NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball's average attendance dropped 4 percent to 28,830, its lowest since 2003 after 14 consecutive seasons topping 30,000.
Baltimore's Camden Yards, Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field, Minnesota's Target Field, Miami's Marlins Park and Pittsburgh's PNC Park also drew their smallest attendance since opening as part of a ballpark boom. In a season of unusually cold and wet weather, 17 of the 30 teams experienced drops.
Major League Baseball attributed the decrease primarily "connected to the historically bad weather we faced back in the spring" and noted the percentage drop decreased markedly after May 1.
Total attendance fell to 69.63 million from 72.67 million last year and a high of 79.5 million in 2007. The average is down 14.4 percent from its high of 32,785 in 2007, the last year before the Great Recession. It had not been this low since 28,013 in 2003.
On-field success and attendance usually are linked. The NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers set a club record, Colorado drew its biggest crowds since 2001, World Series champion Houston since 2007 and the New York Yankees since 2012 — including a new Yankee Stadium record 23 sellouts. But advance sales were down for several teams that jettisoned veterans and went with youth. Under the five-year labor contract agreed to before the 2017 season, limits were placed on spending for international amateurs following restrictions that began in 2012 on amateurs who reside in the U.S. More cost certainty for controllable players may have encouraged more teams to rebuild at the same time.
The Orioles (47-115), White Sox (62-100), Marlins (63-98) and Reds (67-95) had among the poorest records, while the Twins had a losing season at 78-84.
"People have a lot of decisions to make in their life about what they're doing with their commitments and money and what have you. It's up to us to give them something they want to embrace," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "Attendance is down. It's our fault, not theirs."
Bad weather played a factor in the falloff, especially early in the season. The average of 26,867 through April was down 9.4 percent from 29,654 through the first full month in 2017. There were 54 postponements, the most since 1989, and 26 of them were higher-drawing weekend games. Manfred said 35 games in April had a temperature of 40 degrees or less and a quarter of the games were played in 50 degrees or under.