As the fate of the 2020 MLB season remains in limbo amid stalled negotiations between the league and players union, a major sticking point has been MLB’s financial concerns with putting on games without fans in attendance—a precaution for preventing further spread of the coronavirus.
The Associated Press reported that league officials project an average loss of $640,000 per game should a season be put on this summer. (Though that number has not been agreed upon by the union.) MLB has maintained that ticket and concessions sales make up 39 percent of league revenue, forcing teams to get creative in finding ways to make up for some of those losses.
Meanwhile, the Korean Baseball Organization has managed to get its season going after its home country was hit by the first wave of the coronavirus much earlier than the U.S. There are no spectators in the stands—unless you count the cardboard cutouts—but fans across the country and even around the world have been able to tune in to watch professional baseball on TV.
In an effort to get local fans engaged with the games without being able to attend, the KBO is now reportedly considering drive-in watch parties where viewers would stay in their cars and watch their team on a projector screen similar to a drive-in movie theater. Fans would even be encouraged to honk their horns to celebrate big moments.
Would that be feasible for an MLB team like the Nationals? If ticket sales really are the most important contributor to a team’s revenue, then an alternative way for fans to watch games together might be enticing enough for the Nationals to consider.
The Nationals have five parking lots across Navy Yard, three of which—Lots T, U and W—would be large enough to fit a substantial number of cars. Down the street from Nationals Park is also an outdoor venue called The Bullpen (which already has a large video screen) that could be cleared out to make room for vehicles as well.
Drive-in viewing parties probably wouldn’t garner enough interest to be put on during a normal season, but fans would be much more likely to attend them in 2020 when many other normal places to visit are either closed or restricted as a result of the pandemic. It would particularly be an attractive option early on in the season, when excitement for the sport that hasn’t been played in eight months is at its peak.
Although the honking might have to be toned down considering the parking lots are in the middle of D.C., the Nationals could sell tickets to the drive-in parties and offer concessions throughout the games. It wouldn’t be nearly enough to make up for the lost ticket revenue, but it could put a sizable dent in their losses while energizing a fanbase eager to see the defending World Series champions try to repeat.
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