When the independent South Coast League drew 5,033 fans to Macon for the league opener, it was pretty surprising. Short of the Georgia football team deciding to leave Athens to play in Macon, nothing draws 5,000 fans in Macon. And the opening weekend drew an impressive average of 3,600 fans a night for three games. The league also reported impressive openings in Charlotte County (Fla.) with a three-game draw of more than 2,600 fans per night and an average of more than 1,700 in Anderson, S.C.
But nothing compares to how impressive the league’s opener in Albany, Ga., was last night. When looking at minor league markets, there are promising markets, markets with issues and markets that have been burned by previous exposures to baseball. If you’re looking for burned markets, Albany resembles the Ukraine in late 1941. The city has seen three different teams come through Paul Eames Stadium, but only the Albany Polecats lasted more than one year, and they left more than 10 years ago.
So when the league announced a crowd of 3,270 fans for the South Georgia Peanuts opener on Thursday night, it was another sign that the league has managed to figure out to make some inroads into some extremely difficult markets. Now they have to prove they can keep it up, but it’s been a much better than expected start for the new league.