At the end of the day, you have to win if you want to put cans in the seats. On the day that the Twins opened their beautiful new downtown ballpark with a 5-2 win over the Red Sox, the Orioles set a record for lowest attendance for a game at Camden Yards, drawing only 9,129 fans.
My review of Baltimore’s weather suggests that it was cool (around 60) and possibly wet. Still, I can’t help but remember back when Camden Yards opened in1992, and the excitement it generated throughout baseball.
Camden Yards was the first of the current trend of baseball-only ballparks which had the look and feel of the old-time baseball palaces of pre-1960 era but with all the amenities and luxury boxes of the modern day. Attendance there was just tremendous for quite some time, with the Orioles drawing at least three million per season in all of its first ten seasons through 2001, except for the strike year in 1994. Attendance peaked in 1997, when the O’s drew 3.711 million fans.
The Orioles, however, weren’t able to use those revenues to build a consistently good team, and, of course, over time the ballpark got passe. In fairness to the O’s, they were never going to have the TV revenue of the Red Sox or the Yankees, or probably for that matter even the Blue Jays.
However, the Orioles didn’t spend well what they did have, and without a winner attendance has plummeted in recent years falling below two million each of the last two seasons.
Meanwhile, the Twins have moved into their new ballpark with a strong team, so they should sell the ballpark out until they stop winning in five years or so. If the Twins are going to keep Target Field full, they are going to have to be more generous with their new found revenue streams than they have been in the past.
The Twins are right to recognize that they are always going to be a small-market team, new stadium or not. However, they would be wise to invest more money in scouting and signing amateur players as a way to keep a stream of young talent coming into Target Field for as long as possible.
I don’t know if you noticed, but Jon Rauch picked up his fifth save today as Joe Nathan’s replacement. As long as he can keep it up, the Twins can sit tight and avoid having to give up any talent (Wilson Ramos?) to get an established closer.