I wondered what the attendance numbers for the Orioles were like once the Nationals came to town in 2005, I also wondered how much of each team’s attendance had to do with the number of games they won (stupid question I know, but still worth looking at).
In 2004, the year before the Nationals came to D.C., the Orioles attendance was at 2.74 million for the entire year. While it has been at a fairly steady downward pace since then, that has far more to do with the performance on the field than it does with the Nationals moving about 40 miles away.
14.28 (excl. 2004)
As you can see from the chart above, there hasn’t been any major difference in attendance between the two teams with the exception of 2008, when the Nationals new ballpark opened up. The Nationals overall attendance since 2005 figures is roughly 450,000 fans higher than the Orioles’, but that’s primarily because of their new stadium opening up in 2008.
Both teams were rather similar in regards to competitiveness as evidenced by their total wins from the last six seasons. It makes for a great comparison because it’s not always easy finding two teams who compare so well to one another over the same period of time.
What we want to look out for though is any kind of spike that the Nationals are about to see in attendance, starting in 2012, brought about by the general feeling of their fan base that the team will be competitive. Even if the Nationals don’t make the playoffs, just being competitive or giving the thought of being competitive is enough to gain a boost in attendance.
By how high though, and is it even significant to take into consideration as an owner who’s spending the money?
I researched a few examples in baseball history of a team that has not made the playoffs for at least five consecutive seasons and what the attendance boost was like the year they made the playoffs.
Now we know, from the examples given, that the average boost in attendance for a team who hasn’t been to the playoffs in at least five years (like the Nationals) are likely to receive around a 16 % boost in attendance for that year.
What does that mean for the Washington Nationals organization?
Every team operates on a budget of some kind and an uptick in attendance means an uptick in revenues for your organization. A 16 percent increase in attendance from the 2011 season would give the team approximately 2.25 million fans total for next season. That’s approximately an additional 310,476 fan and the potential to go higher is there since this would be the first playoff season for the Nationals in their short history.
This would also give them more fans than what the Orioles will likely draw (around 1.8 million) in 2012 and could give the Nationals a definitive advantage in attracting more new fans in both markets going forward. The only way that the Orioles could prevent something like this from happening, and losing out on the fan market share, is to become competitive again and remain competitive for years to come.
If the Nationals manage to be the main draw there for the new baseball fans coming up and the generation of fans following after them then the Orioles will be at serious risk of losing parts of their own market, in regards to the total fans it can attract. Something like this would have a certain impact on television and broadcast revenues and the value that each of them has with MASN, their sports network. The Nationals could be in for an even bigger payday if they remain competitive and become the preferred team to watch on the network that Peter Angelos owns the majority share of, MASN.