Baseball business blogger Maury Brown breaks bad news regarding the Washington Nationals new ballpark: they've managed to burst the new ballpark bubble. The Nats are about to have the worst attendance in the Camden Yards Era, a free-wheelin', money-dealin', stadium-buildin' boom that started with Orioles Park back in 1992.
58,158 fans is all that separates attendance at Nationals Park from the worst first-year attendance of all the stadiums which opened in the last 17 years, the Reds' Great American Ball Park that opened in 2003. That year, the Reds had paid attendance of 2,355,259. With two games left to play in Nationals Park, the Nats have drawn an anemic 2,297,101. In their last four games, three of which were played on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (...) the Nationals have averaged 26,585. That same average in their two remaining games against the Marlins would not be enough to keep Nationals Park from becoming the worst attended new ballpark opening since 1991.
Yes, the Nationals have a weakass offense, terrible TV ratings, a stinkeroo outfield, and terrible parking problems to go along with the worst record in the National League. But it's a shiny new baseball park in the middle of a huge population center! People showed up to see the Pirates lose 100 games in the first year of PNC Park. Folks showed up to see the Marlins lose 98 games their first year of existence. And for some reason, people still go to Rangers games with a fourteen-year-old stadium. Why weren't folks coming to see the Nats new chili-laden ballpark?
I'd point to those goody-two-shoes legislators in Congress for the real problems with attendance. Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan figured this one out back in May:
Then Jack Abramoff tried to buy off all of Washington. New lobbying laws soon followed, and now the maximum gift given to a lawmaker cannot exceed $50. Which means all the Presidential tickets - $325 for single-game ones, $335 on Saturday and $400 for the front row - that should have gone from lobbyist to Congressman to hard-working staffer no longer exist, and the market won't get any hotter unless the Nationals do, too.
The Nationals never got hotter. Instead, they got colder than a polar bear's taint, and thus allowed bloggers like us to point and laugh at their futility. Worst of all, things won't get better before they get much, much more futile in D.C. Until owner Stan Kasten either lowers ticket prices or raises salary, Washingtonians will continue to shun baseball for better entertainment options.