With their much-anticipated Red Sox/Marlins/Father’s Day homestand in the books, the Rays’ average attendance creeped up to 18,484 on the year. Sadly, still 29th-best mark in the league.
The sagging 2011 numbers, combined with the mere mention of the word “stadium” at a Hillsborough Commission meeting, provided another week’s worth of fodder for talk radio, sports columnists, and newspaper editorial boards.
Times Story: Hillsborough Officials ponder Rays' future
Times Column: Playing hardball will only hasten Rays' departure
Times Column: Hey, St. Petersburg, Tampa here: Can we talk Rays?
Trib Editorial: Being ready for the Rays
But for the Tampa Bay region to bear the burden of poor attendance numbers is wrong. Is it Tampa Bay's fault Busch Gardens' numbers dropped last year? Is it the region's fault more people aren't buying the Tampa Tribune???
First and foremost, the profitability of the Rays in Tampa Bay is the responsibility of Stu Sternberg and the owners that bought the team five years ago. A recent article even provided evidence the team should be able to turn profits here.
But that said, the region still bears a bit of responsibility in making sure any business that calls Tampa Bay home survives. However, so far, the Rays haven’t shown any evidence they can’t.
We’re simply expected to take their word for it.
What the Rays have provided is below-average attendance numbers. But MLB reported $7 billion in revenue last year and the Rays post better-than-average televison ratings. So who knows what the team’s bottom line looks like other than the folks in the front office?
All we know so far is that the team HAS been sustainable in Tampa Bay - even profitable. So what evidence do we have that the team won’t be in the future? Are revenues expected to drop? It’s not like the team has major debt problems like a handful of others in the league.
Actually, revenues should climb in future years as the team stands to negotiate a new, lucrative television contract based on it’s growing audience.
So, while fans are expected to believe the current situation is not sustainable; while local municipalities are expected to help subsidize a new stadium; and while St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster is expected to give the team permission to break it’s use agreement; the Rays should provide actual evidence of their needs, not their “wants.”
Stu Sternberg owes it to the region to open up his books.