3. Chicago Blackhawks
> Sport: Hockey
> 10 year attendance increase: 64.3%
> Avg. home game attendance: 21,679
> Avg. capacity filled: 110.4%
The Chicago Blackhawks, like the Pittsburgh Penguins, have also likely seen success as a result of past failure. The team was one of the worst in the NHL between 2003 and 2007. During that time, the team was able to draft Jonathan Toews in 2006 and Patrick Kane in 2007. Each player would come to have a tremendous impact on the Blackhawks, which, by the 2008-2009 season, were on track to becoming a dynasty. The Blackhawks have been to the playoffs every year since that season, have played in five conference finals, and have won three Stanley Cups, including last year’s. This rapid transition from one of the worst teams in hockey to the most dominant team in the NHL is likely the reason Chicago has seen an incredible nearly 65% increase in attendance over that time.
2. Arizona Cardinals
> Sport: Football
> 10 year attendance increase: 69.2%
> Avg. home game attendance: 64,185
> Avg. capacity filled: 98.7%
The Arizona Cardinals exited the playoffs this week, losing the NFC Championship to the Carolina Panthers, but the team has much to celebrate regardless. A decade ago, the team was in the middle of a playoff drought that would prove to last for nearly a decade. One of the moves that would turn the Cardinals’ fortunes around was drafting receiver Larry Fitzgerald in 2004. Fitzgerald now has attended nine Pro Bowls, and at 32 is still Arizona’s dominant receiver. Fitzgerald was an important contributor to the team’s Super Bowl run in 2008, which ended in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fitzgerald had an excellent year in 2015, recording a career-best 109 catches. The team’s defense, too, has been one of the best in the NFL. Arizona’s attendance increased by a whopping 69.2% between 2004 and 2014.
1. Kansas City Royals
> Sport: Baseball
> 10 year attendance increase: 92.7%
> Avg. home game attendance: 33,438
> Avg. capacity filled: 88.2%
A team’s fortunes can be hard to predict, and it is likely that anyone polled on August 19, 2005, would hardly have believed the team would soon find success. On that date, the Royals had just lost their 19th straight game and were on their way to recording the worst record in baseball — winning less than 35% of that year’s games. That season, the team had an average attendance of just 17,356 per game, which was the second lowest total in baseball, and amounted to just 42.5% of stadium capacity. 2005 marked the 20th season the Royals missed the postseason, a streak that would become 29 seasons before the team’s fortunes would turn. It was much later, in 2014, when the team secured a wild-card berth and then won eight straight games to secure a spot in the World Series — which it lost in seven games to the San Francisco Giants. The following year, the Royals had the best record in the American League — and this time won it all. In 2015, the Royals filled 88.2% of seats, which was the fifth best average fill rate in baseball and also an incredible 92.7% increase from 2005.