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Brand new Orioles Insight Panel is a step in the right direction

The Orioles are looking for feedback about the Camden Yards ballpark experience — from you!

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Have you ever had a bad experience at Camden Yards? Apart from the on-field product, do you have any suggestions about how to improve the park? Right now, there’s an opportunity for the fans to let their voices be heard.

Within the past few days, the O’s have been sending out an email to a select group of fans, inviting them to become part of the new Orioles Insight Panel. If you were on the receiving end of this invitation and you have the time to contribute, don’t let this chance pass you by. Providing feedback in a situation like this is invaluable to an organization like the Orioles.

The main message from the aforementioned email has been reprinted below:

Dear Orioles Fan,

You are invited to join the Orioles Insight Panel.

This important panel is made up of fans like you who are interested in providing feedback on a variety of topics including their involvement with the Baltimore Orioles. Participants will have the opportunity to:

Take surveys to provide feedback for the organization to use in considering potential improvements in the ballpark experience

Participate in focus groups held at Oriole Park

It’s refreshing to see the Orioles reach out like this to the most important franchise stakeholder group — the fans. Instead of having executives in their posh offices decide what changes to make to the ballpark experience, the team is open to input from all of us — regular folks who spend their hard earned money and precious time at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

One of the most important aspects of any business is knowing your users. And by starting this initiative, the Orioles are going right to the source for information, which can only help. All feedback is welcome, but negative feedback is especially useful because that’s where real change can come about.

Ever since the Mike Elias hire, there has been an avalanche of emphasis on analytics and being a data-driven organization. Up until this point, that analytical emphasis has been connected to how the team is constructed — player evaluation and development.

But now we are seeing the same data-driven focus being extended to the user experience. Surveys and focus groups with the right audience can yield highly valuable information regarding how to ensure the best possible fan experience at Camden Yards (excluding the on-field product, which is important to separate in this case).

It would be interesting to know who is behind this idea. An initiative like this may seem like it comes from the new General Manager at first, but this is not exactly his purview. More likely, it comes from Chief Operating Officer of Business Operations John Vidalin. It would also be interesting to know the Angelos brothers’ level of involvement, if any.

But John and Louis Angelos must have heard some of the common fan feedback before this. One of the more recent hot button topics related to the stadium has been the lack of free internet connectivity, which will finally be addressed in 2019 when the Orioles will be one of the last teams in baseball to introduce public wifi. In her article on Bizjournal, author Amanda Yeager notes the importance of wifi to enhance the social media game day experience and reach younger fans.

Before I get into my own free response user survey, let me say that right off the bat, hands down, the biggest thing already going for the Orioles is the fact that they get to have 81 home games every year at Camden Yards. It is truly one of the most beautiful all-around stadiums in baseball.

Having said that, the biggest criticism from me personally is that the ballpark experience has become too cookie-cutter. Don’t get me wrong, I love tradition like the National Anthem and the seventh inning stretch as much as the next guy.

But as a twenty-something-year-old male who attends at least a handful of games every year, everything ancillary has become a bit too formulaic. With the same videos on the jumbotron and the same couple pop songs on the sound system — I feel like I’ve seen this movie before.

For me, the ballpark experience is about the experience I have in my seat because that’s where I spend the vast majority of my time. So maybe play the crab shuffle in the ninth inning instead of the third every night. And maybe have a live person hot dog race around the warning track every once in a awhile. Switch it up, change is good.

On the plus side, the Orioles have done well in recent years using social media on the jumbotron, and they could even stand to do it a little more, in other parts of the park too. With free wifi next year, social media integration could be elevated to another level.