Michael Sasso writes:
With the season reaching its midpoint this week, an average of 20,583 fans have turned out for the Rays' 43 games at Tropicana Field. That's up a bit more than 1,300 fans a game, for a 7 percent increase over this time last year, according to the baseball data website Baseball-Reference.com.What we're seeing at Tropicana Field mimics the trend league-wide: more fans taking in games. And while the Rays are still 29th in the league and unlikely to move very much, there could be a little bump at The Trop with more Red Sox and Yankees games on the horizon and only four real weak mid-week series left on the calendar.
More eyeballs also are tuning in to Rays broadcasts on Fox's Sun Sports. Viewership is up 62 percent over this time last year, according to Nielsen figures. The average broadcast is being viewed in about 99,000 homes.
The better turnout at the Trop is encouraging news for fans who want to see the Rays stick around the Tampa area long-term. However, it probably won't quiet the critics who are pushing for a new stadium.
You might have to multiply the 1,300-fan increase by 10 to do that, said one prominent observer.
"Now 13,000, then you've got an article," said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who has demanded that the Rays fulfill their contract to play in St. Petersburg.
But perhaps an even bigger takeaway from the attendance article is that it's been two years since Stu Sternberg issued his ultimatum to St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay, and we still have no real news in the Rays' Stadium Saga.
It may continue that way until the caucus commissioned by the Greater Tampa and St. Pete chambers of commerce releases its inevitable findings. But the effort, initially launched in December 2010, was expected to produce a report in early 2012. That was delayed to June 2012, but has since been delayed again. It's unclear if the delay is related to the complexity of the research or the political climate, still unfriendly to the multi-county tax that may be necessary to get a stadium built.