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.

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About Josh Sroka

Josh Sroka
Josh Sroka is a lifelong Baltimore sports fan who has no problem drinking the Orange and Purple Kool-aid. As a member of Section 336 he handles all the technical stuff while providing a positive attitude that the Birds can always win. Check out Section 336 each day for new Baltimore...more

17 Cheers on “Blame the Team, Not the Fans, For Attendance Woes

  1. avatarDarryl on said:

    Great point.Hopefully Buck reads your column because I heard a sound bite from him this morning sounding like he is pissed at the fans.

    • avatarAnonymous on said:

      It is clear to me Baltimore is not a sports town they lost a basketball team a hockey team a NFL team and with one of the finest stadiums in all of Baseball there attendance is way down

  2. avatarScott Libbee on said:

    29 Game plan holder here. The Os are lousy at marketing. They should have been in our faces to step it up when we signed Davis. I also think the O’s need to work with Baltimore Police to make traffic flow better on Russell Street. No way we should be stopping at those 3 lights near the Casino. There should be Police waiving traffic on thru. It’s a pretty big pain now with traffic to get to Baltimore from Silver Spring. Rethinking it all for next year to be honest

  3. avatarHilary Hoffmeister on said:

    I held a partial season ticket in 2014.
    Didn’t renew due to change in work hours, but didn’t appreciate parking lots fgh.
    Season ticket holder deserve better.

  4. avatarLuke on said:

    They started to lose me when they sold out in 2014 as the team won the division, than gave anyone who put a deposit for 2015 tickets, the same postseason ticket access as those who already had season tickets. it was a frenzy and many original ticket holders got blocked out from postseason games, and then same situation for opening day 2015. it was pure sell out not to give season ticket holders some better chance at those and not the fair weather people who jumped in and jumped right back out.

  5. avatarRobert on said:

    13 Ticket holder here. Some good points but the fans need to step up! This is as exciting as it gets. Every game matters from here on out. I’m pretty sure tickets are only $15 for any game. Also, the Os do Variable Pricing…not dynamic. Very different. The season ticket holder benefits are as good as any other team offers. Being able to exchange my tickets is amazing and I bought my postseason tickets yesterday. Love my rep, too. Go O’s!

  6. avatarAnne Heintichs on said:

    We’ve been season ticket holders since OPACY opened. Started with 4 seats 29 game plan and had it for years. After kids grew up we dropped 2 seats and maybe 5 years ago went to 13 game plan. After years of team loyalty we were surprised when playoff tickets 3 and 2 years ago were offered to any season ticket holders ( including the ones signing up only to get a chance of playoff seats!) no preference to long term fans! At least this season we had preferential treatment for post season tix. But I agree with other posts that Orange Carpet benefits have decreased and PR seems to be interested in getting new people in and there’s no real benefit to keeping your season plan. Might have to rethink this soon.

  7. avatarCTOriolesfan on said:

    Of course, it doesn’t helpthat the Orioles lost a big chunk of their market when the Nationals took over Washington and the Northern Virginia market. You can’t even put a minor-league team within 60 miles of a major-league city, but MLB had no problem moving the Expos into the Orioles’ territory.

  8. avatarJim Glover on said:

    They lost me as a season ticket holder (over the years, been a fan since 1954, I’ve had the 81 game plan, the 29 game plan, and the 13 game plans) when they limited certain incentive items to the first how many ever…if you can’t afford to give one to everyone in attendance, don’t bother. Used two different tickets at two different gates to get one of the Hawaiian shirts with no luck. Just one instance, but that was an hour before game time, and instead of being a positive influence on my fandom, it turned into a huge negative…and you can’t watch a game…even an AWAY game, without seeing that shirt in the stands! What kind of marketing team turns an incentive into a negative?

  9. avatarKaren on said:

    I am a 13-game plan holder in field box and my season tickets and orange carpet card have gotten me into club level this year. If that benefit has gone away, they haven’t told the employees. They did take away the discount on merchandise, that’s a bummer…

  10. avatarnaptownosfan on said:

    This is funny. First, they aren’t publically announcing the club level perk, but it is still available. You just have to go up the elevators behind home plate to the club level, and they will let you in with the people who are with you. If that is the only “perk” you are missing, then your argument is now invalid.

    Second, my guess is that the guaranteed post-season seats being removed are based off the amount of STH’s who have joined at the 81 and 29 game level. I’ve had my 29 game plan since 2014, and that year, my buddy and I ended up going to two autograph tables at fan appreciation day. Last year, we only made it through Manny’s table despite being one of the first 100 people into the stadium, so this year even with the changes we didn’t go. I’m not complaining- I can buy memorabilia that I want- but I am using this to cite the increase in STH’s following our success in the 2014 season.

    I do agree with them getting rid of bargain nights, as well as some of the shirt giveaways. However, look at the promo schedule this year- from what I’ve read, the STH surveys sent back this past off-season drove them away from these and for what the STH’s really wanted, which were more variety like the golf umbrella or the grill set, something different than just the standard offerings they’ve done year after year.

    Also, we are looking at the worst time of the year for attendance. This is the week that most public schools are back in session (or have already been in session for a week) and parents and kids are getting into their fall routine, and not coming to the ballpark. It’s a time of year that negatively affects all businesses around here- restaurants, shopping malls and retail outlets, etc. The end of August and September are the worst times of the year.

    Could they do better with some things? Absolutely, but they didn’t just do this because they felt like it. Feedback from their STH’s led to a lot of these changes and again, you just can’t judge this off of the past few days because this is happening to every business right now.

  11. avatarnaptownosfan on said:

    Also, I see a lot of people mentioning the early access being taken away, but you can’t blame that on the Orioles as MLB was way behind the times in mandating metal detectors at all stadiums. You have to open all the gates to get everyone through for the game, so I get why we lost that benefit.

  12. avatarTim on said:

    Many reasons for lack of fans and I do think team marketing/Ticketing dept is primarily to blame- This is why
    1. Ticket office has an adversarial relationship with their most important group of fans (season ticket holders). I have gone through five reps since I becoming a STH again in 2010. They dont return emails and they act as though I should be kissing their ass to get tickets.
    2. Lack of promotional creativity- As we unfortunately know, it is not a given that the Orioles will be in contention come August or September- So why not promote the hell out of it? If we are only getting 14K for a game, week of the game offer up $5 upper deck seats to anyone with a college ID or lives in the city of Baltimore (someone who can walk to the game)
    3. Embrace Stubhub instead of be scared of it- Look at Stubhub pricing and let that dictate your dynamic pricing
    4. Offer up postseason availability for anyone buying 3 games in September. For those of you STH who are scared about this taking away tickets- Trust me, there are plenty available for everyone. Sadly the Orioles will do something stupid like offer up 13 game plans as the “only way to assure tickets” but with Stubhub, why would anyone buy 13 games instead of just paying a little more on Stubhub? That is why the 3 game plan works.

    • avatarVoice of Reason on said:

      Or take it a step further. With computerization and technology at your fingertips, do what the top tier college teams do for student ticket preference. After season ticket holders are taken care of, the next in line for priority should be people who have accumulated the most amount of verified scanned innings with a photo ID throughout a season. You do this by scanning the tickets upon entry and upon leaving. Make the slogan “slug it out when its boring so you can see it when it matters!”

  13. avatarVoice of Reason on said:

    I’ve always thought that the guy in charge of setting up the giveaways and promotions must have had a crayon shoved up his nose as a child. And this has been going on for years too. I would think that logic should tell you that if you have undesirable, difficult to get to games, you put your resources into getting them to those games. And this isn’t just Fireworks, bobbleheads, or $6 student ticket nights. I’ve noticed that different organizations seem to always have their events on Fridays.

    Newsflash Orioles, you can get people to the student on Fridays or the weekend. Direct all of your specials specifically to Monday-Thursday. If your cash cow is MASN, maybe take a loss on the gate revenue so that your fans are liquored up, electric, and loud for the cameras.

    But the author didn’t mention the elephant in the room. I’m also sure that being the first team in MLB history to play in front of an empty park because your city was too dangerous and angry didn’t matters either.

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