Attendance figures have long been a concern for the Miami Marlins. The combination of an organization that has failed to secure a playoff spot since 2003, plus a fanbase with high expectations and plentiful alternatives on any given night, is predictably perilous. Additionally, the Marlins have antagonized their community with heartbreak, repeated rebuilds, and a stadium location that many find to be inaccessible.
But there is hope that beautiful Marlins Park will one day be filled with energetic fans. After all, this is South Florida, and for better or worse, this city shows up when you give them a reason to do so.
Consider the Miami Heat, now viewed as the gold standard for sports franchises in South Florida. Their attendance rankings from 2003, 2004, and 2005 were 22nd, 24th, and fourth in the then 29-team NBA, respectively. The Heat went from bottom third in attendance to among the league leaders.
Why? Because South Florida supports their winners and organizations that invest in their city. The new Marlins ownership group has shown a commitment to the latter while promising that the former is on the way.
What should we expect from Marlins attendance in 2019?
There’s nowhere to go but up.
Jeffrey Loria blatantly fudged attendance figures, counting all distributed tickets in the total, rather than those that were actually used by fans. Former team president David Samson—by his own admission—purchased unsold tickets on game days to prevent the embarrassing reality from getting out.
On the other hand, current Marlins ownership is taking the transparent approach. If you purchased your seat, you’re included in the attendance, and that’s it.
Marlins finish '18 home schedule with Marlins Park attendance of 811,104, worst in MLB and 1st team since '04 Montreal Expos to go finish below 1 million. But new Jeter/Sherman group reporting tickets sold vs prior inflated marks & actual attendance thought be similar to last yr— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) September 24, 2018
This distinction is important to note for two reasons. First, it explains the difference in numbers from 2017 to 2018, debunking the narrative that Derek Jeter’s rebuild scared fans away (they weren’t there to begin with). Secondly, it is a radical move to the other end of the spectrum; other MLB teams continue to claim unredeemed giveaways in their attendance, so the gap between Miami’s 30th-ranked turnout and the rest of the league is being overstated.
There is no bold prediction here: I believe the Marlins will remain bottom three in league attendance this upcoming season.
With that being said, I also envision them eclipsing one million paying customers. A total of 1,050,007 attendees over 81 games, to be precise. That’s an average of around 13,000 per game, likely to place dead last in Major League Baseball again.
Given the inconsistencies in attendance reporting, the Marlins should only be focused on competing against themselves, and an increase of 238,903 fans would be deemed a success. Stadium upgrades, community engagement, and action taken from the Dímelo campaign are moving them in the right direction while we wait for the product on the field to catch up.
These first two years of new ownership have been about listening to the fans, and responding with the requested changes. The next few years are about the players’ continued development in order to one day yield sustainable success.
The Orange Bowl was synonymous with winning and an electric gameday atmosphere. Playing their home games on the same grounds where that special stadium once stood, it’s time for the Marlins to bring those fans back.
What will the Marlins total attendance be in 2019?— Danny (@all_right_Miami) March 20, 2019
Where do you see the Marlins attendance figures rounding out this year?