Figuring out Minor League Fan Support

A regular-season AHL hockey game in Hamilton, ON

When attending a sporting event, most times you’ll notice that the announced attendance is inflated and higher than the actual fans attending. This is because teams announce “paid” attendance, in other words, tickets that were sold (or given away) to the event. The attendance figure represents every season-ticket holder, even if they don’t show up. It also includes “giveaways” and sometimes the franchise may have a lot of these so their numbers look better for advertisers. A number much more representative of the actual attendance is the turnstile count (number of fans actually passing through the gates), however, this is never given and despite all of my searches, I can’t find these numbers anywhere. I always like to get a gauge of a city’s passion and support towards a sports team and unfortunately, the attendance figure is the main way to do this, despite the usually skewed figure. However, in recent years, I have found a method that is a slight improvement to getting a better idea on support.

Using Playoff attendance is much more representative. The reasoning is that giveaways are much lower and I believe (please, correct me if I’m wrong on this one) season-ticket holders aren’t included in that final figure unless they actually get a ticket for the game. The Minor Leagues are different from the Pros in that playoff attendance is typically lower than regular season attendance. Its disappointing, but unfortunately there are many more people coming to the minor league game for entertainment, as opposed to having a true following of that team.

So, the playoffs give you a better sense of the fan support a city has for their team…besides, if you’re a fan, shouldn’t these be the games that you would most want to be attending! Luckily, there are some franchises that do have the support of their city. With the hockey playoffs going on, take a look at the teams that have bucked the attendance trend this season:

Lake Erie (AHL)……8,069 (playoffs)…….6,568 (regular season)
Fort Wayne (CHL)…7,600 (playoffs)……7,460 (regular season)
Texas (AHL)………..5,590 (playoffs)…….5,340 (regular season)
Colorado (CHL)……5,289 (playoffs)…….5,289 (regular season)….sellouts
Alaska (ECHL)……..5,077 (playoffs)…….4,351 (regular season)
Victoria (ECHL)……3,690 (playoffs)…….3,717 (regular season)

That is the type of support you want to see! The rare instance when a minor league team’s playoff attendance is higher than regular season attendance, is a sign of good fan support. Hockey is more successful than baseball in this situation, because baseball is much more leisurely and branded as entertainment, given the amount of kitchy promotions and between-inning games. A classic example of this comes from the 2009 Eastern League (AA). The Akron Aeros finished with an average regular-season attendance of 4,659 (6th), however on the Saturday Night that they won the Eastern League Championship, only 3,275 came out to the 9,097-seat Canal Park to see it.

One comment

  1. I just want to say this is really cool because I’ve been a komets (fort wayne) fan all my life so its good to see them get some publicity

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