Spring training attendance is down for Southwest Florida baseball clubs compared to 2019. The region’s two MLB teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, have both seen a decline in fan attendance. Due to the ongoing pandemic, there are concerns that the once bustling Spring Training season may not see an improvement anytime soon. Additionally, Florida has not seen the same type of economic boom that typically occurs during tourism-heavy seasons.
Spring Training Attendance Down in SWFL Clubs in 2020
Spring training, the time of year when baseball fans flock to Florida’s sunny Gulf Coast, has been a longstanding tradition in Southwest Florida. The Grapefruit League season is a major economic driver for the region, filling hotels, restaurants and local businesses with tourists and locals alike. However, this year’s season was unlike any other due to the pandemic, and spring training attendance was significantly down for Southwest Florida’s clubs, compared to 2019.
Impact of COVID-19
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted daily life across the globe and had a significant impact on the baseball season. The virus put a halt on the regular 2020 baseball season and forced the cancellation of spring training games in mid-March. As a result, many teams lost out on revenues that were expected from the games.
In March 2021, spring training came back, but it was apparent that the pandemic was still having an impact on fans. Southwest Florida clubs, such as the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, experienced a significant drop in attendance compared to the previous season which was impacted by the pandemic.
Boston Red Sox
JetBlue Park, the Spring Training home of the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, experienced a considerable drop in attendance. In 2019, the Red Sox peaked with almost 8,000 fans attending their games. This year, attendance was limited due to Covid-19 restrictions, and the maximum capacity was reduced to 2,400 fans.
The Minnesota Twins play their Spring Training games at Hammond Stadium in Lee County. Last year, over 5,000 fans watched the Twins play. This year’s restrictions meant that only 2,400 fans could attend, which had a significant impact on attendance levels.
Economic impact of reduced attendance
The reduced attendance had a considerable impact on the local economy. The sheer number of fans attending spring training games generally injects millions of dollars into the local economy, buoying up hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and local attractions. Southwest Florida businesses, which usually gear up for the influx of tourists, suffered considerably from the reduced attendance levels.
COVID-19 has significantly impacted spring training attendance levels in Southwest Florida. The pandemic has had an economic impact on local businesses that rely on increased tourism and fan visits, resulting in them bearing the brunt of the financial loss. However, the pandemic is slowly being brought under control, so baseball fans can hope for a more normal season in 2022.
As vaccinations continue to roll out, we expect that restrictions will be lifted and that more fans can attend games without the fear of catching COVID-19. Spring Training will be an excellent opportunity for fans to come back and rediscover their love for baseball, and it’s always great to see the Southwest Florida community come together to support their home teams.