Just a couple of weeks ago, the papers were criticizing Orioles fans for not coming out and supporting the team. Seems everyone thought attendance at O’s games just wasn’t good enough. One writer looked at attendance on a Tuesday night after school had started and was horrified that it was worse than “the lowest crowd in Minute Maid Park.” They apparently overlooked the fact that O’s fans have been suffering for a very long time yet have still remained loyal. How dare they judge us so quickly! Besides, isn’t there more to attendance than just having a good – or rather, surprisingly amazing – season?
One of the first attempts at understanding the determinants of attendance was made by Baade and Tiehen in 1990. They came up with a complicated-looking equation to see if things like the city’s population and per capita income, stadium age, ticket prices, number of star players on the team, number of other professional teams in town, and a few more things would determine attendance. After analyzing the data a number of ways, the authors concluded that things like the previous year’s attendance, the presence of other teams, and the number of stars on the team all had an impact on attendance.
Of course, studies like these look at attendance after the fact. They do not take into account events within the season that can affect the team. Since that 1990 study, there have been other attempts at figuring out just what determines attendance. Generally, however, those studies look at baseball as a whole. Sure, they account for population size and other sociological-type stuff. But how many individual factors do they include?
How about percentage of jobs lost or gained since last season – or since the team last had a winning season? What about age of fans – I still think that back-to-school means fewer folks attending. What about the fact that the Nats are in first place? What about the number games televised and cost of cable TV? I think there’s a lot more that goes into attendance and fan loyalty that just what a few numbers, or writers, have to say about it. What do you think accounts for attendance, or the lack thereof?