Sunday, November 2, 2014

Effect of Fireworks on Tampa Bay area baseball attendance in 2014

One of the most used promotions in Minor League Baseball is Fireworks Night. Across the country, teams use big fireworks displays for holidays such as Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or even Opening Day. Some teams also use smaller fireworks displays more regularly.

Over at, Brett McGinness of the Reno Aces wrote about the effect of fireworks on Triple-A attendance. McGinness concluded fireworks added 2,041 fans to games scheduled on Monday through Thursday, 2,294 people to Friday games, and 3,126 additional people on Saturday games.

Unfortunately, McGinness doesn't tell us the percentage attendance increased by. Was it 400%? 100%? 25%? 2,000 to 3,000 people is a lot, but could the weekday attendance been doubled because of fireworks? That would be good to know.

In the Tampa Bay area, Florida State League teams use fireworks quite often. Each of the four area minor league teams used the promotion at least twice. The Marauders and Blue Jays each blasted fireworks twice, the Tampa Yankees seven times, and the Clearwater Threshers an explosive 10 times.

The following chart shows each Tampa Bay area Florida State League team, when they held a post-game fireworks promotion, the attendance for the event, average attendance for that day, and the percentage change of attendance.

As to be expected, each team had a fireworks display on or immediately before the Fourth of July. For the Yankees and Threshers, June 21st was a popular day for fireworks as was August 23rd. August 23rd was the last Saturday of both teams' season.

Overall, fireworks added 1,258 people per game to attendance, an increase of 43%. While we know the two Triple-A leagues discussed by McGinness draw more than the Florida State League, I would be curious to know if fireworks have a bigger effect in Tampa Bay than in other places.

The following charts break out attendance for fireworks promotions by team.

Both the Blue Jays and Marauders saw similar impact. They both hosted two fireworks promotions, both saw over 200% increase on their Independence Day celebration, and both saw 20-30% attendance increase on their non-Independence Day fireworks promotion. The Marauders saw an average gain of 1,870 per fireworks promotion and the Blue Jays saw an average gain of 1,659 fans.

The Tampa Yankees saw an average increase of 1,242 fans per fireworks promotion. The Yankees had two games with over an 100% increase in attendance due to fireworks. While the Yankees also paired their fireworks events with other promotions, such as the Mariano Rivera bobblehead on June 7 or Opening Day on April 4, their biggest impact was on their Independence Day promotion. Like the Marauders and Blue Jays, also had a game that saw an increase in the 20-30% range. But they had one fireworks promotion game, on June 21, that drew less than average. Let's look at June 21.

There was a lot going on on June 21. The Tampa Yankees played, as did the Rays, Threshers, Dunedin Blue Jays, and the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team. A total of 35,638 people in the Tampa Bay area went to see sporting events that day.

The Clearwater Threshers saw the smallest impact from fireworks at 1,067 fans per game. However, the Threshers did almost as many fireworks promotions than all other teams combined. They hosted fireworks 10 times and on 8 of their 10 Saturday games. The Threshers biggest fireworks impact was on their Independence Day promotion, which also marked their highest attendance for the year. It is possible the high volume of Threshers fireworks events reduced their rarity and their attendance impact.

We can also see which day was best affected by fireworks. Remember, in the Triple-A leagues, Saturday was the best, followed by Friday, then the weekdays.

Among the Tampa Bay area Florida State League teams, we see the exact opposite. Thursday fireworks night did the best, followed by Friday, then Saturday. Of course, there is a very small sample size on Thursday, only the Independence Day celebrations of the Marauders, Threshers, and Yankees. Friday fireworks was helped by the Dunedin Blue Jays Independence Day celebration, but was still over 100% two other times for two other teams.

Between the Yankees and the Threshers, attendance for Saturday fireworks promotions increased 366 fans per game. That's not as good.

A quick Google search reveals the cost of a small 15-20 minute fireworks exhibit is $3,000 to $5,000. If baseball teams in the Tampa Bay area are getting a similar deal, in order to cover the cost of an exhibit, a team would need to draw 500 to 834 more fans per game with the cost of tickets at $6 per seat. Overall, each team covered that cost, helped greatly by their Independence Day galas.

Playing in a dome, the Rays can't have post-game fireworks, which might explain why they have only had six home July 4th dates in their 17-year franchise history. MLB schedule makers are not stupid and they are not going to leave money on the table.

The Rays did try indoor fireworks several times in 2010. They have not tried the promotion since. If we expanded this study to other Major League teams, we might be able to extrapolate how much attendance the Rays are losing out on by playing in a facility that does not allow fireworks. From looking at the Tampa Bay area Minor League teams, we can estimate the Rays would see a bump in attendance between 20% and 100% if they could fill the night sky with fireworks.