City Desk

Worst Attended New Ballpark in 25 Years?

As the Nats begin their final home series of the season tonight, LL felt it might be instructive to have a gander at the current attendance numbers for the inaugural year of Nationals Park.

Compared to the inaugural years of recent major league ballparks, they don't look good.

Right now, according to ESPN.com, the Nats have drawn 2,276,444 paid ticketholders. The closest recent competition is the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, which drew 2,355,259 fans for its 2003 inaugural year. That's 29,077 fans per game over an 81-game home schedule.

What are the chances that the Nats break the Reds' mark? It's looking pretty good. To draw 2,355,260, the Nats will have to get 78,816 folks to pay for tickets over the next three days. Against the Marlins. That's 26,272 per game.

During the seven games thus far in the current homestand, the Nats have averaged 26,162, which gives them a fighting chance. But maybe not: Three of those were weekend games, which each attracted over 27,000. If you average the mid-week draws from last week, you get only 25,147.

If the Nats break the Reds' mark of infamy, you have to go all the way back to the 1982 Minnesota Twins (ignoring strike-shortened 1994), and their first year in the infernal Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, to find a more futile new-stadium attendance record. That year, the Twins, losers of 102 games, couldn't even attract a million fans.

Since then, there have been 23 seasons played by teams in new stadiums. Check the table after the jump.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

1982 MIN 921,186 60-102
1989 TOR 3,375,883 89-73*
1991 CHW 2,934,154 87-75
1992 BAL 3,567,819 89-73
1993 FLA 3,064,847 64-98 (exp.)
1993 COL 4,483,350 67-95 (exp.)
1994 CLE 1,995,174 66-47 (strike)
1994 TEX 2,503,198 52-62 (strike)
1995 COL 3,390,037 77-67
1997 ATL 3,464,488 101-61*
1998 TBY 2,506,293 63-99 (exp.)
1998 ARI 3,610,290 65-97 (exp.)
2000 SEA 2,914,624 91-71*
2000 SF 3,318,800 97-65*
2000 HOU 3,056,139 72-90
2000 DET 2,438,617 79-83
2001 MIL 2,811,041 68-94
2001 PIT 2,464,870 62-100
2003 CIN 2,355,259 69-93
2004 SD 3,016,752 87-75
2004 PHI 3,250,092 86-76
2005 WAS 2,731,993 81-81 (rel.)
2006 STL 3,407,104 83-78*
2008 WAS 2,276,444 58-98

* made the playoffs. All stats from baseball-reference.com

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  • Reid

    And really, the Nat's "attendence" record is inflated by all those law firms, etc., who buy season tickets and can't even give away their tickets. I imagine the actual people-through-the-gates numbers will easily sink below any new stadium in modern history.

  • ihatewalks

    There were some pretty chilly weeks to open the season. Then some pretty long road trips during which people could forget about the Nats (blame the Nats front office for not advertising the team very well). Also some pretty arrogant assumptions that the Nats would be a hot ticket this summer (the stadium is nice compared to RFK, but not air-conditioned like most overpriced shopping malls). What advertising for the Nats that did exist only talked about how awesome the stadium is and how bad the parking situation is. Then once you get into the stadium the service is terribly slow, the ushers are rude, and the communication is mediocre at best.

    The underlying point is this: the front office and ownership might be great at business and building shopping centers, but they don't seem to have the faintest idea when it comes to the product of baseball. If the rabid fan bases of Boston, New York, and Chicago are to be envied, the focus of the whole experience should be on BASEBALL. The more people get into the sport, the more they will partake in the experience, the tickets, the food, the merch., etc.

    I say this as an avid fan of the sport (and of my local team, the Nationals). It is entirely possible to enjoy losing seasons like this one and remain a fan (see also: Chicago, Boston) when the product is presented right.

    But my optimism that the Nationals organization will figure out this -- or figure out how to field a division-winning team -- is waning.

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