Blame the Team, Not the Fans, For Attendance Woes

Over the past week, there has been way too much talk about the Orioles attendance…so hey, what’s one more opinion?

After 14 years of losing, the Orioles have strung together multiple consecutive winning seasons, so of course that means the ballpark should be packed just like it was in 1997, right?

Wrong. Clearly that is not the case.

There has been much hand-wringing about the fans not being appreciative and about how we need to get behind and support this team.

We all agree that baseball is more fun with a full stadium, and we all WANT a full stadium, from the owner down through the players and to us fans.

So, why is it half empty? Who is at fault?

It can’t be the players. While they’re scuffling at the moment, they have the best record in baseball over the last four seasons. For so many years, all we asked for were meaningful September games. Well, guess what? Here we are again on September 1st with meaningful games.

The players have taken care of business on the field and held up their end of the bargain.

It is not the fault of the fans. Remember those 14 years of losing? Remember the feeling that you were the only Os fan? For those younger than me, were you an Orioles fan before 2012? I can’t blame you if you weren’t.

Everything has changed with the Orioles fan base. People in Maryland (not just the city of Baltimore) are paying attention. TV ratings are huge – near the top of all teams. People are wearing orange and cheering on the team.

Still, we all have reasons to not go to the game, and that HD television definitely entices many folks to sit at home or head to the bar.

You can’t blame the fans because they are on board, even if they’re not at the Yard.

So clearly, I’m going to blame ownership, right?

It is Peter Angelos’ fault!

Just kidding. I can’t put this on Peter.

However, I WILL lay the blame squarely at the feet of others in The Warehouse. The Orioles’ marketing/PR department is not helping people become Orioles fans, and they’re not doing their part to fill those empty seats.

I have been a season ticket holder for over 20 years. While I hear many complaints about the O’s ticket reps, I have no issues at all with mine; he does great.

However, since the Orioles started winning again, the season ticket holder “Orange Carpet” benefits have slowly gone away.

Most recently, this year they took away access to the club level for season ticket holders. In years past, anybody with an Orange Carpet card (that is, any season ticket holder) could go onto the club level, regardless of where your actual seats are located. No more.

Last year, they removed guaranteed Opening Day and postseason ticket access from folks with 13-game plans, instead only guaranteeing them to those with 29- and 81-game plans. We chose to upgrade our plan, but many did not, and this left a sour taste in the mouth of plenty of long-time loyal customers.

To be sure, there are still great reasons to be a season ticket holder, and we will continue to buy them every season. The fact remains that the Orioles could do a lot better for those who commit to this team year after year.

A few years ago the Orioles introduced “dynamic pricing.” We were all concerned that this was just another way for them to charge more when the Yankees come to town, but the front office insisted this was good for the fans. We heard plenty about how this change would actually make it more affordable to go to certain games.

Well, now I’m asking: where are those games?

True dynamic pricing would see prices adjusted up or down based on demand. So here we are with plenty of empty seats in the stadium and I have not seen a single price drop.

We live in a world where the Orioles can cut prices and get the word out immediately. What’s stopping them from saying, “hey, it’s a Monday night and the nosebleeds are empty, let’s cut those tickets to $10 for walk ups.”

Put the price drop out on the various O’s social media accounts in the morning, and I guarantee many of those empty seats would be filled come game time.

What else?

Oh, right. This year, all giveaways moved to weekend and premium games. Suddenly it feels like I’m paying extra for the bobblehead.

Do I need a giveaway to go to a game? No. However, these giveaways aren’t designed to attract die-hard fans. They’re meant to bring in the average fan. Remember t-shirt Tuesdays? Bargain nights? Both have gone the way of the Dodo (or David Lough). Is it any surprise that mid-week games are so empty?

Last week, when the O’s were in D.C., I went to Nationals Park for a game. What did I see? Some very creative marketing. The Nationals are selling a “September pass.” For $75 you get into all 15 home games this month.

Sure, it’s standing room only but here’s the point – it gets people in the park. And remember, the Nationals aren’t some down-on-their-luck team; they lead the NL East by nine games!

During those 14 years of losing, the Orioles were creative. They sold mini-packages; they sold tickets that came with an all-you-can-eat coupon.

Remember when they had games where you would get another ticket if the Orioles lost?

That is creative. That’s what they need more of.

Blaming fans for the lack of attendance at O’s games is shortsighted, lazy, and absolves the team of any responsibility in a way that, quite frankly, they don’t deserve.

In what other industry do you blame the customer if the business can’t sell its product?

In a perfect world, winning should be enough – folks would be lining up to see this team play. However, as we can all see with our own eyes every night, the winning clearly is not enough. Instead of chastising the fans, let’s ask what the team is doing to fix the problem.

I love going to Oriole Park, but it is the responsibility of the team to give fans a reason to come to the stadium and spend more money on food and beer, rather than eat and drink at home while watching in glorious HD.