MLB attendance set to reach highest level since 1998 expansion

Major League Baseball (MLB) is experiencing a significant increase in attendance, reaching levels not seen since the league expanded in 1998. Despite capacity restrictions due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, attendance has risen by 9.2% through August 14. When excluding these two years, it marks the largest increase since the addition of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays in 1998, with an 11.4% surge. Projections suggest that MLB attendance will reach approximately 70.5 million, the highest since 2017.

Out of the 30 MLB clubs, 23 are witnessing year-over-year gains in attendance. The Philadelphia Phillies have seen the largest increase, with over 10,000 more attendees per game compared to last season. Other teams experiencing significant gains include the Cleveland Guardians, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, and Baltimore Orioles. Even among the seven clubs with attendance declines, two have remained relatively stable, with the Los Angeles Dodgers down by just 10 attendees per game and the Milwaukee Brewers down by 32 attendees per game. The Chicago White Sox and the Washington Nationals, however, have experienced notable decreases of nearly 3,000 and 2,000 attendees per game, respectively.

MLB has also achieved some attendance records this season. On August 5th, all 15 games had paid attendance over 30,000, marking only the third time in two decades that this milestone has been reached. Additionally, 13 clubs surpassed 35,000 in paid attendance, the highest number since 2004. Another highlight was the week of July 24th-30th, which saw the highest average attendance in over a decade, with 34,432 attendees per game across 88 matches.

Several factors contribute to this increase in attendance. MLB's adoption of a balanced schedule, ensuring that every team plays against each other, has created more excitement. Adjusted start times have allowed games to conclude earlier on weeknights. Teams that returned to the playoffs last season after a long absence, such as the Phillies, Mariners, Orioles, and Blue Jays, have experienced a boost in attendance. Additionally, some clubs have adjusted their pricing, making games more accessible for fans. Changes to game rules, resulting in a faster pace, increased offensive play, and more stolen base attempts, have also attracted viewers.

The sustainability of this trend remains uncertain. Will the novelty of the balanced schedule fade? Will fans continue to be drawn to the faster pace of the game? Only time will tell as attention turns towards the 2024 regular season.


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