On April 14, Atlanta Braves fans strolled into the stadium the same as they had done in years past at Turner Field. But something was different this time around. It was not Turner Field they were entering.
Despite being only 20 years old, the Braves left Turner Field for a new home; a new home called SunTrust Park.
Having this new home gives 2017 the chance to be kind to the Braves attendance. Recent history suggests that the Braves could see an increase in their attendance this year, since it is the first year of SunTrust Park. It wouldn’t be the first time a new MLB stadium helped draw in fans.
“Initially it has great intrigue and brings fans out,” says Sweeny Murti, Yankees Beat Reporter for WFAN since 2001, “Baltimore, Cleveland, and Seattle have exquisite ballparks, all opening in the 1990’s. They are still fantastic parks and went through attendance booms.”
Those aren’t the only cases where this has happened.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, since the year 2000 there have been 13 new ballparks that have opened. Ten of these saw increases in attendance from the previous season, with three seeing decreases.
Those 10 stadiums saw an average increase of 8,846 per game in their first seasons. For the whole season that’s an average increase of more than 716,000 per team.
Of those 10 stadiums, five saw an increase of more than 10,000 per game, the biggest of which went to the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park with a per game average increase of more than 15,000. The smallest increase was the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park, which saw an average increase of 4,730 per game.
While 4,000 might not seem like a lot, it is still a nice increase over what they had the previous year.
The Braves also witnessed this phenomenon in recent history. Go back a little further to 1997, when Turner Field opened its gates for the first time. That season the Braves had an average game attendance 42,771, an increase of nearly 7,000 from the season before at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
However, there were three decreases among the 13 new stadiums: Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and Busch Stadium. Among them, they saw an average decrease of 6,346 per game . Yankee Stadium saw an average decrease per game of close to more than 7,000.
Murti offers an explanation for this, “The new Yankee Stadium was built to lesser capacity, so they couldn’t possibly sell as many tickets as the year before,” Murti says, “that total divided by 81 games gives you almost the exact number of fewer seats in the new stadium.”
In 2008, The Yankees averaged just over 53,000 per game, whereas in 2009 they averaged just under 46,000. When taking what Murti said into account, the difference between the years is not as big.
According to the Yankees website, the old Yankee Stadium, by the time it closed, had a capacity 56,886. The new Yankee Stadium upon opening had a capacity of 50,287. When doing the math, 2008 saw the former stadium filled at 93% capacity per game, and in 2009 the latter saw an average attendance at 91% of capacity.
Despite the decreases among some new ballparks, there have been plenty of increases. Whether one can credit the new ballpark for the attendance or not, recent history suggests that the Braves will see an increase in attendance.
Another factor that can play a role in a new stadium’s success is how good the team actually is, but that’s not the case for every team.
The Brewers saw a greater than 15,000 average increase per game despite finishing 73-89 in 2000 and 68-94 in 2001, Miller Park’s first season.
The Braves will want a Miller Park scenario this season. In their final season at Turner Field, with a record of 68-93, Atlanta saw an average attendance of 24,950.
While they aren’t expected to do well this season, the first two games at the new stadium saw the Braves reach capacity with an attendance of 41,149. After their first four games, they averaged nearly 36,000. While this is a small sample size, it shows some initial intrigue from Atlanta’s fans.
This season will be a year of firsts for the Braves and Sun Trust Park, and perhaps it will be less of wins and Freddie Freeman home runs that draw fans in, but instead the wonders and fresh experience of a new ballpark.