Indians attendance slips, but still leads Minor League Baseball

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The Indianapolis Indians this year were tops among 160 Minor League Baseball teams in attendance, closing out the season Saturday with 636,888 through the turnstiles at Victory Field.

But not even that was good enough to best last year’s attendance of 662,536 at the team’s home venue on the west side of downtown. The 4 percent decline came despite the fact that the Indians were running more than 8 percent ahead of last year’s record pace headed into the second week of July.

The Indians got a late boost by selling out 14,200-seat Victory Field for each of the team's last two home games on Friday and Saturday, helping them edge ahead of the Charlotte Knights, an International League foe that had home attendance of 628,173 this season.

The Indians have long been an attendance frontrunner among U.S. minor league teams.

Indianapolis led MiLB in attendance in 2013, finished runner-up to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2014, and was third last season behind Sacramento and Charlotte.

Bad weather hindered the Tribe from registering their third record attendance in three years. The 2016 season featured the seventh wettest and 11th warmest summer on record, according to the National Weather Service. In August, traditionally one of the highest-attended months of the Indians season, Indianapolis recorded the fourth-most rain in that month’s history.

A rainout on Aug. 26—a Friday against regional rival Louisville—was especially hurtful. That game was played as part of a double-header on Sept. 1, a Thursday.

“Adverse weather is an inevitable part of a 72-game home schedule,” Indians General Manager Randy Lewandowski said in a written statement. “We are so proud of the Indianapolis Indians grounds crew and staff, and how we prepared and responded when constantly forced into action this season.”

Heading into this season, the Indians, the AAA minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, had increased attendance each of the last six years and set attendance records in each of the last two years. Prior to 2014, the previous attendance record (659,237) was set in 1998.

Despite the slight decline this year, the Indians are far ahead of the team’s season attendance when it started rising in 2009. That year it was 549,552.  

The 2016 season marked the 20th year of baseball at the downtown Indianapolis ballpark, and Victory Field surpassed the 12 million fan benchmark. Among 160 minor league teams, only one—the Buffalo Bisons—has had higher attendance than the Indians since Victory Field opened in 1996.

“An accomplishment like this is a testament to our amazing fans that support Indians baseball year after year and our entire staff that helps create such a wonderful atmosphere at Victory Field. It’s a great recipe for success,” Lewandowski said.

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