Dragons lead Minor League Baseball in attendance for first time

Although numbers have fallen throughout the minors since 2019, Dayton has seen a small increase in fans

The Dayton Dragons led all 120 Minor League Baseball teams in attendance in 2022 with an average of 7,935 fans. This is the first time the Dragons have led all minor league teams.

The Dragons front office receives attendance numbers throughout the season and was waiting to see how the Triple-A teams, who have a longer season than the Single-A teams, would fare in September.

“We did have an inkling that this would be possible,” Assistant General Manager Brandy Guinaugh said Monday, “but you don’t want to ever say anything too early and get too excited because you just never know what’s going happen. But based on our history and the consistent nature of where we’ve been over the years 21 previous years, we were pretty excited to see that we were No. 1.”

The Dragons brought in a total of 444,346 fans in 56 games. They have led all Single-A franchises in attendance for the last 22 seasons since their first season in 2000 and have led all teams below the Triple-A level for the last 16 years.

The Dragons’ sellout streak reached 1,441 consecutive games. The streak does not count games from the 2021 season when attendance was restricted. The Dragons set the pro sports record with their 815th straight sellout in 2011, and the streak reached 1,000 games in 2014.

“The Dragons have the best fans in all of sports, and they support us like no other team,” said Robert Murphy, Dragons President & General Manager, in a press release. “We thank all our fans including our season ticket holders, our corporate sponsors, and the entire Dayton community for lifting the Dragons to the top of the attendance rankings.”

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The Dragons were one of eight teams to average more than 7,000 fans and the only Single-A team. The others, all Triple-A teams, were: the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (7,665); Columbus Clippers (7,634); Nashville Sounds (7,611); Indianapolis Indians (7,425); Worcester Red Sox (7,290); Charlotte Knights (7,280); Albuquerque Isotopes (7,062); Las Vegas Aviators (6,910); and Buffalo Bisons (6,846).

The Associated Press reported this week overall attendance for Minor League Baseball fell from 41.5 million in 2019 to 22.1 million in 2021, when there still COVID-related attendance restrictions after the cancellation of the 2020 season, and climbed back to 30.9 million this season.

A big part in the decline is related to the number of teams. There were 176 minor league teams in 2019, and Major League Baseball cut the number of guaranteed affiliations to 120 in 2021.

The average attendance at a minor league game was 3,910 in 7,908 games. The average was 4,044 in 2019.

Prior to this season, in the last 10 years, the highest Dayton ranked in attendance was second. It ranked sixth in average attendance (5,736) in 2021, ninth in 2019 (7,787), seventh in 2018 (7,982), seventh in 2017 (7,923), eighth in 2016 (7,837), sixth in 2015 (8,271), sixth in 2014 (8,315) and fifth in 2013 (8,345) and second in 2012 (8,532).

One factor contributing to the strong attendance was the success of the team. The Dragons were 36-15 through 51 games, their best record at that point in the season in franchise history, until a slump knocked them out of the playoff picture. Ella De La Cruz, the Reds Minor League Player of the Year, spent most of the 2022 season with the Dragons.

All in all, it was business as usual at Day Air Ballpark, and the pandemic didn’t alter the experience as it did in 2021.

“We didn’t start in limited capacity,” Guinaugh said. “We had a very normal season. Fans were excited to be back in that capacity. They were seeing the things that they loved pre-pandemic, which was our entertainment product and these community programs, which by far are one of the biggest things that I think our fans really rally around and look forward to.”

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