It seemed impossible, like wishful thinking, when MLB opened training camps in mid-February and a few visionaries expressed hope that with vaccines continuing to roll out, games could be played before full stadiums with fans by the start of July.  Some scoffed, or even expressed dismay about the decision to gather 50 to 60 players in one place to prepare for a season which might have to be delayed or shortened. 

Angels Stadium pre-game picture
Pre-game view from the right field corner at Angels Stadium on June 20, 2021.

Play and The People Will Come

After a slow and relatively quiet start, many baseball stadiums have become increasingly lively during June.  Several teams celebrated “Reopening Days” in the weeks since Memorial Day as many attendance limits were increased to 80% and even 100% (depending on location) for the first time in 20 months.  Rather than a great rush of exuberant fans, most stadiums have seen a steady, even gradual increase.  Overall attendance on the first two weekends of June averaged between 45% and 50% of capacity while the weekday games in the first full week of June averaged just over 30%.  The average for the third weekend of June ended up closer to 55%, but if we exclude sub-30% Baltimore and Seattle, the other stadiums averaged close to 65%.   A lot of fans in the half-empty stadiums seemed to enjoy the added space to move around, and those in the nearly full stadiums, caught up in the excitement of their teams playing well, also seemed to enjoy the novelty of being among such a large crowd once more.

Kauffman Stadium under clear skies on June 18, 2021. The stadium seating areas were about 50% full for that evening’s game.

A few stadiums filled up almost instantly when limits were raised. Such exceptions were seen for the very successful teams, those with the most ardent fans, or in cases where a unique opponent was in town.  The Phillies drew an average 30% to 35% of capacity for their first two home series of June against division opponents Washington and Atlanta, but then sold almost 90% of the seats the following weekend for an interleague series with the Yankees.  Other leaders were found in Texas and Chicago.  The Rangers are playing in a new stadium, were the first to lift attendance limits, and averaged 70% on June’s first weekend (vs. the Rays), followed by 80% on Fathers’ Day weekend when facing the Twins.  In Chicago, the Cubs threw open the gates to welcome 90% of capacity on June’s second weekend.  That same weekend saw the lowest attendance with respect to capacity in Miami and Oakland (near 20%) and Tampa (just over 25%).  Just over 30% full were Arizona and the Dodgers (the last series before attendance limits were lifted in Los Angeles).  Following the easing, the Dodgers sold over 90% of the seats for a weeknight series.

It seems baseball fans are quickly becoming confident to gather in crowded stadiums and celebrate like “old times” before COVID disrupted the world.