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Arizona Cactus League attendance the highest since 2019

This year, the Arizona Cactus League drew its largest number of fans since 2019, the last season before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cactus League had an attendance of 1,565,182 fans over 216 games in 2023, an average of 7,246 fans per game. In 216 games this year, the league drew 1,630,436 fans and averaged 7,548 fans per game, a 4% increase from the previous year.

“We had the advantage of having outdoor facilities, and in no time, people started making their way back to spring training,” said Bridget Binsbacher, executive director of the Arizona Cactus League Baseball Association. “People were so ready to get back to life as usual, and what better way to do that than with America’s favorite pastime.”

Pandemic shutdowns and protocols caused a significant decrease in fan attendance from 2020 to 2021, while the player lockout in 2022 deflated hopes of an attendance revival:

  • In 2020, MLB suspended spring training on March 12 amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and the final Cactus League attendance total was 949,113.
  • In 2021, seating was heavily restricted due to COVID protocols, leading to an average of 2,149 fans per Cactus League game and 446,905 total that season.
  • In 2022, MLB had a player lockout, resulting in another shortened spring training. The Cactus League drew 728,626 fans that season.

Attendance increased significantly in 2023, and the rise continued this year — fueled in part by excitement over last fall’s World Series between two Cactus League teams, the Texas Rangers and hometown Arizona Diamondbacks.
Fresh off their first World Series title, the Rangers saw the biggest jump in Cactus League attendance, with a 42.3% increase per game.

The Diamondbacks’ surprise run to the World Series — only their second appearance, and first in 22 years — led to a 16.6% spike in Cactus League attendance.

Another team that saw a dramatic increase was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lured international superstar Shohei Ohtani from a fellow Cactus League team, the Los Angeles Angels. Attendance at the Dodgers’ Cactus League games was up 19.8% from last year.

Although Major League Baseball’s 30 teams are evenly divided between the Cactus League and Florida’s Grapefruit League, Binsbacher said Arizona is winning the ongoing battle with its spring training rival.

“Currently, Arizona is drawing more (fans) than Florida,” said Binsbacher. “(Florida has) basically 3 times Arizona’s population, but we are creeping beyond them as far as what we are able to draw.”

Although attendance numbers cannot be broken down by in-state vs. out-of-state fans, according to the 2022 U.S. census, Florida has a population of 22.2 million, compared to Arizona’s 7.4 million.

Binsbacher expressed optimism that the attendance trends will continue.

“I think we’re going to continue to grow and move in the right direction, and we expect more and more fans to come to Arizona and experience spring training.”

Jacob Suever joined KJZZ as an intern in January 2024. Suever is currently studying for his bachelor’s degree in sports journalism at Arizona State University. Previously, Suever has interned with PBS NewsHour West as a production intern, as well as with the San Francisco Giants as a scoreboard operator.Suever is currently the broadcast director and play-by-play voice for Phoenix College Athletics, and is aiming to broadcast more than 60 baseball and basketball games this season. Suever, an Atlanta native, has a huge passion for radio broadcasting. He says his inspiration throughout his childhood and early college career has been Steve Holman, radio voice of the Atlanta Hawks.Outside of the arena, Suever is also passionate about his community, and understands the importance that local news can play on the well-being, safety and health of a population.Growing up, Suever had a very unique educational experience. Suever transitioned from Atlanta Public Schools at the elementary level to attend the prestigious Ron Clark Academy, a school that gave Suever the ability to see the world in a different way. By age 14, Suever had traveled to more than 20 states, to five countries and to three continents. To this day, Suever employs some of the techniques he learned in middle school to communicate and connect with others around the globe.Suever hopes to use his opportunity with KJZZ to continue to expand his knowledge as a reporter and use his stories to make a positive impact in the community.