It's no secret that the Marlins have struggled to fill the seats in Marlins Park since moving into the stadium five years ago. Many expected an influx in attendance following the Marlins move to Little Havana due to the great Hispanic population in the city; A population that showed it's love of baseball in this year's World Baseball Classic, when the Dominican Republic defeated USA in front of over 37,000, predominantly Dominican fans.
The easy answer for the Marlins finding themselves towards the bottom of the league in attendance annually is the fact that the team hasn't won since 2003 and has traded away star players on more than one occasion. Success and attendance correlate, right? While that may be true with most teams, there is no evidence to support that claim with the sporadic and at times competitive Marlins. The Marlins have found themselves down to the wire in the playoff hunt in several occasions since 2003 but have no spikes in attendance to show for it, especially since moving to Marlins Park. The simplistic answer may be "win and they come," but the Marlins attendance woes go deeper than that. While the Marlins have not had much success since moving to their new stadium, the only thing that has been more consistent than the Marlins sub-par performance since their moving to Marlins Park, is the teams sub-par attendance. Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference
Marlins Park sits in the old location of the Orange Bowl in Little Havana, a town that has as many boarded up windows as construction sites showing many signs of stagnation, but few of development. There's no sports bars for fans to go before the game, in fact, most fans get to the game well after the first pitch. There is nowhere to celebrate the big Marlins' win, other than the Clevelander, which is located inside the stadium that already emptied your pockets when you paid $14 for a hot dog and a beer.
Many hoped that Marlins Park would rejuvenate the area that surrounded the old Orange Bowl. Sadly, as fans approach the stadium, driving down 12th Avenue, they see more of the same from the Orange Bowl days, old dilapidated buildings losing the battle against father time, locals holding signs offering up their driveways for a small parking fee, and graffiti that covers street signs and buildings, but eventually a futuristic building peeks through the diminishing ones, appearing as if it were dropped out of the sky, unfit for such a neighborhood.
Fans can park their cars in one of the four garages, most of which have retail spaces that have been empty since the buildings were constructed in 2012, leaving fans little to do around the park.
While the surrounding neighborhood, or lack there of, definitely hinders the Marlins ability to fill seats, a larger issue is the cost of an MLB game. According to a study by GoBankingRates, a family of four can expect to pay over $130 to catch a game at Marlins Park, including: parking, food, and drink; and thats if everyone just eats one hot dog. The cost of a Marlins game is about middle-of-the-pack in comparison to the rest of the MLB, but the average income per household in Little Havana is roughly $28,000, with consumer spending well below the mean, making it safe to say that a baseball game is not affordable for those who surround the stadium.
Though their attendance is near the bottom of the league nearly every season, the Marlins have shown no willingness to slash ticket prices, and without local support, the Fish will continue to struggle to fill seats.
Franchises have been trying to see how far they can push fans for years, constantly raising prices, and the attendance trends for some teams show that the fans are pushing back. While last years MLB attendance was the 11th highest in league history, and the year before even more impressive, the Yankees have seen a drop in turn out year-to-year since 2010 (excluding Derek Jeter's final season). Before the 2010 season, the Yankees decided to raise ticket prices in nearly all sections, a move that proved counterproductive as their ticket revenue took a hit in 2016 for the seventh straight season, with an overall decline of 30% since 2009.
Now I know, comparing the Marlins and Yankees attendance debacles is like comparing apples to oranges, but one thing the two franchises have in common is increasingly unaffordable tickets and a shrinking, upperclass market. If the Marlins want to see an influx in attendance, it needs to stop alienating the lower and middle class or win at an unprecedented amount; sadly, the former seems much less likely.