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Record-setting Cubs power Cactus League to more than 1.7M fans in 2019

An overall view of the spring training game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park on February 26, 2019 in Mesa, Arizona. (Getty Images Photo/Jennifer Stewart)

PHOENIX – Baseball fans wanted to root, root, root for the Cubbies in record-setting fashion during the just-completed Cactus League season.

Three major league teams that train in the Valley set single-game home attendance records in 2019, the league announced Thursday, and the Chicago Cubs were involved each time.

The Cubs alone hosted the five largest crowds in Cactus League history, topped by a record 16,100 at Sloan Park in Mesa on Monday when the defending champion Boston Red Sox made a rare spring appearance in Arizona.

The Arizona Diamondbacks set their home record against the Cubs on March 16 when 14,035 fans descended on Salt River Fields, the facility near Scottsdale the D-backs share with the Colorado Rockies.

Then on March 23, the Cubs helped the Rockies set their own Salt River Fields record with attendance of 14,022.

The Los Angeles Angels also set a home record by drawing 9,693 to Tempe Diablo Stadium for a March 16 game against the Cleveland Indians.

Overall, the Cactus League averaged 7,900 fans per game, the most since 2016.

“Seeing that our per-game average is continuing to rise just shows that spring training is holding strong, and people continue to be interested and excited about coming to Arizona for spring training,” Bridget Binsbacher, Cactus League director of operations, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

Total attendance for the 15 teams who hold spring training at 10 Valley ballparks was 1,737,975, the lowest since 2014. However, six contests were rained out, limiting the number of games to 220, also the lowest total since 2014.

“It’s kind of unusual. We don’t typically have six rainouts a season,” Binsbacher said. “In fact, more often than not we go season after season without any rainouts.”

By contrast, there were 231 games last year and 255 in 2017, when Cactus League games drew a record 1,918,607 fans.

Eight teams saw per-game attendance increases over last year, led by the Milwaukee Brewers at their renovated and renamed American Family Fields of Phoenix.

The Brewers drew 7,434 fans per game, a 31 percent jump from 2018, when the stadium was still known as Maryvale Baseball Park.

The Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark (15 percent), San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex (12 percent) and Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch in west Phoenix (10 percent) also saw double-digit increases.

The Cactus League had an economic impact of $644 million last year, according to a study by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, and estimates for 2019 haven’t yet been calculated.

Binsbacher said spring training created 6,439 jobs that paid $224.6 million in 2018, and it generated nearly $32 million in tax revenues.

“Overall we were so close, we were neck and neck, 2019 to 2018, so I have no reason to believe that we won’t beat or exceed those numbers based on what we’re seeing,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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