Like most everything these days, there is a lot of uncertainty in sports regarding how leagues will operate next season. There are the usual questions that always linger, contracts, free agency etc., but teams are also facing unknowns regarding fan attendance, revenue and sometimes even where they will play the games.
Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is still reflecting on last season's surprising World Series run, but is also answering questions regarding the uncertainties of next season.
If there are fans permitted in stadiums and parks next season, social distancing and limited attendance will likely be in place.
Sternberg isn't too worried about a ton of fans wanting to come to games in the first place though, because it's not something he's really seen with the Rays.
He very honestly said:
"Most of our games are attended by less than 10,000 people, so we could probably for the most part run a normal stadium operation."
While other teams will be making major adjustments, looks like the Rays can just go as is. Tropicana Field has been social distancing since before it was necessary. The club routinely ranks near the bottom of MLB in attendance numbers, and was last in the American League in attendance in 2019.
The owner is not sure about how many fans could see the home opener live, but is "pretty confident that come the summer we're going to be able to have in as many fans as would like to be at our ballpark."
Like many other owners, Sternberg noted the lack of fans last season caused a major financial hit, describing it as, "a number I wouldn't have imagined to lose in a baseball season."
He calls the current times the "storm before the calm" and looks at the likely incoming vaccine as a chance to "get some normalcy back into everyday life," which also would mean a better financial situation for fans.
Teams won't bounce back immediately, however, Strenberg said. "I think it's going to be three to five years to where we're able to sort of get a clear understanding of the new normal."
The Rays made it to the World Series last year but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
The teams they beat and played had a lot more star power than the Rays, but that only added to Tampa's story.
"It's hard to find too many of [the Rays] who would be starters on any of those teams," he said. "It's not like we've got this group of Hall-of-Famers and All-Stars."
Despite not having those All-Stars, the Rays did get more exposure and popularity with the World Series run, so Tampa may find themselves seeing more fans than normal wanting to get into games.