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Friday, December 02, 2005

A Bad Attendance Year for the Washington National?

In comments on December 1 about the site for a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals, Jerry Reinsdorf said that the first-year attendance for the Nationals, of about 2.7 million, was not an outstanding performance, explicitly comparing the results in Washington in 2005 with those in Colorado (1993) and in Arizona (1998), when attendance exceeded 3 million. But isn't the relevant comparison to teams that relocated, not to expansion teams? If we look at the data for teams that have relocated since World War II (This has happened 10 times, including the Montreal to Washington move) (and excluding the Athletics moving from Philadelphia to Kansas City in 1955--I haven't yet found their Philadelphia attendance) we can ask how much better teams did after they moved. (I compare their first-year attendance in the destination city with the average of the last three years in the origin city; for comparisons, I leave the Nats out.)

1. All but one team did better following the move. When the (new) Senators moved from Washington to Texas for the 1972 season, their attendance fell by 17% compared to their last three years in Washington (662,974 in Texas in 1972, an average of 802,684 in DC in 1969-1971).

2. The average team, excluding the Expos/Nats, added about 80% to their attendance following the move (up from an average of 705,740 in the three years before the move to 1,271,937 in the first year in their new cities).

3. The Braves did better than the other teams, tripling their attendance following the move to Milwaukee, and doubling their attendance after moving to Atlanta.

And the Expos/Nats? Their attendance in DC was slightly more than 3 times as high as their 862,078 average the last three years in Montreal--2,692,123. This is the second-best improvement ever, only slightly below the Braves' gain in moving from Boston to Milwaukee. Yep, a really bad first year.

(Attendance data from )


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