Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are Rays Already Too Far Down Destructive Road?

Hey Sasso!  My Google Alert for "Rays attendance tampabay.com" is going off!  Get another Rays story on the front page!

I don't know if that's exactly how the conversation went yesterday at the Tampa Tribune, but it may not have been far off.

A day after John Romano wrote in the Times, "Don't blame Tampa Bay, maybe Florida and baseball don't mix," the Trib's leading stadium writer, Michael Sasso, dissected the team's sagging attendance numbers:
Midseason, the Rays are averaging just 17,961 fans per game at the Trop through 46 home games. That's down from an average of 21,035 fans per game through the first 46 home games of last season...
Everyone has their own theory.  Mine has been that Trop-bashing has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  And Sasso went down that road:
The Rays may be caught in a vicious cycle, based on the experience of one fan who caught a game at Ferg's sports bar in downtown St. Petersburg recently. Angie Latour, 40, of St. Petersburg, said the team needs more season ticketholders, but the fear that the Rays may leave town keeps her from purchasing them.
Not purchasing a season's worth of tickets because the team may be gone in five years doesn't make a lot of sense...but neither does a Tampa fan's hesitation to drive from South Tampa to Downtown St. Pete.

Watching the reaction to these stories have been interesting.  More specifically, the lack of new reaction has been interesting.  Most of the most comments reacting to Romano's column were of the "get them out of that dump and you will see increase in attendance" and "we are the only Major League Market without viable mass transit" variety.

But commenter "stilljustsayin19" echoed the "self-fulfilling prophecy" theory, saying "The Trop has a negative energy that I don't need, and I don't want to be a part of. I definitely don't want my wife and kids experiencing that either. Idon't go to WalMart either. Why? Same reason."

And leading Rays biographer Jonah Keri (well, just about the only Rays biographer) took issue with Romano on Twitter: "So, so, so much wrong in this article."

I believe Keri was referring to Romano's snub of one major reason for Rays' struggling attendance: the team's short history and lack of fans born into the culture (so far).  But if young Rays fans are brought up in a culture where it's not seen as "cool" to go to a baseball game, the argument may be moot anyway.

Finally, it's worth noting the Rays declined comment on Sasso's story, continuing their practice of methodical media relations, generally commenting only when convenient and when planned well in advance.


  1. I also saw a lot of fan comments alluding to them struggling to make ends meet, which obviously fails to take into account that Tampa/St Pete isn't the only region where the local economy is still sputtering at the moment.

    Nobody wants to acknowledge this, but maybe there are too many teams in the Tampa Bay area. Between the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, and now USF, plus the plethora of minor league teams in and around the metro area, perhaps there simply aren't enough dollars to be spent on buying tickets, concessions, parking, and merchandise for all those teams. I’m not 100% sure that even a championship season and/or an improved economy would solve that issue.

  2. My take on the Rays attendance problem is simple. A lot of people in the Tampa Bay Region are too busy working and making too little money to be able to afford a lot of games. I fall in this category, but also won't pay the $3.00 penality for not purchasing tickets 5 hours before a game. I might throw the change away inside the stadium but refuse to be penalized for a last minute decision to attend.
    Another thing I won't do is pay extra to see the Yank's or Red Sox. I go to the Trop to see my Rays and fellow baseball buddies but refuse to pay extra to see their competition. I'm quite content to watch them compete against teams that aren't loaded with big names.

  3. Noah, call me crazy, but is this your report? "Love for Yankees!"? http://news.yahoo.com/video/surprising-vanity-license-plates-approved-205617387.html

    1. It was Yahoo's take on our report:

    2. Sure fooled me, though yours would of probably added "your love for Red Sox", lol...