The Washington Post had a nice article on Sunday by Marc Fisher about the rise of the Nats, in both relevence and attendance levels. I was actually interviewed for the article, although my contributions were apparently left on the cutting room floor. Judging by the actual blogger quotes put in there, my mistake was not being hyperbolic enough (I am almost always guilty of this) and, perhaps, still being an active blogger. But I’m not here to complain, in fact, I was honored to just be contacted by a real journalist doing a real article. And I know how these things work, I certainly don’t take it as a personal affront.
During the interview though, Marc and I had a conversation about the attendance sources for the team, and he touched on it in the article when he wrote:
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.
I thought I’d pass along the gist of what I said. As a resident of the socialist utopia that is the state of Maryland, I feel that this needs some explaining. To me, it isn’t the lack of fans in MD or the higher number in VA that is driving this. It is plain and simple geography. Think about where VA fans are coming from compared to MD fans.
I work in Arlington (Rosslyn), and live in Bethesda. These are two very similar areas socioeconomically, but I guarantee you that many more people from Arlington attend games than Bethesda. It’s very easy to get to the stadium from Arlington. Even in rush hour, it’s a 20 minute car ride or metro. From Bethesda, though, driving takes much longer, even on the weekends. You could take the GW parkway into VA, or try to go down one of the traffic light heavy roads like Wisconsin or Connecticut Ave, but either way is gonna take you over 45 minutes. And the metro isn’t too bad, but to take the red line down and transfer to get to Navy Yard is probably going to run you over 45 minutes as well, again longer than Arlington.
It’s not just those places – my Dad lives in Gaithersburg, in the heart of Montgomery County. It’s an affluent county that the Nats presumably want to draw fans from. And I think its Nats territory these days as opposed to Orioles territory, for the most part. But it’s probably about the same for him to drive to Nats Park as it is to drive to Oriole Park (an hour give or take), especially with the ICC. The metro is an option for him, but that’s the suburbs – he’s gotta drive through 15 minutes of traffic lights to get to Shady Grove, then has to expect over an hour on the metro. The metro makes it convenient, but it doesn’t make the park close.
Northern PG county has the same geographical issues. Now there are places in VA that do as well – out the Dulles Toll Road corrider, for example. And southern PG county can get to the stadium pretty easily. But for the most part, I think that its easier for Virginians to get to the stadium than Marylanders.
This isn’t to say that they built the park in a bad place. I like the location, and the building up of the neighborhood will help draw families to the area. When it can be a full day destination capped off by a game (a la Inner Harbor in Baltimore), I think more people will make the trek with their family on the weekends, for example. But without a major highway running through DC, the accessibility from MD is roundabout – and it takes longer.
Even when this team is consistently making the playoffs. Even when those Marylanders who consider themselves DC people not Baltimore people root only for the Nats and not the O’s, I expect the fans to be disproportionately from Virginia. At least it will keep people from yelling “O” during the Nationals Anthem.