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Florida’s Grapefruit League Hits It Out of the Park

16 Aug, 2020

By: Michael Popke

Major League Baseball’ is back in action and figures out of Florida have shown us three things. First, baseball is still America's great pastie. Second, it's alive and well. And third (perhaps most encouraging) is the fact that sports tourism is not just surviving but thriving - and nowhere is this more in evidence than in the Sunshine State.

Here's your proof: Nearly 833,000 fans attended 149 Florida Grapefruit League spring training games in February and March, according to the Florida Sports Foundation. And while that spring training season did run shorter than normal, the Florida Sports Foundation called the turnout “a success.” The Foundation also provided a number of other figures to bear out this assertion.

A total of 15 Major League teams train at 12 locations throughout the southern half of Florida, causing enormous economic impact (detailed below).

Highlights of the 2020 Florida Grapefruit League season included:

  • The debut of the new spring training home of the Atlanta Braves, CoolToday Park in North Port. The Braves played 11 games at CoolToday Park, attracting 70,106 fans for an average of 6,373 fans per game. 
  • The Toronto Blue Jays returned to Dunedin for their 44th season and competed in renovated TD Ballpark. The team played nine games (with one rainout) in front of a total of 46,865 fans, an average of 5,207 fan per game.
  • The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees both averaged more than 9,500 fans per game. The Red Sox total attendance at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers was 95,870 in 10 games, for an average of 9,587 per game. The Yankees drew a total of 95,399 in 10 games, for an average of 9,540 per game.
  • No team had an average of less than 5,000 fans per game
  • The largest crowd of the season came on March 7 at Clearwater’s Spectrum Field, when the Philadelphia Phillies hosted the Boston Red Sox in front of 10,201 fans.
  • Major League Baseball’s other 15 teams comprise the Cactus League, and they train at 10 venues in Arizona. Spring training in that state brings an estimated $644 million in economic impact, according to the Cactus League’s website.
  • In 2019, studies showed that since 2000, a total of 31,097,343 fans had attended Spring Training games in Florida.

  • A 2018 Economic Impact Survey of Spring Training Baseball in Florida showed a $687.1 million annual benefit to the State of Florida.

  • Last year, attendance over the course of the entire season topped 1.4 million.

Given all that, it’s not too early to look ahead to 2021, when all 30 teams are slated to open their seasons on April 1. Not since 1968 has every team played its first game on the same date, according to ESPN.com. Atlanta will host the 91st All-Star Game for the first time since 2000. That spectacle is set for July 13 at Truist Park. Spring training reporting dates have not yet been announced, but it will be interesting to note attendance figures at next year’s Florida Grapefruit League and Arizona Cactus League games.

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