Blog Entry

Rays 'can't sustain' team with present attendance

Posted on: June 7, 2011 7:00 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 7:42 pm

By Matt Snyder

Despite the recent turn from an embarrassment into one of the most-respected franchises in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays still have problems drawing attendance. In terms of average fans per home game, the Rays' ranks from 2008 to present are as follows: 26, 23, 22 and 29. That's right, only the Marlins are drawing fewer fans per home game this season.

The drop, about 5,000 fans per game so far, could be explained by myriad factors, including the fact that the Rays had to let several recognizable faces leave via trade or free agency -- including Carl Crawford, who had been the face of the Rays for the better part of the last decade. For whatever the reason, though, attendance is a big problem for the Rays. It always has been, but now it's more dire than before.

"[Attendance] could be better and should be better," Rays owner Stuart Sternberg told Tampa Bay Online. "I know we can't sustain ourselves like this. We had another successful year last season and the economy, while it's not good, has not gotten worse. But our numbers I think will be down, coming off a postseason appearance. It's unheard of."

It might be less surprising if there were no Rays fans or the team was enduring a run of futility like the Pirates or Royals, for example. But with a team that sits within striking distance in the AL East after having won it last season, you start to worry if it's a problem that can't be fixed with the circumstances as they are at present. Perhaps a better stadium with a more convenient location would help. Regardless, Sternberg believes the problem is not one of fan support -- just that fans aren't attending the ballpark.

"People are watching us on TV and listening on the radio," he said. "I walk around and I see all the hats. I want to have a team that's going to be able to compete, but we can't lose money year in and year out, hand over fist. To run a payroll like we do now, basically the second-lowest in baseball, and barely keep our nose above water, we can't sustain that.''

The good news is there's a lot of season left. It's summertime, schools just got out (or are getting out soon) and the Rays are proving they can stick in the race. They have to hope that makes the turnstiles much more active in the coming months.

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Category: MLB

Since: Nov 18, 2006
Posted on: June 7, 2011 8:13 pm

Rays 'can't sustain' team with present attendance

Why people don't go to games:

  • The stadium is in a terrible location. There's not even a million people within 40 minutes of the stadium.
  • Large Senior & Snowbird population. Not only the area not very populated, many of the people who are here are old, or don't live here in the summertime.
  • The economy stupid. This area lives on tourism and fishing. Tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries in this down economy and fishing was hurt bad by BP. We're currently the 10th worst metro area for unemployment and 3 of the areas worse than us are also in Florida (Miami, Orlando, & Jacksonville).
  • History. You can't just suddently start winning and expect everyone to bandwagon. This is still the team with the worst historical winning percentage in baseball (.441). Yeah, they have done pretty good for a few years... but you have to build a cultaral of winning... and they have and it is working. The average attendance in 2002 was 10,038. Now it's 17,954. That is clearly a HUGE improvement.
  • History Pt 2. This is the youngest franchise in baseball along with the Diamondbacks. Lifelong Ray fans are at most 13 years old. We don't have generations of adults with memories of their dad taking them to the game, etc. 
Bottom line, the Rays SHOULD be near last in the MLB in attendance. It's the 2nd smallest market after Oakland, worst franchise winning percentage, & the youngest franchise.

Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: June 7, 2011 7:54 pm

Rays 'can't sustain' team with present attendance

The Florida Marlins have a better record this year  than do the Rays, and their attendance is the worst. Is it a coincidence that both these teams are in Florida? It's been pointed out many times that fans of the visiting Yankees and Red Sox are more likely to go to a Rays game then are the local Rays fans. Supposedly it's an issue of an hour-long commute each way due to the local highways. When it's 100 degrees out, you go to the beach; you don't go to a mauseleum like Tropicana Field. But considering the Florida teams have a pretty good record of success lately, it may be that major league baseball will never thrive in South or Central Florida. You want to see someone in Miami throw a ball a hundred miles an hour, that's what the jai lai fronton is for, and the game doesn't last 3+ hours.

Since: Feb 8, 2008
Posted on: June 7, 2011 7:48 pm

Rays 'can't sustain' team with present attendance

I will tell you why fans don't go to the games. I live in an area called "New Tampa" and can shed some light on this. First and foremost, the Rays don't play in Tampa. They play in St. Pete which is an annoying drive down I-275. It can easily take up to 2 hours to get to the park from where I live on gameday (traffic is absurd in this state). Most of the Rays fans are from this area. That being said, I am from up North, as are most of the people in Florida. So, our loyalties lie with other teams (mine, lies with the Red Sox). I would easily travel 2 hours to see the Red Sox in Boston, but the Rays don't have that draw for me. Secondly, the stadium is a hole in the earth. Who wants to sit in an aluminum bowl and watch baseball? It sucks. It's easily one of the most pitiful stadiums in baseball. It's not an enjoyable experience in the least. So, really, that's why no one goes to the games. Most of us aren't from Florida, so we root for other teams and for that reason, we aren't really compelled to go through all the bother of fighting Tampa traffic just to get to St. Pete to sit in a crappy stadium and watch a game.

Here's what the Rays need to do. First off, play in TAMPA and not in gross St. Pete! And get a better stadium. The Marlins are doing it, why can't the Rays?

Since: Nov 18, 2006
Posted on: June 7, 2011 7:47 pm

Rays 'can't sustain' team with present attendance

This is just BS. Baseball is a cash cow. They have higher average attendance, more games, and lower payroll than the Lightning... yet are barely pushing a profit? Huh? Explain that to me. This is clearly overexagerated, especially since they acknowledged fan support isn't the problem. Merchandise and TV ratings are doing fine, but the stadium is just too far away from the population center and the corporate support is very poor. A move to Tampa will fix both of those issues. But even without that, there is something seriously wrong with their business model if they're making huge profits with the numbers that they do have.

Since: Aug 17, 2006
Posted on: June 7, 2011 7:31 pm

Rays 'can't sustain' team with present attendance

It's sad that people in the area do not support a franchise via attendance, especially one that is actually committed to winning. The Rays play very good baseball and deserve more in-person appreciation. While the owner (Sternberg) is quoted as saying that the fans are out there, watching and listening to the games, I'm not clear why they do not go to the games. I've lived in places with MLB clubs where winning teams and fan interest translate into big attendance numbers (e.g., Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas/Fort Worth). Why are the TB/St.Pete fans reluctant to attend the games? Is it the ballpark? The location? The fan base itself? 

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