Minor League Teams Benefit From Eclipse Bump

Dash Winningham (34) and Justin Brantley (4) of the Columbia Fireflies watch a solar eclipse at Spirit Communications Park (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Tim Tebow isn’t the only commodity that brings out fans to minor league parks in droves. A few select clubs on Monday got a significant attendance boost thanks to the total solar eclipse that crossed over a large swath of the United States. The biggest beneficiaries, in terms of total attendance, were the Columbia Fireflies, who packed 9,629 fans into Spirit Communications Park. That set a franchise record for the team’s first two seasons, breaking the record of 9,228 that was set on July 4, 2016. This year’s high-water mark came on April 6, when 8,412 fans came out to see Tebow’s debut with the Fireflies.

Team Attendance Avg. Diff. Profit
Columbia 9,629 4,826 4,803 100,863
Bowling Green 6,006 2,821 3,185 66,885
Salem-Keizer 5,297 2,147 3,150 66,150
Greenville 6,636 4,970 1,666 34,986
Greensboro 6,756 5,271 1,485 31,185
Charleston 5,274 4,491 783 16,443
Total 39,598 24,526 15,072 316,512
Profit is calculated by the difference in fans multiplied by a $21 per person estimate used by Minor League Baseball

"The Columbia Fireflies' Total Eclipse of the Park was a day-long celebration at Spirit Communications Park," Fireflies president John Katz said in a release. "The day began with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) festival, and concluded with a walk-off win for the home team. Visitors from 34 states and from points across the globe enjoyed for than two and a half minutes of totality under sunny skies. The players from both Columbia and Rome took in the eclipse from field, joined by the front office and assembled media."

But the Fireflies weren’t the only team to see an attendance spike. Three-thousand miles across the country, the short-season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a Giants affiliate, opened their stadium at 5 a.m., fed their fans breakfast and then started their game at 9:35 a.m., so they could be the first team to claim an eclipse delay. The idea worked, and 5,297 fans came out to witness some history with a side of baseball. That attendance mark was more than double the team’s season average of 2,147. Moreover, it set the season attendance high and dwarfed the team’s figure for the previous Monday game, which attracted just 1,473 fans.

Low Class A Bowling Green also benefitted from an eclipse boost. The Hot Rods, a Rays affiliate, played West Michigan (Tigers) on Monday and drew 6,006 to Bowling Green Ballpark in Kentucky. That number is its third-largest crowd of the year, behind a pair of games against Dayton on April 26 and July 4. Their previous Monday home game drew just 1,980 fans, so the eclipse gave the Hot Rods an attendance spike of 4,026. Using the $21 per fan figure we’ve estimated when calculating the Tebow Effect, that means Bowling Green banked an extra $84,546 because of the event.

Greenville and Charleston, too, raked in the fans to see the eclipse.

The Drive, a Red Sox affiliate, drew 6,636 fans to Fluor Field, and the RiverDogs (Yankees) got 5,274 to Joseph P. Riley Park for their event. The RiverDogs’ attendance was just slightly greater than their season average of 4,491 fans per game, and it was also only slightly more than the 4,842 fans who showed up to their previous Monday home game. Greenville beat its average of 4,970 by 34 percent and was beat its previous Monday home game by roughly 1,500 fans.

"The eclipse has been a national spectacle that has shined a light on the Lowcountry and the state of South Carolina as a whole," RiverDogs president and general manager Dave Echols said. "We were thrilled with the outpouring fans both locally and nationally that chose Joe Riley Park as their venue to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Fans who came out to minor league ballparks got a unique experience. Minor league operators got to add a little bit more to their profit margin.

Comments