By Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal
The Baltimore Orioles' attendance tumbled in 2018 during a season that saw the franchise's record dip to new lows.
The team dropped below 2 million spectators this year for the first time since 2011. The overall attendance of 1,564,192 was the lowest in the 26-year history of Camden Yards, which routinely drew more than 3 million fans annually during the ballpark's first decade.
Overall attendance was down 23 percent compared to 2017. The Orioles averaged 20,053 fans per home game this year.
The Orioles finished the season with a 47-115 record, worst among Major League Baseball's 30 teams.
In addition to poor on-field play, other factors may have contributed to the attendance decline. Early-season cold weather and an unusually rainy summer didn't help. The team had 78 home dates, down from the normal 81 due to three single-admission doubleheaders. Weather forced the club to postpone six games at Camden Yards this year.
The team's suburban fans might also be turning out to fewer games, tourism officials said during the summer. A recent study found more than 30 percent of county residents reported they were taking fewer trips to the city.
"The data tells me right now our five surrounding counties aren't coming to Baltimore City, they're not going to restaurants, they're not buying tickets to our attractions, they're not buying [Orioles] tickets -- they're staying home," Visit Baltimore CEO Al Hutchinson said in June. "We need to do a better job at driving our county folks back to the city."
The Orioles have made an aggressive push to draw more fans to the stadium, offering free tickets to children ages 9 and under through a program called Kids Cheer Free. The club also expanded theme night offerings and lowered the prices on some concessions and merchandise.
The 2018 slump marks one of the biggest declines across MLB this year, according to SportsBusiness Journal research. Other teams with double-digit percentage attendance declines included the Miami Marlins, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Orioles have seen their crowd numbers shrink during recent years. Attendance fell 9.9 percent in 2016 and dipped by 6.4 percent last year despite a strong start to the season.