiverBats, who were the Louisville Redbirds through 1997, averaged 446,701 over their last five seasons at the Cardinal and the Bats 652,649 their first five in the Slug - despite the fact that its capacity is well under half that of the cavernous home of the University of Louisville football Cardinals, where the 1983 Redbirds became the first minor-league club to draw 1 million in a single season. The Bats drew 485,356 in 2019. Their lease largely funds the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation.
Also in 2000, the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts drew 290,165 to BellSouth Ballpark (now AT&T Field) in Chattanooga, TN. In 1999, they drew 218,946 to Engel Stadium in Chattanooga. The Lookouts averaged 239,140 over their last five seasons at Engel and 268,220 their first five at BellSouth. They drew 228,662 in 2019.
Also in 2000, the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds drew 859,851 to AutoZone Park in Memphis, TN. In 1999, they drew 397,339 to Tim McCarver Stadium in Memphis. The Redbirds (1997-1998) and the Double-A Memphis Chicks (1994-1996) together averaged 264,884 over the last five seasons at The Tim and the Redbirds 804,478 their first five at The AZ. They drew 327,753 in 2019.
In 1999, the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans drew 232,619 to Coastal Federal Field (now Pelicans Ballpark) in Myrtle Beach, SC. In 1992, the Low-A Myrtle Beach Hurricanes drew 61,120 to Coastal Carolina College Stadium in Myrtle Beach. The 'Canes, who were the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays through 1990, averaged 68,519 over their last five seasons, the Pelicans 216,941 their first five. They drew 226,247 in 2019.
In 1998, the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks drew 491,036 to Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark (now Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark) in Oklahoma City, OK. In 1997, as the Oklahoma City 89ers, they drew 325,582 to All Sports Stadium in OKC. The 89ers averaged 308,856 over their last five seasons at All Sports, the 'Hawks 451,784 their first five at the Brick. The now-Oklahoma City Dodgers drew 444,131 in 2019.
Also in 1998, the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads drew 94,155 to Roger Dean Stadium (now Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium) in Jupiter, FL. In 1997, the unrelated but also High-A West Palm Beach Expos drew 51,747 to Connie Mack Field in West Palm Beach. The Expos averaged 68,150 over their last five seasons, the Hammerheads 103,183 in their first five. They drew 62,684 in 2019 in the stadium which they now share with the Palm Beach Cardinals.
Also in 1998, the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders drew 300,460 to Tucson Electric Park (now Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium) in Tucson, AZ. In 1997, as the Tucson Toros, they drew 285,817 to Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. The Toros averaged 302,457 over their last five seasons, the 'Winders 271,535 in their first five. The Sidewinders have since moved to Reno, NV. Although the last year-first year number was up, this is the only pair of referenced stadiums losing and gaining a full-season team that saw a downturn in the five-year averages. This was an atypical move in that TEP did not actually replace Hi Corbett - which was, and continued another 13 seasons as, the spring training home of the Colorado Rockies. Pima County built TEP to accommodate the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks’ decision to spring-train in Tucson as well, and the existing minor-league team's switch followed its affiliation with the Dbacks.
In 1997, the short-season Ogden Raptors drew 101,256 to Lindquist Field in Ogden, UT. In 1996, they drew 62,022 to Serge Simmons Field in Ogden. In fairness, Serge was new then but was not designed for a professional club. The Raptors averaged 58,786 over their three seasons at Simmons and 97,323 in their first five at Lindquist. They drew 146,201 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
Also in 1997, the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs drew 507,164 to Zephyr Field in New Orleans, LA. In 1996, they drew 180,485 to Privateer Park in New Orleans. The Zephyrs averaged 167,953 over their four seasons in Privateer, a college field pressed into temporary Triple-A service, and 464,552 in their first five at The Zeph. The rebranded Baby Cakes drew 188,092 in 2019 and have since moved to Wichita, KS.
Also in 1997, the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings drew 512,570 to Frontier Field in Rochester, NY. In 1996, they drew 375,781 to Silver Stadium in Rochester. The Red Wings averaged 359,794 over their last five seasons in Silver and 483,129 in their first five at Frontier. They drew 451,853 in 2019.
Also in 1997, the Double-A Akron Aeros drew 473,232 to Canal Park in Akron, OH. In 1996, as the Canton-Akron Indians, they drew 213,278 to Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium in Canton. The Indians averaged 226,266 over their last five seasons, the Aeros 496,691 in their first five. The again rebranded Akron RubberDucks drew 340,187 in 2019.
Also in 1997, the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs drew 231,006 to Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in Charleston, SC. In 1996, they drew 100,428 to College Park in Charleston. The ‘Dogs, who played as the Charleston Rainbows through 1993, averaged 101,992 over their last five seasons at College Park and 236,049 in their first five at The Joe. Attendance went over 300,000 in 2017 and remained above that benchmark until the pandemic cancelled the 2020 season and limited crowds in 2021. They drew 301,320 in 2019.
Also in 1997, the Triple-A Syracuse SkyChiefs drew 400,804 to P&C Stadium (now NBT Bank Stadium) in Syracuse, NY. In 1996, as the Syracuse Chiefs, they drew 300,410 to MacArthur Stadium in Syracuse. The Chiefs averaged 293,000 over their last five seasons, the SkyChiefs 418,634 in their first five. The again rebranded Syracuse Mets drew 327,478 in 2019.
Also in 1997, the High-A San Bernardino Stampede drew 273,736 in their first full season at San Bernardino Stadium (now San Manuel Stadium) in San Bernardino, CA. In 1995, as the San Bernardino Spirit, they drew 119,434 to Fiscalini Field in San Bernardino. The Spirit averaged 120,798 over their last five seasons, the Stampede 196,270 in their first five. The twice-rebranded Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino drew 181,253 in 2019.
Also in 1997, the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians drew 573,325 in their first full season at Victory Field in Indianapolis, IN. In 1995, they drew 366,254 to Bush Stadium in Indianapolis. The Indians averaged 337,378 over their last five full seasons at Bush and 603,070 in their first five at Victory. They drew 586,860 in 2019.
In 1996, the short-season Batavia Muckdogs drew 39,025 to Dwyer Stadium in Batavia, NY. In 1995, they drew 38,313 to its same-site, same-name predecessor. The 'Dogs, who were the Batavia Clippers through 1992, averaged 40,648 over their last five seasons at the old park and 40,229 in their first five at the new one. Given that the before and after's capacities were similar and could accommodate an annual attendance of almost four times these numbers, it seems this was Batavia's baseball potential. Market saturation may have been a factor in that potential, with Triple-A teams in Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo and another short-season club in Auburn, NY. Attendance climbed into the mid-40,000s in the first decade of the 2000s but fell off again, to the point that the New York-Pennsylvania League took over the team after the 2017 season. Attendance rose a little in 2018 and a lot in 2019 - to 43,118 - but the franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
Also in 1996, the Double-A Hardware City Rock Cats drew 160,765 to New Britain Stadium in New Britain, CT. In 1995, they drew 124,560 to Beehive Stadium. Both playpens are in New Britain’s Willow Brook Park. NBS was built 13 years after the Bristol Red Sox moved to New Britain because Major League Baseball wrote stadium standards into the 1990 Professional Baseball Agreement. The team went by Hardware City only those two seasons, between "New Britain Red Sox" and "New Britain Rock Cats". The club averaged 133,434 over its last five seasons at Beehive and 178,256 in its first five at NBS. The Rock Cats moved to Hartford, CT, after the 2015 season.
Also in 1996, the High-A Tampa Yankees drew 124,619 to their first full season at Legends Field (now George M. Steinbrenner Field) in Tampa, FL. In 1995, they drew 48,598 to Red McEwen Field in Tampa; however, as McEwen was a college field pressed into short-term service while Legends was being built, a fairer comparison is the 55,900 that attended the last season at Al Lopez Field in 1988. The T-Yanks averaged 54,727 in their two seasons at McEwen while the Tampa White Sox and the Tampa Tarpons combined to average 59,953 over their last five seasons at Lopez, which was demolished in 1989. The T-Yanks averaged 114,719 in their first five at Legends. The again rebranded Tampa Tarpons drew 61,290 in 2019.
Also in 1996, the High-A Salem Avalanche drew 173,703 to their first full season at Salem Memorial Ballpark in Salem, VA. In 1994, as the Salem Buccaneers, they drew 153,575 to Municipal Stadium in Salem. The Bucs averaged 138,307 their last five full seasons, the Avalanche 191,534 in their first five. The again rebranded Salem Red Sox drew 171,866 in 2019.
Also in 1996, the High-A Lancaster JetHawks drew 316,903 to Lancaster Municipal Stadium in Lancaster, CA. In 1995, as the Riverside Pilots, they drew 56,601 to Riverside Sports Complex Baseball Stadium in same-market Riverside, CA. The Pilots averaged 70,260 in their three seasons, the 'Hawks 252,565 in their first five. They drew 161,595 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
In 1995, the short-season Auburn Doubledays drew 58,972 to Falcon Park in Auburn, NY. In 1994, they drew 31,744 to the same-site, same-name playpen it replaced. The Doubledays averaged 37,395 their last five seasons at the old park and 52,848 at their first five in the new. They drew 39,381 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
Also in 1995, the short-season Erie SeaWolves drew 181,815 to Jerry Uht Park (now UPMC Park) in Erie, PA. In 1993, the unrelated but also short-season Erie Sailors drew 65,316 to Ainsworth Field in Erie. The Sailors, who were the Erie Orioles through 1989, averaged 65,548 over their last five seasons, and the SeaWolves 188,391 in their four short seasons. Their full-season successor franchise drew 234,257 in the stadium’s fifth season overall but first with a full-season team, and 215,444 in 2019.
Also in 1995, the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers drew 209,159 to Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, WI. In 1994, as the Appleton Foxes, they drew 76,381 to Goodland Field in same-market Appleton. The Foxes averaged 67,198 over their last five seasons, the Rattlers 224,236 in their first five. They drew 218,037 in 2019.
Also in 1995, the High-A Durham Bulls drew 390,486 to Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC. In 1994, they drew 259,758 to Durham Athletic Park in Durham. In 1998, a Triple-A franchise replaced the original Bulls. The Class A club - the first ever to draw 300,000, in 1990 - averaged 289,637 over their last five seasons at The DAP and the two franchises that played the first five at The DBAP averaged 418,586. The Triple-A Bulls drew 529,105 in 2019.
Also in 1995, the Double-A Bowie Baysox drew 463,976 to their first full season at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, MD. In 1992, as the Hagerstown Suns, they drew 130,331 to Hagerstown Municipal Stadium in same-market Hagerstown. While PGS was being built, the Baysox played at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium - just abandoned by the Orioles - but construction delays kept them out of PGS halfway into the 1994 campaign. The Suns averaged 157,764 over their last five seasons - always by that brand, although the 1988 tenant was an unrelated High-A club - and the Baysox 418,161 in their first five. They drew 224,686 in 2019.
In 1994, the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs drew 375,197 to Hadlock Field in Portland, ME. In 1988, the Triple-A Maine Phillies drew 80,071 to The Ballpark in same-market Old Orchard Beach, ME. That was their only season with that brand, having previously played as the Maine Guides. They averaged 121,828 over their last five seasons, the Sea Dogs 401,876 in their first five. They drew 357,647 in 2019.
Also in 1994, the Double-A San Antonio Missions drew 411,959 to San Antonio Municipal Stadium (now Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium) in San Antonio, TX. In 1993, they drew 189,251 to V. J. Keefe Memorial Stadium in San Antonio. The Missions averaged 178,257 over their last five seasons at V.J. and 380,861 in their first five at The Wolff. They drew 337,484 in 2019, the Alamo City’s one-season foray into Triple-A.
Also in 1994, the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm drew 357,123 to Lake Elsinore Diamond in Lake Elsinore, CA. In 1993, as the Palm Springs Angels, they drew 105,039 to Palm Springs Stadium in same-market Palm Springs. The Angels averaged 81,108 over their last five seasons, the Storm 345,842 in their first five. They drew 172,280 in 2019.
Also in 1994, the Triple-A Salt Lake Buzz drew 713,224 to Franklin Quest Field (now Smith’s Ballpark) in Salt Lake City, UT. In 1992, the short-season Triple-A Salt Lake City Trappers drew 217,263 to the same-site Derks Field. The Trappers averaged 191,940 over their last five seasons, the Buzz 620,882 in their first five. To make full-season comparisons, the Triple-A Salt Lake Gulls drew 167,803 in 1984 and averaged 222,461 over their last five seasons in Derks. The rebranded Salt Lake Bees drew 433,596 in 2019.
In 1993, the Low-A Hickory Crawdads drew 283,727 to L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, NC. In 1992, as the Gastonia Rangers, they drew 32,931 to Sims Legion Field in same-market Gastonia. The Rangers averaged 45,452 over their last five seasons, the 'Dads 244,617 in their first five. They drew 137,546 in 2019.
Also in 1993, the Triple-A Norfolk Tides drew 529,708 to Harbor Park in Norfolk, VA. In 1992, as the Tidewater Tides, they drew 174,362 to Metropolitan Memorial Park in Norfolk. The Tides averaged 194,987 over their last five seasons at Met Park and 535,429 in their first five at Harbor. They drew 350,086 in 2019.
Also in 1993, the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes drew 331,005 to The City of Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter Entertainment & Sports Complex (now LoanMart Field) in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. In 1992, as the San Bernardino Spirit, they drew 106,481 to Perris Hill Park in same-market San Bernardino. The Epicenter pulled that franchise from SB to Rancho, rippling the Salinas, CA, franchise to the Berdoo. The Spirit averaged 164,991 over their last five seasons, the Quakes 395,705 in their first five - while Perris, renamed Fiscalini Field, kept High-A ball with another team for another three seasons. It drew 88,468 in 1993 and averaged 103,204 before being replaced in 1996. The Quakes drew 162,085 in 2019.
In 1992, the Low-A Asheville Tourists drew 119,040 to McCormick Field in Asheville, NC. In 1991, they drew 117,625 to the same-site, same-name wooden ballpark McCormick replaced. The Tourists averaged 102,682 over their last five seasons at the wooden McCormick and 128,541 in their first five at the brick one. The Tourists drew 187,718 in 2019.
Also in 1992, the Triple-A Iowa Cubs drew 453,386 to Sec Taylor Stadium (now Principal Park) in Des Moines, IA. In 1991, they drew 308,814 to the same-site, same-name ballpark it replaced. The I-Cubs averaged 275,276 over their last five seasons at the old yard and 478,674 in their first five at the new one. The I-Cubs drew 489,173 in 2019.
Also in 1992, the High-A Fort Myers Miracle drew 105,578 to Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL. In 1987, the unrelated but also High-A Fort Myers Royals drew 27,369 to Park T. Piggott Memorial Stadium - better known as Terry Park, for the recreational municipal park in which it lies - in Fort Myers. The FM-Royals averaged 75,485 over their last five seasons, the Miracle 89,986 in their first five. The Miracle drew 108,800 in 2019, their last season before rebranding as the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels.
In 1991, the Low-A Columbia Mets drew 76,564 to Capital City Stadium in Columbia, SC. In 1990, the C-Mets drew 99,385 to the same site, similar-name Capital City Park. The post-rebuild drop proved to be a fluke. Possibly, as has often happened, the rebuild was billed at the time as a renovation but turned out to be a whole new playpen. In any event, attendance shot up to 144,128 in 1992 and increased in each of the next three straight seasons. The C-Mets averaged 99,735 over their last five seasons and 128,798 in their first five - rebranded in 1993 as the Capital City Bombers and in 1994 as the Columbia Bombers. After both ballpark and attendance deteriorated again, the again-rebranded Capital City Bombers moved to Greenville, SC, after the 2004 season.
Also in 1991, the High-A High Desert Mavericks drew 204,438 to Mavericks Stadium (now Adelanto Stadium) in Adelanto, CA. In 1990, as the Riverside Red Wave, they drew 82,420 to Riverside Sports Complex Baseball Stadium in same-market Riverside. The Wave averaged 74,361 over their three seasons, the Mavs 186,543 in their first five. They never impressed parent clubs, though; in one of the windiest spots on earth, the Mav became known as a hitters' paradise that stunted the growth of MLB-potential pitchers. After the 2017 season, Organized Baseball got rid of it by contracting its franchise and Bakersfield's from the California League and expanding the Carolina League by two. In effect, the Mavs and the Bakersfield Blaze moved to the Carolina to become the Down East Wood Ducks and the Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
Also in 1990, the High-A Frederick Keys drew 277,802 to Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, MD. Their 1989 attendance at McCurdy Field in Frederick, 175,077, is of questionable relevance because McCurdy was an amateur-baseball site pinch-hosting while the Keys waited on The Grove. Frederick built it to land the former Hagerstown Suns, who had been bumped from Hagerstown, MD, by Double-A moves. Hagerstown and Frederick are in the same market, making it more logical to call 1989 a gap and compare the Keys' and Suns' numbers. The Suns drew 135,059 in 1988 and averaged 128,442 over their last five seasons at Hagerstown Municipal Stadium while the Keys averaged 324,244 in their first five at Harry Grove. They drew 263,528 in 2019. The franchise was among the 43 Organized Baseball cut in 2021.
Also in 1990, the Double-A Charlotte Knights drew 271,502 to Knights Castle in Fort Mill, SC. In 1984, they drew 122,792 to Jim Crockett, Sr., Memorial Park in Charlotte, NC. In between, after arson destroyed Crockett, the Knights played in two temporary parks. They averaged 157,658 over their last five seasons in Crockett and 343,632 their first five in The Castle - later renamed Knights Stadium. In the last two of those first five, the Knights were a Triple-A club that bumped the Double-A franchise. The Triple-A Knights now play in a downtown Charlotte stadium that opened in 2014.
In 1988, the Double-A Birmingham Barons drew 269,831 to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, AL - a Birmingham suburb. In 1987, they drew 147,279 to Rickwood Field in Birmingham. The Barons averaged 176,219 their last five seasons in Rickwood and 276,909 their first five in Hoover. The Barons returned to the city, in a new downtown stadium, in 2013.
Also in 1988, the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons drew 1,147,651 to Pilot Field (now Sahlen Field) in Buffalo, NY. In 1987, they drew 495,760 to War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. They averaged 341,522 over their last five seasons in The Rockpile and 1,148,667 their first five in Pilot. They drew 518,741 in 2019. The Bisons were the second minor-league team to draw 1 million in a single season, but they went on to do it an unprecedented six times - consecutively.
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