By IAN WILSON
Alberta baseball fans packed the park this summer, smashing attendance records along the way.
Ballpark Digest has the receipts.
The online publication – which tracks baseball stadium news and developments across North America – delivered several summer collegiate rankings this week, including an examination of total attendance, per-game averages and league numbers.
The Okotoks Dawgs of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) finished third in both average attendance and total turnout, moving up from fourth place in both categories in 2022. Okotoks welcomed an average regular-season crowd of 4,558 fans this summer, jumping from 4,216 last year. Total attendance at Seaman Stadium increased from 113,825 last summer to 127,622 in 2023.
In addition, the home of the Dawgs was voted the best ballpark in summer collegiate baseball this year.
Slotting in right behind Okotoks on the 160-team list were the Edmonton Riverhawks of the West Coast League (WCL). The Riverhawks finished fourth in average attendance by drawing 3,880 people to RE/MAX Field each game. The squad placed fifth overall in total attendees with 104,748 fans showing up at 27 games. The strong showing at the turnstiles for Alberta’s only WCL franchise set a new single-season record for attendance in the league.
Meanwhile, all 10 WCBL clubs from Alberta and Saskatchewan that saw action in 2023 figured prominently in the Ballpark Digest rankings.
The Sylvan Lake Gulls climbed up to 44th in average attendance after their per-game figures went from 1,291 in 2022 to 1,611 in 2023. During their 28 home games, they set a club record by welcoming 45,105 fans to Gulls Field, up from 36,136 last summer.
In Medicine Hat, the Mavericks boosted attendance from 32,986 last year to 35,449 this season. They ranked 60th in total attendance and 66th in average crowds, with 1,266 checking out Athletic Park in 2023.
Both the Regina Red Sox and Lethbridge Bulls also cracked the top 100 of Ballpark Digest’s lists.
The Red Sox averaged 877 spectators (up from 662 in 2022) and registered 23,688 fans over 27 home dates at Currie Field, while the Bulls saw 23,462 baseball boosters at Spitz Stadium, for an average turnout of 838. Regina ranked 95th in total attendance and Lethbridge finished 96th in the same category.
Legacy Dodge Field was a popular place in Fort McMurray. A total of 17,032 fans came out to 28 Giants games, for an average crowd of 608 people. That slotted the northern Alberta team at 111th for season attendance and 116th for per-game totals.
The Miller Express experienced franchise records in total attendance (11,932) and average attendance (442) at Ross Wells Park in Moose Jaw, placing them 120th on Ballpark Digest’s overall turnout list, while the Swift Current 57’s ranked at No. 127 in regular-season attendance (9,028) and No. 134 in average crowds (334).
Rounding out the WCBL representation on the 2023 rankings were the Brooks Bombers – 133rd in total (6,963 fans) and 138th in average (258) – and the Weyburn Beavers, who slotted in at No. 139 for overall attendance (5,144) and 146th for individual game turnout (191).
Overall, the WCBL had a record-breaking season for total attendance, with 305,425 fans supporting the Western Canadian circuit. In 275 games, an average crowd of 1,111 people came out to cheer on their favourite team, which is up from the 2022 average of 898 supporters.
By comparison, the New England Collegiate Baseball League attracted 264,365 fans to 267 games in 2023, the Coastal Plain League welcomed 454,113 people to 362 contests, and the Cape Cod League saw attendance of 318,401 boosters at 218 matchups.
The Ballpark Digest listings only include regular-season attendance figures from each club. The WCBL experienced new highs in fan engagement this postseason, with 40,370 fans coming out to 16 games in August, resulting in an average attendance of 2,523 per game.