The Twins’ home season ended Thursday with the lowest total annual attendance in Target Field’s history, excluding pandemic-affected years.
Just 23,397 came out on Thursday to see the Twins – officially eliminated Wednesday night from the playoffs – lose to the White Sox 4-3. Chicago’s win ended its eight-game losing streak and put the White Sox ahead of the Twins for second place in American League Central.
And there were plenty of empty seats to witness, despite the sunny fall afternoon.
The Twins had a total attendance this year of 1,801,128, ranking 20th out of 30 MLB teams. When Target Field opened in 2010, it drew its highest total of over 3.2 million. There were no fans during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. And 2021 has attracted just north of 1.3 million, although there have been capacity limits for half of this season, including starting with just 10,000 fans.
Before the pandemic, the Twins averaged about 30,116 fans per game. This year, that number has dropped to 22,236.
“I’m surprised and almost disappointed that we didn’t do better in the second half of the season,” said Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter. “…The way we played coming out of the gate, we got off to a good start, and I expected our assist to jump more than they did.
“It jumped up, but it didn’t reach the level I was hoping for, which would have been back to the pre-pandemic period, maybe 2019.”
Saint-Pierre cited a few reasons for the decline. The first was the lockdown, which delayed ticket sales as people were less inclined to buy when they didn’t know when – or if – the season would start. The signing of free agent great Carlos Correa helped boost that in the last two weeks of March.
The Twins are looking at everything from how they market the team to ticket prices to different communities to attract new fans. But St. Peter said some parts of the problem are beyond his control.
One is the economy, with inflation after the peak of the pandemic making it harder for people to spend on luxuries like entertainment. Another is the “public safety narrative” in the Twin Cities, as St. Peter said many are still hesitant to come to downtown Minneapolis after unrest stemming from the 2020 killing of George Floyd and a recent increase in violence.
St. Peter said he was not aware of any fans having security issues coming to or from a Twins game in the past two seasons.
“I want to be clear on this: I’m not suggesting that public safety is an excuse for knowing where our presence is,” St. Peter said. “It’s a factor, but I’m not saying it’s one we’re hoping and praying for to improve. We have to do our part to do a better job of connecting with the fan base.”
Thursday’s game was won on Jose Abreu’s RBI double in the eighth, which broke a 3-3 tie. It came after Twins second baseman Nick Gordon missed a fly ball for a two base error.
Gordon netted a two-run brace in the first, but the Twins failed to score again until Ryan Jeffers’ tight bunt in the sixth tied the game at 3. Before that, the White Sox scored on the triple Romy Gonzalez’s RBI and Mark Payton’s RBI. singles, both on third, plus Andrew Vaughn’s sacrificial fly on sixth.
The Twins’ Luis Arraez was 2 for 4, meaning he leads the AL batting race at .315 with Yankees judge Aaron inactive at .313 as he chases the Triple Crown. Arraez said he feeds off the energy of the crowd and noticed on road trips to Chicago how much more robust attendance seemed there.
But Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said his side were responsible for attracting more people to the stands. While the Twins were better at home (46-35) than away (30-45) this season, they missed their chances in the playoffs, which certainly hurt attendance late in the season.
“When you play well, people support you,” Baldelli said. “It’s our goal to go out there and play better when we come back here to Target Field next season.”
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