So Rick Maese’s column in this morning’s edition of The Sun that chronicled the struggles of downtown businesses who are suffering because of declining baseball-related revenues elicited a response from Orioles Communications Chief Greg Bader.
Side note: Rick should be happy he received a response at all. I’ve e-mailed or text messaged Bader on a variety of subjects and received no response in recent weeks.
Anyway, here’s what Bader offered in response to Maese’s Tuesday column:
Greg Bader: “The study demonstrates that the Orioles provide an overwhelmingly positive economic impact to the region and the local community.”
Well, I guess you could say that much IS true. The Orioles DO provide a positive economic impact to the region and the local community.
Unfortunately, as Mr. Bader knows, that’s NOT what Maese’s story was pointing out. Maese’s column connected with a lot of the same comments I’ve made over the last year or two…that businesses in downtown Baltimore who previously prospered are no longer in the same financial situation because the team’s attendance has declined so much over the years that they’ve lost 50%-60% of their summertime business.
As one local, close-to-Camden-Yards-restauranteur told me a month ago: “When I purchased this place, I did so TOTALLY because of baseball. We didn’t have a football team when I decided to PUT UP MY LIFE SAVINGS (read that again and see if it doesn’t hit home) to buy this restaurant so I did it all on the promise of baseball. From ’93 until about 2001, I had an average of about 75-80 phenomenal nights (or days, depending on the O’s schedule). In fact, about 45% of my annual business was brought in on those nights (days) when the baseball team was at home. Now, I have 20 phenomenal nights – when Boston and New York come to town – and the other 60 games are just like any other day in Baltimore. Between May 1 and September 1, my business is down by nearly 55% over my numbers in 2000.”
You see Mr. Bader, that guy – and others in the downtown marketplace who own businesses (and that could mean taxi drivers, hotel bartenders, restaurant owners, peanut vendors, etc.) – don’t care that the Birds, as you say, “make a positive economic impact”. What they care about is this: Once upon a time when the team was drawing fans to the ballpark, their livelihoods were reflective of the team’s efforts to win, care about the fans, and bring people downtown 81 days a year. Now that the team’s attendance has dropped off dramatically, those same people are struggling. Get it? It’s simple, really. When the team does well and people attend the games, everyone benefits. When the team stinks and people stop attending games, everyone suffers.
You can try all the fancy-schmancy PR talk you want, but that’s the truth.