Cactus League fans turned out in record numbers for this year’s spring training, boosting attendance 7.3 percent over last year while setting an all-time record.
The league reported 1,712,042 fans attended 230 games this season. Cactus League President Brad Curtis said the season was strong from the start.
“I would have never guessed after 17 days that we would have been 200,000 above last year,” Curtis said. “That’s a big thing.”
Curtis attributed the boost to a later start to the season, good weather and better marketing. And he said fans went wild with the addition of pitcher Yu Darvish to the Texas Rangers and Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Angels saw attendance at Tempe Diablo Stadium surge 47 percent. The team became the league’s fifth-most popular, with 130,126 in attendance to watch Pujols.
“Everybody just wanted to go see him,” Curtis said.
Highlights of the 2012 season:
• The most popular team was the Arizona Diamondbacks, with attendance of 186,828. They were followed by the Colorado Rockies, 182,565; the San Francisco Giants, 168,320; and the Chicago Cubs, 153,281.
• A new record for most-attended Cactus League game was set March 17, when the San Francisco Giants played the Los Angeles Dodgers.
• Average per-game attendance rose 8.7 percent from last year, to 7,444.
Curtis said some of the higher attendance is the result of new facilities, like the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick that’s home to the Rockies and the Diamondbacks. He expects a spike in Cubs fans when a new $99 million Mesa complex opens in 2014. The planned Wrigleyville West entertainment complex at the Cubs site will continue a trend of teams offering more than just four weeks of games in the spring, he said.
“It’s a good concept, it’s a new concept,” Curtis said. “It’s so much more than just a stadium.”
The Cactus League is preparing to update its impact on Arizona’s economy. A study is looking at airline and hotel bookings and other measures related to the league’s 15 teams. The study is due later this month and will be the first of its kind since 2007, when the league was still split between the Valley and Tucson.
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