At the end of Marc Fisher’s excellent story Sunday on the slow growth around Nationals Park in D.C. came this gem:
“Nationals officials say fans coming to games are about 60 percent from Virginia, 25 percent from Maryland and 15 percent from the District. That means city residents are slightly overrepresented, Marylanders lag well behind, and Virginians make a strongly disproportionate contribution to city coffers.”
Wow. Made me think back to NoVa’s serious push to get the team a few years ago, and surprised that D.C. has shown so little support for the Nats. Four times more people from across the river, where there is no direct Metro line and weeknight traffic into the city is thick?
I asked Fisher for more info, which he promptly provided. But I’d also be interested in hearing your theories on why Northern Virginians buy a huge majority of Nationals tickets.
Fisher said that Nationals executive Andrew Feffer told him the Nats believe the bridge and highway access to Nationals Park is much easier for Virginia fans than Maryland fans. This is probably true. For fans in Montgomery County and farther north, you’ve got to either work your way through the city or circle the city on the Beltway and come up I-295.
Feffer also said that the Orioles created some lasting loyalty during the 34 seasons that D.C. was baseball-free. And so even though the Orioles are now one of the most poorly run, utterly hopeless franchises in Major League Baseball, it’s still an easier run to Camden Yards for Marylanders.
Fisher points out that getting from Virginia to Camden Yards on a weeknight eventually became a logistical nightmare, and the trip back got us home too late. He wonders if Virginians go to bed earlier than District or Maryland folks, and so prefer the 7 p.m. starts at Nats Park to staggering back home from Baltimore after 11:00.
I think it’s a combination of all of the above. A much closer ball park for Virginia residents than Marylanders. An earlier return home. A franchise that didn’t go out of its way to alienate fans and destroy the tradition of Brooks, Boog, Eddie and Cal.
But I’m not sure how that explains D.C. fans checking in at 15 percent. Fisher says that D.C. attendance is “overrepresented,”given the relative populations of the District and Northern Virginia. I would argue that given the stadium’s location inside city limits, the number of D.C. residents coming to games should be higher.
Is the attendance breakdown simply a factor of population? Is baseball’s appeal to city folk on the permanent decline?
I’m tired of walking through a wasteland without a single bar or restaurant near the ball park for five years now. If the Nats don’t become pennant contenders and the city doesn’t step up development, Virginia’s presence at the park will probably decline.