Filling Oriole Park Has Nothing To Do With Fans

August 29, 2012 | Thyrl Nelson

This is a great time to be an Orioles fan. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the absence of expectations coupled with the success of this team has created a perfect storm of circumstance that’ll make this (regardless of the way that it ends) likely the most exciting season of Orioles baseball since 1989 at least. And given that it took 14 years of futility to sap this fan base of its enthusiasm and optimism we can only hope that another season like this will never happen again.

That said, the excitement that is Orioles baseball 2012 hasn’t seemed to get the turnstiles at the stadium moving, at least not to the degree that many would have expected so far. That’s led to a spirited debate about what can and should be done to get back the fans as well as a number of divergent theories about what’s keeping them away now despite the successes of the team to date.


So, for what it’s worth…here’s mine:


The first and easiest reason why fans aren’t flocking to the ballpark right now is because they can.


On any given night, it’s easy to head to the ballpark without planning or preparation, pick up tickets for any seat in the house and enjoy the show. Therefore, there’s simply no urgency about having to do it today. For as long as that remains the case, fans will take to the ballpark whenever they’re good and ready and so far they just haven’t been ready.


While many expected that winning would bring back the fans, expecting it to happen overnight was just wrong. It’s my best guess that if the excitement of this season is going to get more folks out to the park, the real impact won’t be felt until next year with the purchase of new season tickets. My other best guess, and the tougher pill for fans to swallow is that this won’t happen by the team appeasing or satisfying the “regular fans”. As ticket selling priorities go, “regular fans” are and will remain at the bottom of the pecking order. If the Orioles are able to take care of the top end of that pecking order, the regular fans will simply fall back into line because they’ll have little choice.


Think for a second about why or how Oriole Park ever sold out regularly in the first place. Think about why or how any Major League ballpark sells out regularly. It starts with a firm base of season tickets sold. Since this season began with no expectation of success or of ticket scarcity, it stands to reason that there wasn’t a whole lot of urgency for anyone to buy or renew their season tickets. No reason, that is, except to avoid the game day surcharge.


Without getting off on too much of a tangent here, this is also why the surcharge is viewed by the team, as a necessary evil. We’ve already established that on any given night a fan can show up on a whim and buy pretty much any seat in the house. Therefore why would fans ever buy any tickets in advance, much less commit to 13, 26, 81 or some other fixed number of games in a season ticket package when they can simply show up and buy tickets whenever they want?


Thursday September 13th against the Rays looks to me like a nice day to take in a ballgame. But if I buy those tickets today, and my wife winds up sick, or it rains on September 13th, I’m stuck with them. If Wei-Yin Chen is pitching against David Price on the 12th, I might rather go to that game instead. If I can wait until the day of the game to decide, there’s no reason to buy in advance except to avoid the surcharge, there are however plenty of good reasons not to buy in advance.

7 Comments For This Post

  1. Chuck Says:

    Thanks. This is a refreshingly smart and thoughtful analysis. It lacks the over-the-top narcissism of your boss.

  2. Mike from Carney Says:

    I was told the access to the stadium is limited, due to the Grand Prix closings of most streets.

  3. justafan Says:

    Eliminate the surcharge and discontinue that stupid prime game extra charge for all opening day,Yankees and Red Sox games. The prices should remain the same for all games with no exceptions. Are the Red Sox worthy of prime game status this year? I don’t think so!

  4. bill Says:

    Finally an intelligent, well thought out take on the situation. Plus you have to realize, the economy was a whole lot different when they were winning. The middle class just does not have the budget to go to a huge number of games…
    The rest of the talking rear ends at WNST should learn a lesson from your blog.

  5. John in Westminster Says:

    Interesting points. However, season ticket purchases will not increase from businesses anymore because of the economy. Most business have removed entertainment expenses from the budget entirely. So things like golf, department lunches and baseball tickets are frankly a thing of the past.

  6. waspman Says:

    Thyrl, you might be the only person at ‘NST who didn’t doze off in ECON class after the supply/demand cartoon was shown or say, “Ewwwww,” when a word problem came up in MATH class.

    Two facts about attendance. It is driven by tickets sold, not bodies through the turnstiles. Game-day walk-up attendance is the least important factor.

    The most important factor in a team’s attendance is season ticket plans. Second comes advance sales. Then and only then comes game-day walk-up. (There are exceptions like Steve Carlton in Philly, The Bird in Detroit, Fernando-mania in LA, and maybe the 1-23 O’s of ’88.)

    When walk-ups get less than desirable seats, they will resort to advance sales. When that stops working, people will pool together and get a season ticket plan. There are other minor factors, mentioned and unmentioned, but that is the basic blueprint.

    This makes attendance a lagging indicator. A lagging indicator is the opposite of a leading indicator some people may have heard when suffering through a business report while waiting for the latest Doppler pictures from space.

    Here’s a simple example. The Orioles drew 2,624,740 fans in 2005 — fifth best in the AL. Yes, some were dressed as empty seats, but still 2.6 million. It wasn’t the team. They were playing their eighth straight losing season. It wasn’t the ballpark. It was entering its 14th season, and 15 (fifteen!) newer MLB ballparks had opened between 1992 and then.

    While some are boo-hooing the attendance of the Chicago series — and Drew isn’t the only one — here are some real time facts for those who won’t take a snooze at their presentation.

    The Orioles are averaging 24,947 per game this year through their 6-0 win over the White Sox. That’s 3,275 more per game than last year. Given the general expectations surrounding the team for 2012, I doubt much of that was season ticket sales.

    And that’s not all.

    Despite the increase in overall attendance, the home attendance for Yankees and Red Sox games are down from 2011. Attendance for O’s v. NYY is down 6,250 per game. Attendance for O’s v. BOS is down 1,082 per game.

    And, yet, overall home attendance is up 3,275 per game.

    And here’s the kicker. The overall home attendance average per game for 2012 (24,947) is higher than versus NYY (22,721) and BOS (23,888).

    Thems the facts, hon. Pass the hankie. There must be something real for the whiners to belly-ache about.

  7. BudIce05 Says:

    Support your team Baltimore!!! It’s pretty bad that a person like myself who even though I have a full time job, have expenses, and putting a daughter thru college still makes a 1/2 dozen games per year and I live over 3 hours away (even though there are other MLB stadiums closer). And just buy the ticket, screw the outrageous concession prices.This team has alot of likeable people on the O’s just like the 1979-83 O’s and a top tier manager to boot. Thousands of Empty seats at these critcal games is embarassing and it does not bode well for the Baltimore fans. Quit the excuses (and whining about Napolean Pete) and fill those seats!! This TEAM needs and deserves a helluva lot more support than they have been getting lately!!

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