Monday, September 13, 2004
By Bill Rosario
The final numbers have been tallied and Eastern League President Joseph McEacharn is pleased to announce that the 2004 Eastern League season was one of record setting proportions at the gates. A total of 3,914,027 fans passed through the turnstiles of the 12 Eastern League ballparks this season, shattering the previous all-time attendance record of 3,868,732, which was set during the 1999 season.
Seven teams in the Eastern League witnessed an increase in average-per-game attendance over the 2003 season and the Eastern League showed an overall increase of 170 fans per opening (4,868 in 2004 versus 4,698 in 2003), 3.5% ahead of 2003. Eight Eastern League clubs, the Akron Aeros, the Altoona Curve, the Binghamton Mets, the Erie SeaWolves, the New Britain Rock Cats, the Norwich Navigators, the Portland Sea Dogs and the Reading Phillies all saw an increase in their total attendance from 2003 to 2004.
Commenting on the attendance success throughout the Eastern League, President Joseph McEacharn stated, “I am very excited about breaking the all-time single-season attendance record that we set in 1999. It proves that the Eastern League continues to thrill the fans throughout the Northeast with great baseball action and that our teams are putting forth a fantastic product both on and off the field."
The Akron Aeros drew a league-best total of 478,611 fans this season. It is the sixth time in the past eight seasons that the Aeros have led the Eastern League in total attendance. Finishing just 354 fans behind Akron in the Eastern League attendance race were the Reading Phillies, who drew a total of 478,257 fans this season. The R-Phils also led the league in average attendance, drawing a franchise record of 7,138 fans per game.
Other clubs in the Eastern League that had record breaking seasons at the gates in 2004 are the Altoona Curve, the New Britain Rock Cats, the Portland Sea Dogs and the Trenton Thunder.
The Altoona Curve drew a total of 394,062 fans in 2004, breaking their single-season attendance record for the fifth consecutive season. The Curve also established new attendance records this season for a three-game series (23,411), a four-game series (30,914), a six-games homestand (38,259) and a seven-game homestand (44,488). Altoona also hosted eight of the top 15 crowds in franchise history this season.
In New Britain, the Rock Cats drew 311,671 fans this season, an increase of 40,528 over the 2003 season. It is the fifth straight year the Rock Cats have set a new attendance record. The Rock Cats, who also set a new franchise record for sellouts in a season (15), became the first Eastern League franchise from the state of Connecticut to draw more than 300,000 fans in a single season.
After averaging a franchise record of 6,231 fans per game during the 2003 season, their first as an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Portland Sea Dogs drew a franchise record of 429,763 fans to Hadlock Field in 2004. The Sea Dogs also reached another attendance milestone this season, when they welcomed their 4,000,000th fan in franchise history on April 30, 2004.
By drawing a total of 402,280 fans in 2004, the Trenton Thunder became the first team in the history of Minor League Baseball at the Double-A level or below to draw over 400,000 fans for 10 consecutive seasons.
In their first season of existence, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats drew a total of 215,961 fans in 2004. The Fisher Cats averaged 3,175 fans per game at Gill Stadium, which holds a total of 4,100 fans, filling the ballpark to 77% capacity.
The Altoona Curve and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats are set to face off in the Eastern League Championship Series, which begins on Tuesday, September 14th. Games 1 and 2 of the series will be played on Tuesday, September 14th and Wednesday, September 15th at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona. Games 3, 4 and 5 (games 4 and 5 if necessary) of the series will be played at Gill Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire from Friday, September 17th through Sunday, September 19th.