Breaking Down 2010 MLB Regular Season Attendance

There were no extra games played this regular season, much to the chagrin of Padres fans, but when the books were closed on 2010 (sans the postseason), MLB’s paid attendance was almost flat compared to last season.

All told, MLB’s audited attendance (we’ll get to why “audited” means something in a minute) came to 73,061,781, compared to 73,367,659 for the 2009 regular season — a decline of just 0.42 percent. When looking at attendance per game, 2010 saw an average 30,067compared to 30,300 last season. The reason “audited” makes a difference is, if we added up all the paid attendance figures you get 73,061,763 in 2010 and 73,508,197 in 2009, a decline of 0.61 percent. Since MLB does not release the audited figures for each of the 30 clubs, the best we can work with are the unaudited figures for individual clubs. Still, it paints the story of paid attendance well enough (now, if only the league were to count actual turnstile clicks as opposed to ticket sales, we’d have a true “attendance” picture).

As it was last year, and the year before (actually, there were two last season with the Mets and Yankees, and the Nationals the year prior), new stadium development made the numbers turn out better than they could have. The Twins, with their new Target Field, bolstered the league by posting the largest increase over last season. All told, paid attendance for the Twins was 3,223,640, compared to 2,362,149 last season — an increase of 36.47 percent. If you were to adjust the league attendance with the Twins’ figures from last year, paid attendance would have been 72,200,290. Instead of a decline of four-tenths of a percent, you get a decline of 1.6 percent. It will be interesting to see if the attendance figures hold next season given the fact that MLB will not have the benefit of a new stadium opening next season (the Marlins new ballpark is slated to open in 2012 and there are no new ballparks set to open anytime soon).

Behind the Twins, the largest increases came from the Reds (17.89 percent) and Rangers (16.19 percent). All told, 13 clubs posted gains (Twins, Reds, Rangers, Rockies, Giants, Braves, Phillies, Marlins, Pirates, Yankees, A’s, Nationals, and Angels).

In terms of total attendance, the Yankees are on top (3,765,803), followed by the Phillies (3,647,249), and Dodgers (3,562,320), who fall from the #1 position they held last season.

For decliners, the Cleveland Indians dragged the league down more than any. Drawing 1,391,644, compared to 1,766,242 for 2009 (a difference of 374,598), the Tribe drew 21.21 percent fewer fans this year than in 2009. They were closely followed by the Mets, who, with the lackluster performance in the standings and a year removed from the initial honeymoon of CitiField drew 2,559,738, compared to 3,154,270 last season — a decline of 18.85 percent. If you compare attendance to the last year in cavernous Shea Stadium, the Mets are down a whopping 36.67 percent from when the club was second in the league in attendance behind only the Yankees after drawing 4,042,047. Other double-digit declines came by way of the Blue Jays (down 16.3 percent) and Royals (10.24 percent). For the Royals, part of the decline is due to last season being the first season after the renovations to Kauffman Stadium.

In terms of the lowest total attendance, it’s the Indians at #30 (1,391,644), followed by the A’s (1,418,391) and Marlins (1,524,894).

In terms of which Division drew the best in 2010, the numbers may surprise you. When looking at average attendance, the National League cleans up. All three of the NL divisions drew better average attendance than their AL counterparts (see table and chart below)

Attendance by Division


2010
Attendance (By Division
)
Division Total Avg
NL West 13,663,479 2,732,696
NL Central 15,146,161 2,524,360
NL East 12,200,139 2,440,028
AL East 11,905,752 2,381,150
AL West 9,260,006 2,315,002
AL Central 10,886,226 2,177,245

Coming back to total attendance, the decline from last season, while slight, is still a decline. In fact, despite total attendance numbers coming in at the sixth-highest totals ever, the economy has still packed a punch over the past three seasons. To place the 2010 attendance figure (73,061,781) in perspective, it is all of 38,812 more than 2004’s total (73,022,969). The following is the past decade by total attendance.

Total
Attendance 2001-10
YEAR GAMES TOTAL % (+/-)
2001 2413 72,530,213
2002 2412 67,858,176 -6.44%
2003 2413 67,688,994 -0.25%
2004 2402 73,022,969 7.88%
2005 2419 74,925,821 2.61%
2006 2421 76,078,766 1.54%
2007 2425 79,503,175 4.50%
2008 2415 78,591,116 -1.15%
2009 2420 73,367,197 -6.58%
2010
2426
73,061,781
-0.42%

Finally, here’s how each of the 30 clubs breaks down compared to last season (ranked by % of increase/decrease).

Team
#
Gms
Attend
(09)
09
Avg
#
Gms
Attend
(10)
10
Avg
Diff
Dif
Per
%
(+/-)
Twins
81
2,362,149
29,162
81
3,223,640
39,798
861,491
10,636
36.47%
Reds
81
1,747,919
21,579
81
2,060,550
25,439
312,631
3,860
17.89%
Rangers
81
2,156,016
26,617
81
2,505,171
30,928
349,155
4,311
16.19%
Rockies
81
2,665,080
32,902
81
2,875,245
35,497
210,165
2,595
7.89%
Giants
81
2,861,111
35,322
81
3,037,443
37,499
176,332
2,177
6.16%
Braves
81
2,373,631
29,304
81
2,510,119
30,989
136,488
1,685
5.75%
Phillies
81
3,647,249
45.027
* 84
3,777,322
44,968
176,629
515
4.91%
Marlins
81
1,464,109
18,075
81
1,524,894
18,826
60,785
750
4.15%
Pirates
81
1,577,853
19,480
81
1,613,399
19,919
35,546
439
2.25%
Yankees
81
3,765,807
46,027
81
3,765,807
46,491
46,449
573
1.25%
Athletics
81
1,408,783
17,392
81
1,418,391
17,511
9,608
119
0.68%
Nationals
81
1,817,280
22,436
81
1,828,066
22,569
10,786
133
0.59%
Angels
81
3,240,386
40,005
81
3,250,814
40,134
10,428
129
0.32%
Red Sox
81
3,062,699
37,811
81
3,046,445
37,610
-16,254
-201
-0.53%
Rays
81
1,874,962
23,148
81
1,864,999
23,025
-9,963
-123
-0.53%
Padres
81
2,154,203
26,595
81
2,131,774
26,318
-22,429
-277
-1.04%
Cardinals
81
3,343,252
41,275
81
3,301,218
40,756
-42,034
-519
-1.26%
Cubs
80
3,168,859
39,611
81
3,062,973
37,814
-105,886
-1,796
-3.34%
D-backs
81
2,129,183
26,286
81
2,056,697
25,391
-72,486
-895
-3.40%
White Sox
81
2,284,163
28,200
81
2,194,378
27,091
-89,785
-1,108
-3.93%
Tigers
81
2,567,192
31,694
81
2,461,237
30,386
-105,955
-1,308
-4.13%
Mariners
81
2,195,128
27,100
81
2,085,630
25,749
-109,498
-1,352
-4.99%
Dodgers
81
3,761,669
46,440
81
3,562,320
43,979
-199,349
-2,461
-5.30%
Astros
81
2,521,081
31,124
81
2,331,490
28,784
-189,591
-2,341
-7.52%
Brewers
81
3,037,451
37,499
81
2,776,531
34,278
-260,920
-3,221
-8.59%
Orioles
81
1,907,163
23,545
81
1,733,019
21,395
-174,144
-2,150
-9.13%
Royals
81
1,799,686
22,218
81
1,615,327
19,942
-184,359
-2,276
-10.24%
Blue Jays
78
1,786,626
22,905
* 78
1,495,482
19,173
-291,144
-3,733
-16.30%
Mets
81
3,154,270
38,942
81
2,559,738
31,602
-594,532
-7,340
-18.85%
Indians
81
1,766,242
21,805
81
1,391,644
17,181
-374,598
-4,625
-21.21%
TOTAL
2,426
73,508,197
30,300
2,430
73,061,763
30,067
-446,434
-184
-0.61%
MLB (Audit)
73,367,659
73,061,781
-0.42%

* Blue Jays games moved to Citizen Bank Park due to G20 security concerns

Source: Baseball-Reference, BizofBaseball.com research

See details for 2009 by Division




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Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for freelance and looks forward to your comments.

53 Responses to “Breaking Down 2010 MLB Regular Season Attendance”

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  1. Anon21 says:

    So now we have hard numbers to back up our intuition that Rays-Rangers is going to be a complete ratings bust.

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  2. Kitten Mittons says:

    The smallest market in baseball; Milwaukee, still had the 11th best attendance.

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  3. don gale says:

    That divisional attendence graph is great. Looks like real baseball fans like real baseball. :)

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  4. Anon21 says:

    Perhaps the big story here is the pathetic AL Central, getting beaten by an AL West with 1 fewer team (!). And this was a division (the Central that is), that had a pennant race with an uncertain outcome through about 2/3s of the season, as compared to the AL West, whose basic shape was clear almost from April. I guess packing Detroit and Cleveland and the abominable Royals franchise into a single division will do bad things to your attendance numbers, but still…pathetic.

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    • TFINY says:

      Uhh…yes, the AVERAGE attendance of the Central was lower than the West, but not the total. And yes, it has significantly lower numbers than the rest.

      The average is, however, closer to the highest AL division than the NL central is to the NL west. So the discrepancy is not as bad as you make it seem.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Ugh, I completely fucking misread the chart. How embarrassing.

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      • mechler says:

        While your corrections are more technically accurate, I’d like to offer the following two point for consideration:

        - Kansas City Royals
        - Cleveland Indians

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      • JimNYC says:

        Let’s look at the metro area populations for the corresponding areas:

        Chicago: 9.580 million
        Detroit: 4.403
        Minneapolis: 3.269
        Cleveland: 2.091
        K.C.: 2.067

        Compared to the A.L. West:

        L.A.: 12.874
        Dallas: 6.447
        S.F.: 4.317
        Seattle: 3.407

        In other words, the smallest city in the AL West would be the third largest in the Central. It’s hardly shocking that the attendance figures in the West cities are so much better than those of the East.

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      • Kwame says:

        The economies of Detroit and Cleveland aren’t doing that well either.

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      • NSCEGF says:

        That population figure for San Francisco/Oakland is technically not correct. For some reason the MSA figures now split San Jose into a different MSA, so adding that in would make the total market population quite a bit larger.

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  5. Brad Johnson says:

    If the National League is drawing more warm bodies, you have to wonder why they are losing the talent arms race with the American league.

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    • Ted says:

      They aren’t anymore, almost all of the best young talent is in the NL

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    • dw says:

      The National League usually has higher average attendance than the AL. Part of it is teams playing in larger parks (LA, Colorado). Part of it is the NL is an older league that has an historic connection to the cities their in (i.e. Cards fans will always show up vs. A’s fans who show up when 880 is backed up and they figure they can go to the game while waiting for traffic to clear). Part of it is the superstations of the 70s and 80s broadcast a lot of Cubs and Braves games but not a whole lot of Chisox or other AL teams.

      It’s interesting that Pittsburgh, now in their 18th year of sub-.500 ball, still get 1.5M to the park (and had a slight uptick in attendance), while the Indians, who made the playoffs in 2007, are now at 1.4M and dropping, down 40% in 3 seasons.

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      • JimNYC says:

        The NL is always going to have more attendance, because as a whole NL cities have higher city GDP’s, and hence higher disposable income for workers to spend on tickets. Here’s the top MLB cities by city GDP (in $Billion / year):

        NY: $1,466
        LA: $792
        Chi: $574
        Phi: $388
        D.C.: $375
        Bos: $363
        Dal: $338
        Atl: $304
        S.F.: $301
        Hou: $297
        Mia: $292
        Det: $253
        Tor: $253
        Sea: $235
        Pho: $200
        Min: $194
        S.D.: $191
        Den: $165
        Bal: $137
        StL: $126
        Tam: $123
        Cle: $112
        Pit: $99

        Oakland, Milwaukee, K.C., and Cincinnati didn’t make the list I had. But the top half tends to be more NL-centric, especially with Philly, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and San Fran being N.L. towns, and only Boston and Dallas being A.L. only towns among the upper register of city GDP.

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      • Ryan says:

        Cute list, Jim.

        Now put up a list ranking the cost of living for each city and we’ll have something useful to evaluate.

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  6. MB923 says:

    Man if only Rays fans weant to more games. If Rays games on average attendance had 3000+ more people go to a game this year, which with a playoff team absolutely should have happened, we would have had equal to last year.

    What’s very sad is that on average, more Rays fans went to games in 2009 than in 2010

    2009 average- 23,147 ( 52.9% full)
    2010 average- 23.024 (52.6% full)

    Had the Rays drawn maybe about 25-30,000 a game on average, that’s about an additional 400,000 fans going to the game, which would make it pass last years mark since the difference of fan differential between the 2 years is only about 300,000

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      Have you been to Tropicana Field and any other field? There’s a real reason why they draw so few. Also Florida is a huge high school football state, naturally, their interests lean elsewhere.

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      • MB923 says:

        You mean College football state? I don’t know of large attendnces going to high school games, but if you say otherwise I’llt ake you’r word.

        No I’ve never been to the Trop nor do I want to because I’ve heard from Rays fans (online) themselves, their stadium is a dump. Their words, not mine

        I’m sorry but even as Longoria and Price said, there’s no excuse for it.

        Just because it’s a “football state” doesn’t mean it can’t draw high baseball attendance. Especially when no football is played in the summer

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        “No I’ve never been to the Trop nor do I want to because I’ve heard from Rays fans (online) themselves, their stadium is a dump. Their words, not mine” Not a Rays fan, but I’ve been to the Trop. It’s a dump. You heard right. I wasn’t going to compare college football vs. high school because I wouldn’t know who’d win in interest (though I’d suspect college). They have 3 NFL teams and if the NFL so wanted, I have no doubt Pensacola or Tallahassee could adequately support another. Florida has their interest in football. Even growing up I cared more about football, though as I finally “sprouted legs”, I became more interested in the sport of baseball.
        Onto baseball…. Price and Longoria say it’s no excuse, but that’s from the inside looking out. The clubhouses probably aren’t as shabby as the rest of the stadium.
        ~????

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      • ben says:

        Tallahassee or Pensacola?? Pensacola has ~50,000 people living there and Tallahassee has ~200k FSU / FAMU fans who on avg. earn about $30,000/yr.
        I’ve been to 8 stadiums, and I think the Trop is the worst I’ve been to, but they’ve substantially improved it since the new owners took over. It used to really be a dump, the floors were always sticky, seats dirty, just horrible maintenance all around. The new owners have added a more appealing turf, a beautiful HD scoreboard, and added lots of artistic touches too(murals, decorating the external support structures, etc..). The stadium no longer detracts from the experience and I certainly appreciate the A/C (FSL games can be horrible), but they obviously need a replacement to be approved in the next 2-3 years.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        Pensacola may have only 55,000 people living there, however, like an ignorant man is expected to do, you don’t realize the immediate area has around 439,000 people. Probably not bigger than any (current or past) NFL city, but with a low cost of living they should be able to afford tickets. Tallahassee also is close enough to take over some of that territory and so the population of the city (by itself) should never be used to evaluate the tickets sold. Plenty of businesses would pay for advertisements and what not, so money wouldn’t be the issue. I mean if people from Pensacola are willing to drive 8 hours (or more) to either a New Orleans Saints game or an Atlanta Falcons game, you have to come to the natural conclusion they WOULD drive the 30 minutes (up to 90) for a local game (especially against said Saints or Falcons).

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  7. Nats Fan says:

    How my team gets anyone to go to games is suprising. frankly, I watch most of the games on TV. That way I can turn it off and not have to drive home thinking about it afterwards.

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  8. Horace says:

    The Rays franchise should move and become the Memphis Bandits or San Antonio Defenders.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Seriously. Great franchise, awful fan base. Although I actually don’t like either of those proposed relocation sites.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        I’ve always been inclined to think that Portland would be a great choice for the Rays.

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      • dw says:

        Portland can’t build a cheap minor league park, so I don’t see how they’re going to get behind plopping $400M on an MLB park.

        Memphis is too small. San Antonio is too close to Houston and too far from Austin (where the corporate money really is). Oklahoma City still isn’t big enough to sustain it.

        In the end, it’d probably be easier for MLB to subsidize the Rays’ proposed retractable roof park that it would be to deal with the chaos of, say, trying to convince the people of Charlotte to pay for a park.

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      • MB923 says:

        My echo, why Portland if I may ask?

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      • MB923 says:

        dw, I agree. I think North Carolina would be perfect. $9 million people in the state, (10th highest in US). Previous 9 highs all have at least 1 baseball team). I think Charlotte would be perfect.

        The other question is though, do you move the Marlins as well, or do you think their new stadium could draw a high crowd?

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      • Trevor says:

        If we want to think outside the box – Puerto Rico or Mexico City. Since the Expos experiment, maybe PR can’t support its own team.

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      • Toffer Peak says:

        Not sure why people are talking about relocation for the Rays when multiple sources have stated that St. Petersburg has an iron-clad contract to keep the Rays in town until 2027.

        And Marlins moving? Really? The article just stated that they are moving into a new stadium in 2012; they won’t be moving for a LONG time.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        I have no reason to believe Portland, I just drove though it once and thought it could sustain a baseball team. I’ll admit ignorance on their economy and population.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        dw, this might be nitpicking but Austin is closer to Houston than San Antonio is.

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      • dw says:

        Austin is closer to Houston than San Antonio is.

        Austin is 90 minutes from San Antonio. It’s 3 hours from Houston.

        Too close to Houston in that the Astros claim the southern half of Texas as their territory. Too far from Austin in that the high tech money won’t buy luxury boxes for a team 2 hours away in traffic.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        Uhhh… maybe you have trouble reading a sentence. Austin is closer to Houston than San Antonio is. Meaning Austin is closer to Houston than San Antonio’s distance from Houston.

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  9. ChrisD says:

    Maybe I’m not understanding the difference between audited and not-audited figures. But the published figures (used by ESPN, BR.com, etc) for San Diego’s attendance in 2009 was 1.9M. They saw a modest gain this year.

    Why the disconnect?

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  10. Jon S. says:

    Baseball fans in Florida suck. Wow. Not a state deserving of two franchises, much less franchises playing meaningful baseball.

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  11. Jeremy says:

    Its pretty obvious why the numbers are the way they are. The NL west drew the most because they had the most teams in contention the latest in the season. People stop going to games once their team is not contending anymore. Considering the Races were pretty much over in the AL at the all star break this seems to make sense yes?

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      White Sox – Twins?

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      • Matt K says:

        The Twins sold out Target Field 80 times this year, so I’m pretty sure that people still bought tickets and showed up for the last few home games after they clinched.

        I was at 161 and 162, and there were a lot of empty seats, but according to paid attendance the place was sold out.

        Gotta pay Joe, you know?

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  12. Andy says:

    Florida could not support a fourth NFL team. In fact, the Jacksonville team looks seems likely to move out of state because of awful attendance and revenue. Tampa Bay should wait and see how the fans react in Miami in 2012-2014 before committing to a new stadium.

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  13. Max says:

    I’m not sure I understand how you accounted for the exta series of home games that the Phils got when Toronto got those 3 games ‘moved’ to Philly? Who got credit for those 3 games of sold out CBP.

    What new stadiums are on the horizon over the next couple of years?

    The Mets moving into Citi field appears to be a disaster, yikes!

    It would have been nice to see average attendance as a percentage of capacity.

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  14. I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours lately, but I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours. It?s pretty worth sufficient for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made excellent content material as you did, the internet might be much more helpful than ever before.

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  15. Incitatus says:

    I’d be interested to see a breakdown by % of capacity. As far as I know the Red Sox sell out every game, but Fenway seats less than 40,000, so even though they’re doing great in terms of ticket sales, their average and total numbers are going to look low.

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    • Incitatus says:

      Nothing like answering your own question. Stadium capacities are per Wikipedia. Sorted from highest percentage of capacity to lowest:

      Stadium Team 1 Game Season Actual Percentage
      Citizens Bank Park Philadelphia Phillies 43,647 3535407 3777322 1.068426351
      Target Field Minnesota Twins 39,504 3199824 3223640 1.007442909
      Fenway Park Boston Red Sox 37,402 3029562 3046445 1.005572753
      Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs 41,160 3333960 3062973 0.918719181
      AT&T Park San Francisco Giants 41,915 3395115 3037443 0.894650991
      Angel Stadium of Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 45,050 3649050 3250814 0.890865842
      Yankee Stadium New York Yankees 52,325 4238325 3765807 0.888513033
      Busch Stadium St. Louis Cardinals 46,861 3795741 3301218 0.869716348
      Miller Park Milwaukee Brewers 41,900 3393900 2776531 0.818094523
      Dodger Stadium Los Angeles Dodgers 56,000 4536000 3562320 0.785343915
      Citi Field New York Mets 41,800 3385800 2559738 0.75602162
      Comerica Park Detroit Tigers 41,782 3384342 2461237 0.7272424
      Coors Field Colorado Rockies 50,445 4086045 2875245 0.703674335
      Minute Maid Park Houston Astros 40,950 3316950 2331490 0.702901762
      U.S. Cellular Field Chicago White Sox 40,615 3289815 2194378 0.667021702
      Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Texas Rangers 49,200 3985200 2505171 0.628618639
      Tropicana Field Tampa Bay Rays 36,973 2994813 1864999 0.622743056
      PETCO Park San Diego Padres 42,445 3438045 2131774 0.62005413
      Turner Field Atlanta Braves 50,097 4057857 2510119 0.618582419
      Great American Ball Park Cincinnati Reds 42,059 3406779 2060550 0.604838177
      Safeco Field Seattle Mariners 47,116 3816396 2085630 0.546492031
      Nationals Park Washington Nationals 41,888 3392928 1828066 0.538787148
      Chase Field Arizona Diamondbacks 49,033 3971673 2056697 0.517841474
      PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates 38,496 3118176 1613399 0.517417554
      Kauffman Stadium Kansas City Royals 39,000 3159000 1615327 0.511341247
      O.co Coliseum Oakland Athletics 35,067 2840427 1418391 0.499358371
      Sun Life Stadium Florida Marlins 38,560 3123360 1524894 0.488222299
      Oriole Park at Camden Yards Baltimore Orioles 48,876 3958956 1733019 0.437746466
      Progressive Field Cleveland Indians 45,199 3661119 1391644 0.380114386
      Rogers Centre Toronto Blue Jays 49,539 4012659 1495482 0.372691026

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