That number will climb once kids get off school and some better teams start visiting The Trop, but other teams will fare better too after those brutal April temperatures morph into beautiful summer nights up North.
I don't think the Rays did themselves any favors by moving their April weekday games from 7:10 p.m. to 6:40 p.m. My thought is that for every family that could go to the game because they were spared a late-night drive home, there were business people that wouldn't deal with rush-hour traffic to get to The Trop.
Regardless of whether I'm right, after three straight years of climbing the league standings in average attendance (to 22nd last year), the Rays' are already in serious danger of slipping in 2011.
My thought on the factors contributing this year:
- A weak April slate that didn't see either the Yankees or Red Sox visit The Trop.
- The continued preference of fans to watch the Rays on TV - rather than in-person - a problem that's mimicked league-wide.
- Competition for limited entertainment dollars (and media attention) from the resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning. After the Rays opened the season 1-9 and Evan Longoria hit the disabled list, the Lightning went on a 7-game playoff winning and have dominated local headlines.
- The Rays may be loved locally, but many marginal baseball fans in Tampa Bay have been disenfranchised by the team's search for a new stadium. It can't be a majority, but in my dealings across the region, people tell me they swore off The Trop last summer after Stu Sternberg upped the ante in the stadium saga.
The good news for the Rays is that they can expect a significant boost in their next homestand when Darius Rucker kicks off their summer concert series on Saturday night and the Yankees come to town Monday and Tuesday.