7. Detroit Tigers
> Sport: Baseball
> 10 year attendance increase: 33.0%
> Avg. home game attendance: 33,654
> Avg. capacity filled: 81.6%
Behind triple-crown winning slugger Miguel Cabrera and ace pitcher Justin Verlander, among others, the Tigers have been one of the better teams in baseball. In 2005, the Tigers had the fourth worst record in the American League, winning just 44% of their games. That year, roughly 25,000 fans attended the average Tigers home game, filling approximately 63% of seats at Comerica Park. Ten years and six postseason appearances later — including two World Series appearances — an average of roughly 33,600 fans attended every game last season, filling more than 80% of seats. This is despite the team having its second worst season since 2005 that year, finishing second last in the American League.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
> Sport: Baseball
> 10 year attendance increase: 34.1%
> Avg. home game attendance: 30,846
> Avg. capacity filled: 80.4%
Since the early 1990s, the Pittsburgh Pirates have seemed doomed to spend every postseason on the outside looking in. The team finished fourth or worse in the National League’s Central or East Division in 18 of the 20 seasons from 1993 through 2012 and did not make it to the playoffs once during that time. Those 20 seasons without a postseason attendance represented one of the longest in the history of North American professional sports at the time. However, the past three seasons have marked a remarkable turnaround for the Pirates. While the team has not made it past the divisional round, it has finished in the top five in the National League, including a second place finish last year after a 98 win, 64 loss season.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
> Sport: Baseball
> 10 year attendance increase: 38.7%
> Avg. home game attendance: 34,504
> Avg. capacity filled: 70.0%
The Toronto Blue Jays have been Canada’s only MLB team since the Montreal Expos left the city to become the Washington Nationals in 2005. The Blue Jays followed back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 with a 21-season postseason drought. In 2005, the team filled less than half its seats, the fourth worst average rate in baseball that year. The Blue Jays continued to underperform even after adding several significant star players to their roster in 2013 and increasing payroll by more than 50%. That year, the team still finished fourth in the American League’s East Division. The team missed the playoffs again in 2014, but it appears the push to be competitive was finally successful last year. The Blue Jays finished second in the American League last season and won an exciting American League Divisional Series over the Texas Rangers before being eliminated by eventual World Series Champions, Kansas City. Last season marked a 38.7% increase in home attendance for the Blue Jays compared to a decade prior.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
> Sport: Hockey
> 10 year attendance increase: 56.7%
> Avg. home game attendance: 18,617
> Avg. capacity filled: 101.3%
The Pittsburgh Penguins are a classic example of how several abysmal seasons, while damaging to a team’s reputation and revenue at the time, can potentially result in massive increase in attendance. With stars like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, the Penguins have been one of the better teams in hockey more often than not in the team’s nearly 50-year history. However, after the conclusion of the 2000-2001 season, the Penguins entered a considerable slump. In each of the following four seasons, the team finished last in the Atlantic Conference and was second-to-last or last in the entire league in three of those four seasons. These poor finishes translated to high NHL lottery draft picks, however, which the team converted into stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Staal. Behind these stars, the Penguins returned to the playoffs in 2006-2007 and have not missed them since, winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.