Cactus League fans spent an estimated $359.5 million in 2009, a 7 percent increase over last year, giving Arizona an economic boost at a time when it needed help the most.
Two new teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians, helped contribute to the increase, as did the addition of a week’s worth of games. The Cactus League played 246 games in 2009 during a five-week season, compared with 177 during four weeks in 2008. This year’s numbers included 11 World Baseball Classic exhibition games, which, for the most part, were sparsely attended.
While the net attendance was up 20 percent, per-game attendance dropped about 1,000 from a year ago. But last spring was a particularly strong season and missed the fallout from the recession, which took hold in the summer and fall, said Robert Brinton, the Cactus League’s president.
In Tucson, the Arizona Diamondbacks drew 121,281 fans to 18 games and the Colorado Rockies drew 75,557 to 16 games.
The Chicago White Sox, who played their first season in Glendale after moving from Tucson, drew 91,782 fans to 15 games.
“Spring training delivered at a time when we really needed it,” Brinton said. “It’s the spring-training stimulus package, better than a government one. It’s like having a Super Bowl every year.”
The league estimated that the economic impact of fan spending was $335 million in 2008 and $311 million in 2007.
According to Major League Baseball, overall spring-training attendance in both the Cactus League and Florida’s Grapefruit League was up 3.3 percent.
Arizona’s 20 percent increase more than offset Florida’s 7 percent decrease.
The Grapefruit League surpassed the Cactus League in total attendance, but that is likely to change next year when the Cincinnati Reds move to Goodyear, joining the Cleveland Indians.
The Reds drew 77,758 fans in their final spring season at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. In comparison, the Chicago Cubs, the Cactus League’s attendance champions, drew 203,105 fans.
Attendance for the Cactus League, excluding World Baseball Classic games, was 1.53 million in 235 games for an average of 6,516. With the WBC games included, league attendance was 1.56 million, an average of 6,418 per game.
Florida’s total attendance was 2 percent higher than Arizona’s. The Grapefruit League currently has two more teams, including the top-drawing New York Yankees. Even so, the Cactus League’s per game average was higher by 8 percent or nearly 500 fans.
Spring baseball steps up
Attendance at Arizona Cactus League’s 246 games in 2009 was 1.58 million, up from 1.32 million at 177 games in 2008. Average attendance for the league’s 14 teams fell from 7,436 per game in 2008 to 6,418 in 2009.
Average attendance in 2009 was:
1. Cubs: 10,690.
2. Dodgers: 9,130.
3. Giants: 8,476.
4. Mariners: 6,927.
5. Diamondbacks: 6,738.
6. White Sox: 6,119.
14. Rockies: 4,722.
*Excludes 2009 World Baseball Classic games.