Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goldeyes the big fish in attendance

Top draw in independent baseball for another year

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You love them, you really love them.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes found out Tuesday that they led all independent professional baseball teams in North America with an average attendance of 5,740 fans per game in the 2011 season.

That was measured over 48 openings. The club had two rain-outs resulting in games made up as doubleheaders.

It is the 10th time in the past 11 seasons that the Goldeyes achieved the top attendance mark in independent baseball, which includes 51 teams in Canada and the U.S. The Goldeyes had finished second last season to the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. In 2011, the Goldeyes registered nearly 200 more fans per game than Long Island.

"We are really happy, a number of factors contributed to it with the most important being a good product on the field will always bring people out," said Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier.

"The big thing that jumps out is 33 home wins, a franchise record, and I think the huge fan support had a lot to do with it. The players love playing in front of large crowds and we have that in Winnipeg."

Collier noted the Goldeyes tried several new game-day promotions including pre-game meet-and-greet with at least four players per home game. The players, in full uniforms, would meet fans and sign autographs outside the main doors an hour before game time.

Another big hit was the second annual "Vegas" night when staff dressed like Las Vegas casino workers and an Elvis impersonator entertained before and during the game.

"The good weather we had in July and August really helped not just in terms of tickets sold but people in seats," Collier said. "Last summer was one of the wettest on record and this summer was one of the driest. It just felt different this year because of the warm weather."

The Goldeyes were one of just five independent teams to record an increase in attendance in the 2011 season. In the AA, only Winnipeg, Sioux City Explorers and Wichita Wingnuts had their average attendances increase.

In the AA, the Goldeyes also led the league with a total attendance of 275,521 over the team's 48 home dates.

Kansas City T-Bones were the second-best AA team, checking in at fourth overall among the independent teams with an average attendance of 5,222.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2011 C6

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