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.

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Anon21
Guest
Anon21

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