Oriole attendance could hit a 30-year low - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Oriole attendance could hit a 30-year low

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

BALTIMORE—The crowd for Monday night’s game at Oriole Park was 15,436, and it wasn’t a surprise. The Orioles have the worst record in baseball, and their average attendance this year is 21,104. That projects to an annual figure of 1,667,216.

For the moment, the Orioles are on track for their lowest attendance since they drew 1,660,738 in 1988, four years before they moved into Camden Yards.

The year’s only sellout came on Opening Day with an announced crowd of 45,469.

Since then, the Orioles have drawn just five crowds of more than 30,000. Their second-highest figure came on June 30 when they drew 38,838.

On April 9, they drew the lowest-paid crowd in the 26-year history of Oriole Park, 7,915, and there were three more games in April that had fewer than 10,000 paid admissions.

Last season, the Orioles drew 2,028,424, their sixth consecutive season over 2 million, but their projected figure for 2018 shows a drop of nearly 18 percent.

As Yahoo’s Jeff Passan’s pointed out, the Orioles’ fall is hardly an isolated instance. Major League Baseball is poised for its first season of fewer than 70 million paid admissions since 2003.

Entering Monday’s game, the Orioles were 23rd in average attendance.

It’s obvious that the Orioles on-field performance is the major factor in their drop. But there are other factors, many of which are not in the ballclub’s control.

In 2005, the first season for the Washington Nationals, the Orioles drew 2.62 million. As more Washington-area fans began going to Nationals games, Oriole attendance dropped.

By 2010, the third season of Nationals Park and the 13th straight losing season for the Orioles, attendance dropped to 1.73 million, but as the team’s fortunes improved, so did attendance.

In 2014, when the Orioles won the American League East for the first time since 1997, attendance hit 2,464,473,  and it’s fallen since.

Riots in April 2015 forced the Orioles to move a three-game series against Tampa Bay to St. Petersburg, Fla., and games against Chicago were made up as a single-admission doubleheader and most notably in the game without any fans at all.

Perception that the city is unsafe has hurt the Orioles as well as other downtown attractions. Since the riots, many restaurants in the Camden Yards area have closed, and despite the ballpark and area surrounding it being well-policed, the belief that the area is unsafe remains.

Another long-term factor hurting the Orioles, particularly during the week, is the traffic between Baltimore and Washington, which has increased travel times during the ballpark’s life.

On top of those are industry-wide concerns about the length of games, and fans’ complaints that the games are not as interesting because of more strikeouts.

The Orioles have tried to market aggressively during this difficult year. Most prominently was their “Kids Cheer Free” campaign, allowing children under 9 admittance without a charge if an adult buys an upper-deck ticket.

They’ve also added many promotions, including a postgame yoga session on the field, “Bark at Oriole Park,” where fans can bring their dogs to certain sections, an LGBT Pride night, and a Sept. 16 event in which fans can eat brunch at the Center Field Roof Deck.

Other events have included a Star Wars themed-night, many tie-ins with local and regional colleges and a Wrestlemania event set for September.

Although some of those events may be popular, there’s no substitute for competitive baseball, and with the Orioles heading for their worst record in team history, games alone aren’t going to attract new and casual fans.

Inclement weather also has been a factor, both in Baltimore and throughout the Northeast and Midwest. The Orioles have had six rainouts, five of them at home and 14 rain delays—12 at home—totaling more than 12 hours.

Even the Orioles’ longtime rivals, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, have failed to attract big home crowds. For years, Yankees’ games were often sellouts, and this year’s biggest crowd for them (32,823) came on June 2. Only one of the nine games against the Red Sox drew even 25,000.

The Orioles have no more home games against Boston and New York, and eight of their remaining 15 home dates are with the Blue Jays and White Sox, two of the American League’s bottom feeders. Oakland and Houston, two other teams that don’t historically draw well in Baltimore, play the other seven games.

Selling season tickets for 2019 will undoubtedly be difficult for the Orioles. With a poor record and few widely recognized players, it will be even harder.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. PA Bird Lover

    August 28, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Here again one must arguably consider our dense ownership. From a layman’s point of view, they should have been gradually working in younger players all along. The way it was handled by fire sale left us with players not quite ready for the majors.

    • VICTORTEE

      August 28, 2018 at 8:42 am

      They brought up the minor leaguers who deserved it – Machado, Schoop, Mancini. Unfortunately our farm has been full of aaaa guys with no real potential. Is that ownership’s fault or Dan”s or
      scouts or development? Who knows?

      • Rich Dubroff

        August 28, 2018 at 1:20 pm

        Player development is the key to a strong organization, Victor, and it will probably take several years to see the fruits of the new investment in it.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      PA, some of those young players, Mychal Givens and Trey Mancini, were worked in. Others, Chance Sisco for example, didn’t perform well. Not enough quality minor leaguers produced and others traded away.

  2. BARay

    August 28, 2018 at 8:51 am

    I’ve been a season ticket holder for about 13 years now, a full season plan. The on field performance has been what everyone sees it to be. Last years off season planning by the O’s was notable for how many misjudgements they made about their on field talent. Even if everything possible thing had gone right I’m not sure they would have made the post season.

    And I am not sold on the recent additions. I am not even sure why they give Jace Peterson a glove. He makes Beckham look like Ozzie Smith.

    Anyway, one notable improvement this year has been the promotions. I give the Orioles real credit for taking this proactive approach. It’s gotten me to a few more games than I otherwise would have attended. Good for them. I’ll be back. I love baseball. Even bad baseball. Which is what we currently have.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      BARay, they thought they could stay competitive for this year with some tweaks, and that was a miscalculation. As for Peterson, I think he’s actually a useful utility player. He’s just not a starter.

      The Orioles appreciate your loyalty.

  3. chico salmon

    August 28, 2018 at 8:56 am

    In the short term, lowering ticket and concession prices is a step in the right direction. Oakland has a creative way of more “open seating”. Think creatively about that thing.
    There is no substitute for scouting and player development. We have to be better.
    In terms of mlb, in general, dump the unbalanced schedule. It was put in place to maximize Yankee-Red Sox games for ESPN, and those days are long gone. I’m way too tired of watching Tampa and Toronto, as I’m sure their fans are tired of the O’s. Re-align the divisions every five years, keeping Eastern time zone teams (both leagues) in a scramble of five team divisions that scramble every five years. Get creative. This downward trend is real and will continue.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      Chico, I recently read about Oakland’s open seating, and thought it was interesting. I’m eager to see what the Orioles will do in the offseason to keep interest among their diehard fans.

      It’s not only the Yankees-Red Sox. It’s also the Cubs-Cardinals and Dodgers-Giants. I would be OK with geographic realignment. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Orioles in the same division with the Nationals, Phillies, Yankees and Mets.

  4. boss61

    August 28, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I’ve been a season plan holder since 1984, Rich, and this year’s on-field performance will not lessen my enthusiasm for renewing my plan. It’s still fun to go. The ballpark itself still is the best in the game.

    What I think holds back attendance:

    1. On-field performance
    2. The proximity of the Gnats.
    3. The success of the Gnats.
    4. Freddie Gray and the spectre of lack of safety
    5. Game duration
    6. Cost

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      Boss, I agree with you for the most part. Compared with other teams, Orioles tickets are fairly cheap, especially when compared to the Nats. Other ballparks around the majors are much more expensive, especially for tickets and parking.

  5. bats in the blefary

    August 28, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Rich, why is no one locally reporting outrage at the seemingly idiotic trade the Orioles made yesterday, giving away $750,000 in international money for a 23 yr old, hitting .236 in rookie ball?

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      It seemed like a head-scratcher to me, too, bats. But, three years from now, if Jack Zoellner is a star in the majors…

      • bats in the blefary

        August 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm

        Oh I know. I also know neither of us would take that bet. He’ll be 24 and struggling in rookie ball, playing a position (1B) where offense is essential.

  6. Orial

    August 28, 2018 at 10:40 am

    This situation is not as complicated as a lot of people want to make it out to be. Yes the worst record in MLB has a major effect,yes the novelty has worn off,yes the rioting of 2015 may factor BUT to me it all comes down to one single factor–the Nats moving to DC. The fan base was slowly cut in half,revenue was divided(to degree). Sad because Baltimore with its smaller size was so dependent on a territory more than it’s immediate metro area. One side note–it know it’s easy and popular to blame Angelos but he could see this coming. He faught the Montreal relocation and when losing that faught for revenue sharing. I commend his effort simply because he saw the “writing on the wall”. We also can’t forget that it’s not just Baltimore but attendence is down everywhere.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      Lots of interesting points, Orial. Baltimore is one of the smallest markets in the majors, but people forget that.

  7. Ekim

    August 28, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    As I’ve written on other posts, what management should do as sort of an apology to the fans for foisting this sham of a team on them is to refund the money left for the season ticket holders and then just open the gates and let everybody in for free. At least drop the price down to what the Bowie team charges because what they’ll get is double A baseball if they do show up.

    • Orial

      August 28, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      True but attendence was dropping during the successful stretch–2012 to 2016

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      Ekim, I’m interested to see if the Orioles will offer any incentives to new and existing season ticket holders after this season.

  8. deqalt

    August 28, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    It’s a sad state of affairs. Obviously a winning team, but as well saw last September when the team was in the mix no one showed up. I took my girls to a game and on the rail going back a gentle had a row of shotgun shells. Good grief. Clean up this embarrassing city. Orioles and Ravens is execs need to be screaming from the roof tops for someone to help. We need Mayor Schafer!

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 28, 2018 at 7:34 pm

      Thank you for the comments, deqalt, but I’m going to keep my comments to baseball.

  9. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    August 29, 2018 at 9:42 am

    The overall MLB attendance has fallen this year. If you watch out of market teams that are in wild card races – many seats are empty. Part of the problem is the lack of marketing of their marquee players as well as increasing the fan base of younger fans. So it’s no surprise the Orioles who are fielding one of their worst teams in franchise history have seen their attendance numbers sag to a 30 year low. As noted the Nationals and safety concerns are factors too. The Orioles traded many popular players to rebuild the team. They will be challenged to market players who are still prospects and may not develop into the players they envisioned. However, this is the best way to rebuild a team but until they start being competitive again drawing fans will be a problem.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 29, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      That’s a good summary, Grand Strand. Thanks very much.

  10. johninbethany

    August 29, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    I’m going to be hard pressed to renew my 13 game plan next year. I literally couldn’t give away some games.

  11. PCampanaris

    September 22, 2018 at 6:59 am

    If the Orioles want packed houses again, Here’s what they need to do. 1.) They need pitching, pitching and more pitching. 2.) Get rid of Davis. “Let’s talk about this” Do you think he is going to come around, The answer is NO. How many chances is he going to get. He Strikes out at least 3 times, every game he plays.How many times would a hit have kept us in the game.Enough is Enough.

  12. PCampanaris

    September 22, 2018 at 7:17 am

    I ended to soon. The Orioles need to eat David’s Salary. Let’s face it, this is as bad , if not worse, then another Davis Blunder. In case the Orioles forgot, His first name was Glenn. We stand a better chance of winning, without Davis. The Orioles ( will be rewarded) will make up the loss of money, by increased attendance and by putting a team on the field, that gives them a chance to win. I’m sorry for being so negative, But last nights 3 strike outs, with men on base, was all to familiar to me. As Yogi Berra, once said. “I’ve had it.”

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