03 June 2013

A Winning Team in Baltimore Brings Back the Fans

One concern that often filled the deepest crevices of Orioles fan brains was the concern that maybe that subset of hollering, annoying Ravens fans were right.  Baltimore left baseball and became a Ravens town completely.  You know the type of fan I am referring to…the one that for some inexplicable reason needs to have his Ravens dominate all sports conversations.  Many of those fans were in full force during the unfortunate NFL fiasco that prevented the football team from opening up the 2013 NFL season in Baltimore.

Now, as an individual with sentimentality toward the Orioles those attacks on the team were annoying, but they also carried with them the possibility of truth.  The past ten years have been pretty harsh on the idea that a winning team or a great new ballpark will bring fans out to the yard.  The major examples were how the Miami Marlins’ stadium simply has not produced the funds needed for Jeffrey Loria to maintain an MLB quality team.  Another example is how the Rays’ annual winning ways has not produced a raving fan base capable of making the team actually somewhat competitive in any free agent hunt.  Perhaps even more of a concern would be how the Indians fan base, once a shining example of what fans should be, has not really reemerged.  So, too, was there that fear that over a decade of losing would crush Baltimore’s spirit for baseball.

Yesterday was my first appearance at Camden Yards, their 28th home game.  The previous two years I had been present as well for this Sunday game as if I was magnetically drawn to the Brooks Robinson High School All Star game that plays afterward or the torrential downpours that also seem to be attracted to this date.  Anyway, it struck me quite forcefully that there were a whole lot of people at the game.  The stands no longer had that ever present green that I saw so often in my Sunday sojourns of years past.  The announced tally was 39,182 in attendance.  It felt like it.

Shortly thereafter, Mark Brown over at Camden Chat tweeted about how the Orioles were bringing in a little over 2,000 more per game this season.  I thought that was impressive, but I also wondered how different it actually was over time.  The city took a little while to get used to the team (and still had issues later in the year trying to fill the stadium even a third full some nights–which prompted Adam Jones to complain during the first week of school) and the first few months of a season are always poor for attendance with the uneven cool weather and school in session.  Anyway, through the first 28 games of 2012, 649,809 had been in attendance.  2013?  801, 349, an increase of 23% or an average of 5,412 additional fans each game and, you know, those are Baltimore fans in attendance.
That bump up in attendance should pay dividends to the team and help it moving forward by showing the owners that fans are still willing to pay.  You see, this is what it is really about…convincing ownership to put out money.  This is similar to what fueled Philadelphia’s playoff run.  Ownership finally realized that fans were willing to pay as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Aaron Rowand started bringing in the wins.  That led to a prime Jim Thome acquisition and then later arrivals of guys like Cliff Lee et al.  The Orioles may be at a similar forefront of an attendance boom.

Based on things like parking, tickets, and concessions…you may be able to assume that the Orioles are pulling in about $25 of profit for each new attendee.  If the 5,412 fan increase continues, then the team may be looking at an additional 438,372 in attendance, which could bring in $10,959,300 in additional profit.  However, this attendance means something else as well…future ticket price increases.  Orioles fans enjoy one of the lowest cost outings in baseball and it may well be time for the team to be more like Philly.  It might be something more easily accepted if there was not such a harsh feeling toward the current primary owner, but it likely is something that will need to happen for this team to retain its top talent and add more to it.

Below is the season to date cumulative attendance for Camden Yards with last season in comparison.

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