Braves return to action on verge of reaching 2 million in attendance

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The Braves will return to Truist Park from the All-Star break Friday night on the cusp of surpassing 2 million in home attendance for the season.

Advance ticket sales show that milestone will be reached Saturday night in the middle game of an interleague series against the Los Angeles Angels, Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller said.

He said “it certainly looks like” all three games of the weekend series will sell out, as did 24 of 51 home games before the break.

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The crowds reflect the continuing impact of last season’s World Series championship – the Braves’ first in 26 years – on this season’s business.

“I would say we’re very pleased with the results, to put it mildly,” Schiller said.

The Braves’ home attendance before the All-Star break – an average of 38,130 per game – was up 17% from the same point in 2019, the last season before the COVID-19 pandemic. (A shortened 2020 season was played without fans in attendance, and seating capacity was limited early in the 2021 season.)

Meanwhile, the Braves’ local TV ratings are up slightly from last year and down from 2019. The team’s telecasts on Bally Sports South and Southeast averaged a 2.72 rating in the Atlanta TV market before the break this season, a 5% increase from a 2.6 rating at the same point last year and a 15% drop from 3.21 at the 2019 All-Star break.

Schiller attributed the attendance surge to the team’s play on the field and the fan experience at Truist Park and adjacent mixed-use development The Battery Atlanta. Another factor, of course: “It doesn’t hurt when you win a World Series.”

“It’s the quickest way to activate a fan base that already was pretty fervent to begin with,” Schiller said.

There’s another attraction Friday night as well: It’ll be the first game in Atlanta for two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who is the Angels’ scheduled starting pitcher in the series opener. On the mound this season, he is 9-4 with a 2.38 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 87 innings; at the plate, he has a .258 batting average with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs.

As of Thursday morning, the Braves’ Ticketmaster website showed no tickets available for Friday’s or Saturday’s games and standing-room-only tickets available for Sunday afternoon’s series finale. Some held-back tickets often are made available closer to game time, however.

With total attendance (defined by MLB as tickets sold) of 1,944,625 through 51 home games, the Braves are on pace to top 3 million by season’s end for the first time since 2000. The only times they have done so in franchise history were 1992 and 1993 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 at Turner Field.

“That’s in sight,” Schiller said. “It’s one of those really big numbers in the world of baseball that you strive for. Three million would make people go ‘wow,’ especially when you think of a ballpark with a capacity that is just over 40,000.”

The Braves this weekend also will surpass the 12-million mark in total attendance at Truist Park since the stadium opened in 2017, Schiller said.

The Braves’ attendance this season is bucking a trend around MLB as the sport struggles to get back to pre-COVID level crowds. Attendance league-wide before the All-Star break was down 6% from the same point in 2019, with 21 of the 30 MLB teams showing declines, according to a report.

The Braves currently rank third among MLB teams in average home attendance, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (47,883) and St. Louis Cardinals (38,832.)

Although the Braves’ local TV ratings for the season to date are up only slightly from last year, they have shown larger gains of late, according to Bally Sports South/Southeast.

Ratings in June were up 20% from the same month last year, and ratings so far in July are up 30%, Bally said. Not coincidentally, the Braves won 33 of 44 games from June 1 until the All-Star break.

The Braves’ three highest-rated telecasts of the season on Bally have come this month: 4.17 in the Atlanta market for the July 7 game against St. Louis, 4.15 for the July 11 game against the New York Mets and 4.07 for the July 12 game against the Mets.

The rating is the number of households, out of every 100 in the market, watching on average.

One drag on viewership is that the Bally-branded regional sports networks remain unavailable on Dish Network and popular streaming services YouTube TV and Hulu. Five MLB teams have addressed that issue by reaching deals with Bally Sports to have their games streamed on a direct-to-consumer $20-per-month app, but the Braves are not among them.

No resolution to the issue appears in sight.

“This is a challenging part of the equation right now,” Schiller said. “It’s something we’re working very hard to figure out – us and Bally’s and Major League Baseball. It’s not something that gets solved easily because there are all sorts of contracts at play, but it is a front-of-burner issue for us.”

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