If you build it, they will come. Never before has a line from a movie held so true, but it should be clarified just slightly for this situation.
If you build a winning team, they will come.
The Washington Nationals have been experiencing a steady rise in their home attendance figures and are currently at a pace not seen since the organization first arrived in Washington for the 2005 season. Through the team’s first 37 home games, the average attendance at Nationals Park stands at 29,865 – an increase of 38% from this time last season. Only the Miami Marlins (who have the luxury of opening a new ballpark this season) have seen a higher increase from this point last year (they’re up 65%).
Those figures have been increasing of late, as fans in the Washington area have started to take notice of the team’s winning ways on the field. Average attendance through the team’s first 20 home games was just 25,384. Over their past 17 it’s increased to 36,744. The last time Nationals Park saw fewer than 25,000 in attendance was May 15, a Tuesday afternoon affair against the San Diego Padres.
Further helping Washington’s cause, the opponents scheduled to play at Nationals Park over the remainder of the season are all typically popular draws. The Cardinals, Cubs, and Dodgers have yet to play in Washington this season. The Mets, Phillies, and Braves all still have multiple trips to Washington remaining on their schedules. With the Nationals in the thick of a pennant race, it seems entirely possible that this positive growth will continue and the team may not dip below the 30,000 mark again this year.
Bigger crowds result in more excitement within the ballpark, and the players have started to take notice. After last night’s walk off win against the Giants, multiple players commented on the crowd noise and the energy coming from the fans, according to Mark Zuckerman, including Bryce Harper:
We had a great crowd out there tonight. That really propped everybody up to get going.
At this rate, the Nationals are on pace to break the Nationals Park attendance record of 2.32 Million, set back in 2008. With a little luck, they could beat the 2.73 Million the franchise attracted at RFK Stadium during their inaugural season of 2005.