Braves’ attendance ranked 2nd in MLB, facilitated key trades

Braves manager Brian Snitker waves to fans after his team won the NL East championship Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Braves manager Brian Snitker waves to fans after his team won the NL East championship Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Braves drew 2.3 million fans at home this season, the second-most in MLB as the sport reopened its gates after playing the 2020 regular season without fans in the stands.

The Braves’ attendance of 2,300,247 at Truist Park, an average of 29,490 per home date, trailed only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2.805 million, an average of 34,626. Four other teams topped 2 million: the San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros.

The Braves’ high ranking in attendance stemmed in part from reopening their stadium to full capacity before all but one other MLB team, the Rangers. The Braves limited attendance to 33% and 50% of capacity in the season’s first two homestands, respectively, because of the COVID-19 pandemic before going to 100% in early May.

The return of fans restored the Braves’ financial results to pre-pandemic levels and in turn facilitated some key additions to the roster. The Braves brought in revenue of $216 million in the April-through-June quarter, up from just $11 million during the same period (without games) in 2020 and up from $208 million during the same quarter in 2019, team owner Liberty Media disclosed.

That recovery led the Braves to make a series of trades that added to the payroll and propelled the team toward the National League East championship. The Braves, who cut the payroll last winter amid financial uncertainty, assumed about $10 million in prorated 2021 salaries to acquire outfielders Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, relief pitcher Richard Rodriguez and catcher Stephen Vogt, all in July.

“Really, it’s a credit to the fans,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said last week on Bally Sports South. “The fans, the way they turned out with the ups and downs, it changed our financial outlook entirely, and Terry (McGuirk, Braves chairman) said we have money to put behind this club. And giving me the ammunition to go out in July at the trade deadline and add some pieces was a game-changer for us. Without that, there’s no way we get these guys.”

Still, largely because of the reduced crowds in April, the Braves finished the regular season with their lowest attendance since moving into Truist Park in 2017, other than the shortened 2020 season without fans. The Braves drew 2.51 million at home in 2017, 2.56 million in 2018 and 2.655 million in 2019. MLB defines attendance as tickets sold.

This season’s crowds pushed the Braves’ total home attendance past 10 million since Truist Park (originally named SunTrust Park) opened.

The Dodgers led MLB in attendance for the eighth consecutive season, not counting 2020.