Salt River Fields was the only new ballpark to open in 2011, when it drew rave reviews and plenty of fans (10,888 average a game).
A new ballpark was the big story of spring training in 2011, as the Diamondbacks' and Rockies' joint facility on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community's reservation drew large crowds all spring long, enabling the two teams to draw more fans than any other in either Arizona or Florida. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which was fully funded by the two tribes on whose land it stands, collectively attracted 359,308 fans to the 33 games that were played in the 11,000-seat stadium.
Overall, 474 sanctioned spring training games were played in Arizona and Florida in 26 ballparks and a total of 3,185,569 fans paid to see them.
In the Cactus League, 235 games were played by 15 teams in 11 ballparks. Total attendance was 1,613,853, an average of 6,867 per game. Six games were rained out, all on March 21. Two of the league's games were played in Tucson, and they drew 18,239 fans for games that benefited the families who were directly affected by the Tucson area shooting on January 8 that most notably critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Both games were played at Kino Stadium, which was known as Tucson Electric Park during its 13 seasons of Cactus League use. The 2011 season was the first one since 1946 in which spring training was not permanently held in Tucson. The opening of Salt River Fields just east of Scottsdale lured Tucson's two remaining teams, the Diamondbacks and Rockies, into the metropolitan Phoenix area, where all 15 of the Cactus League's teams now train within 50 miles of each other.
In the Grapefruit League, 239 games were played by 15 teams in 15 ballparks. Total attendance was 1,571,716, an average of 6,576 per game. Just three games were rained out, all of them on March 28. Additionally, another 28,504 paid to watch eight games that were played by Major League clubs against collegiate or non-MLB teams.
The average attendance for a spring training game in 2011 was 6,721, which was up 68 fans per game from 2010, when 432 games drew a total of 2,873,880 fans to Cactus and Grapefruit League ballparks.
Salt River Fields was the only new ballpark to open in 2011, but Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium reopened following an extensive offseason renovation that transformed the aging stadium, which had opened in 1989, into a modern ballpark. Elsewhere in Florida, Fort Myers' City of Palms Park, home to the Red Sox since 1993, hosted its final Grapefruit League game on March 29. The Red Sox were the sole team moving into a new facility in 2012, which is when JetBlue Park opened less than 10 miles from the now tenantless City of Palms Park.
2011 Attendance Rankings
(home games only, ranked by per game average)
Graham Knight has been to spring training in Florida 11 times and has made 4 visits to Arizona for the same purpose. In 2009, he completed the hard to complete task of seeing a game in each of the 26 spring training ballparks in use that year by Cactus and Grapefruit League teams. He has seen multiple games in every current spring training ballpark and has visited the practice complexes used by each team. In addition to the ballpark guides he has written for this Web site, Knight has published the Arizona Spring Training Ballpark Guide since 2010 and plans to release the Florida version in time for the 2012 season.