Indians finish No. 2 in minor league attendance after late turnstile surge

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The Indianapolis Indians missed the Minor League Baseball playoffs by just one game after struggling down the stretch and losing nine of their last 14 contests.

But their fans came on strong as the season wound down, pushing overall attendance at Victory Field past the 600,000 mark for the sixth year in a row.

The Indians, the AAA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, drew 619,122 fans during the season, for a 70-game average of 8,845. That was good enough for second place among more than 250 teams in the minor leagues.

The Charlotte Knights of North Carolina, the AAA farm club of the Chicago White Sox, finished first, drawing 619,639, for an average of 8,980 for their 69 dates.

Charlotte has captured the top spot in minor league attendance on a per-game measurement in every season since 2014 except last year, when the Indians finished first by drawing 641,141, for a 70-game average of 9,159. The Indians outdrew the Knights overall in 2016 but averaged four fewer fans per game.

This year’s attendance was the lowest mark for the Indians since 2012, when they drew 595,043 fans for a 70-game average of 8,501. But after getting off to a slow start during a cold, rainy April and a record-hot May, fans rolled into the 22-year-old Victory Field at a torrid pace.

From May 31 through the end of the season (45 games), the Indians averaged more than 10,000 fans per game and had five sellouts of more than 14,200. During that stretch, the team drew crowds of more than 10,000 to 26 different games.

Charlie Henry, director of communications for the Indians, said the team experienced several other positives on the attendance front.

It sold its largest number of full-season ticket packages since 2010 and the most mini-plan ticket packages and picnic tickets since the stadium opened in 1996.

The club also was recognized as the 2018 Ballpark Digest Team of the Year for delivering "a quality product in a competitive market on a continual basis."

“We’re very proud to have such strong fan support year after year,” Henry said in an email to IBJ. “We’re already planning for 2019 when we’ll look to see what else we can offer fans to keep Victory Field an exciting place to visit throughout the summer.”

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