Upgrades to McKechnie Field upped its capacity by 1,898 in 2013, when an outfield boardwalk and accompanying seating were added.
For the first time in five years, no team made a debut at a new site or ballpark in 2013, when all teams spent more time than normal in their spring training camps thanks to the World Baseball Classic.
Because of the WBC, spring training was expanded by a week, which allowed for 515 games to be played, the first time the 500-game mark had been surpassed since 2009, when the WBC last interrupted spring training.
To help teams prepare for the WBC, MLB teams played 10 of the participating countries in 20 exhibition games that added an international flair to Cactus and Grapefruit League schedules and contributed to the grand total of 3,425,705 fans who paid to watch baseball during 2013 spring training at 27 ballparks in Arizona and Florida.
In the Cactus League, 255 games were played by 15 teams in 12 ballparks. Total attendance was 1,743,443, an average of 6,837 per game. Nine games were rained out, all on March 8. Two of the league's games were played at Tucson's Kino Stadium, and they drew 21,942 fans to the former spring training home of the Diamondbacks and White Sox. The Diamondbacks' current regular season home, Chase Field, also hosted two games, contributing 28,907 fans to the 2013 Cactus League total.
In the Grapefruit League, 260 games were played by 15 teams in 15 ballparks. Total attendance was 1,682,262, an average of 6,546 per game. Just two games were rained out. The Rays played one official spring training game in their regular season dome, Tropicana Field, and it drew 15,167, while another 13,049 were added to the final tally as that's how many paid to watch a small number of games between Major League clubs and collegiate teams.
The average attendance for a spring training game in 2013 was 6,691, which was down 536 fans per game from 2012, when 465 games drew a total of 3,360,742 fans to Cactus and Grapefruit League ballparks.
While no new ballparks opened in 2013, a very old one got a new and updated look, as Bradenton's McKechnie Field (est. 1923) was the beneficiary of a $10 million upgrade, which increased its capacity (from 6,602 to 8,500) and added numerous amenities. The Pirates' spring training home became the fourth Florida ballpark to be substantially renovated in a 5-year span, as the Sunshine State continues to invest in improving facilities to prevent teams from bolting to Arizona.
The Dodgers bolted from Florida to Arizona in 2009, and in 2013 they hosted the largest crowd to ever attend a game in a spring training ballpark -- 13,721 -- for their March 23 game against their complex mates, the White Sox, at Glendale's Camelback Ranch. The new record bested the old one, which the Dodgers set the previous spring at Camelback Ranch, by 66 fans.
Long synonymous with big crowds has been Mesa's Hohokam Park, but the Cubs bid their mere 16-year old ballpark adieu in 2013. They drew 2,610,736 fans to Hohokam for 264 games but the ballpark won't be hosting any games in 2014, when the Cubs will still be playing in Mesa but a few miles west of where they've been since 1997 thanks to the construction of a new, and approximately $100 million, world-class facility that the city is builiding for the franchise that has never played in a World Series during the history of the Cactus League.
Hohokam's not done as a spring training ballpark, however. It will just be on a one-year hiatus, as the ballpark is being downsized to welcome the Cactus League's most decorated franchise, the four-time World Series champion Oakland A's, come 2015.
2013 Attendance Rankings
(home games only, ranked by per game average)
At the conclusion of 2013, Graham Knight had been to spring training in Florida 15 times and had made 5 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 released the debut of the Florida edition prior to the 2012 spring training season.