Turning around the turnout issues
After another lost season, the Ravens brass will be forced to face a number of issues with this franchise, both on and off the field.
One of the biggest questions they’ll face will surely be related to the attendance at M&T Bank Stadium on Sundays… or rather, lack thereof.
There’s no secret that the Ravens have continued to hemorrhage butts-in-seats on game day, with a large portion of the fans choosing to watch from home, while a small faction decided to protest a protest about a protest or… something about a knee, I guess.
Regardless of the reason for the shortcomings, there were definitely many weeks where the stadium appeared to have more seats being used as a foot rest than those being occupied by home fans cheering on their boys in purple and black.
With similar – though less glaring – attendance issues in 2016 coming into question at the last State of the Ravens presser, Steve Bisciotti essentially blamed PSL holders for not selling their tickets to other fans who would like to go:
“I’m always concerned… there’s a lot more disappointment and anger than apathy… the fact that our renewals are kinda always in the 97.5-99% and we have other people willing to buy those PSL’s. We’ve never seen the fluctuations based on our success. I still to this day can’t understand how somebody who has a PSL and has tickets who doesn’t go to 2 of the games who doesn’t give the tickets to their neighbor, neighbor’s kids, babysitter… I don’t think they’re not going because they’re protesting, I think the more we lose, the more they get distracted by other things, and we lose that priority on a Sunday. It’s obviously significant, I just don’t know how much it fluctuates.”
Unfortunately for Stevie Biscuits, I don’t think that line of logic will fly this year. There are too many other issues with the product on the field, and the game day experience, that lend to fans opting out of attending Ravens games, and will inevitably lead to fans not renewing their PSLs. Instead of waiting until PSL owners start dropping like flies, the Ravens need to address those matters immediately.
Lower Prices – for Everything!
Ticket prices would probably be the first place to start for Steve Bisciotti & Co.
During last year’s State of the Ravens address, Dick Cass made an appearance, essentially to tell fans that 1) the stadium was going to have some upgrades, 2) upgrades cost money, and 3) fans will incur a chunk of those costs via ticket price hikes. While the upgrades simply aren’t enough to intrigue fans or draw new fans to the stadium, the increased ticket cost was surely enough to turn some fans off, and steer other fringe fans away from the games.
As such, the Ravens need to look for a way to bring those ticket prices back down to earth.
I’m not expecting a 10% or 15% reduction, but honestly? It would go a long way to lop 5-8% off the cost.
Parking is another major issue, and the Ravens Lots should be looking more in the $20-40 range per vehicle, as opposed to $50 and up. This would encourage local parking, especially when the alternative is “let me grab an Uber and just meet you at the game” with the pricey spots going unused. Encouraging fans to park in the local Ravens lots outside the stadium will in turn promote more tailgating, which tends to drive fan morale up pregame, and carry over into the stadium… until your buzz is killed after dropping a c-note at the concession stands.
Concession fees are quite simply astronomical, and have most fans opting to buy less in the stadium, or buy nothing at all. At the Ravens game, a souvenir soda, nachos, and a pretzel will run you $20+, while 2 draft beers equates to a 30-pack at the local liquor store. Essentially, the concessions price gouge, knowing you have no other options inside the stadium.
Value pricing is in effect at the National Title Game tonight, as it is with all games in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. pic.twitter.com/HWg8WMEqS5
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 9, 2018
While I’m no Falcons fan, I do give Arthur Blank credit for his concept in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium to drop concession costs down, substantially. A hot dog runs $2 ($5 at M&T), 12oz beer goes for $5 ($9+ at M&T), nachos for $3 ($8+ at M&T), and a souvenir soda runs $4 ($8+ at M&T).
Needless to say, there’s no reason they cannot lower these costs at M&T Bank Stadium, which would absolutely encourage fans to spend more at the stadium (unless the Ravens wanted to try the Orioles’ ‘bring your own food’ ways, but I highly doubt it).
The Ravens could also dabble in giveaways – something they used to do plenty, and something that’s been proven to boost attendance for Orioles games over the years of frustration and mediocrity. I still have my Ravens towels, bandanas, pins and car flags from previous years, but it seems that model has simply faded out, as the team’s only giveaway in 2017 were glasses on New Years Eve.
Perhaps a tee shirt night for a Ravens Black Out on national TV? Purple towels for the season opener at home? Flags for the salute to troops game? All great, easy, and proven to draw fans.
While all of the cost related changes would be ideal, none of it really matters if the product on the field doesn’t change.
The defense will feature a new defensive coordinator – Don “Wink” Martindale – which gives fans even the faintest bit of hope that the team won’t blow 4th quarter leads at the rate the incumbent, Dean Pees, blew leads.
But truly, the team needs to focus on offense, offense, and more offense.
Utilizing the draft to focus on the offense, as opposed to adding more defensive depth & leaving the offense high and dry (again), would go a long way to making fans feel like the team actually cares about winning. Obviously, we won’t get the coaching staff changes that many fans wanted, but if you’re stuck with John Harbaugh and Marty Mornhinweg, at least drafting a few play-makers early in Day One and Two of the NFL Draft will lend to the notion that the offense will be better off in 2018.
Names like Bama’s Calvin Ridley, SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, and Oklahoma State’s James Washington will all likely be linked to the Ravens in mock drafts to come over the next few months.
The first step in drawing fans back is likely coming in the next few weeks, when the Ravens will hopefully hold their 2018 State of the Ravens Address, and make their best efforts at damage control once again.
Hopefully we don’t get a regurgitated 2017 presser, leaving us with more questions than answers, more empty promises, and more reason to steer clear of M&T Bank Stadium on Sundays until we see the necessary changes come to fruition.