Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hooper: "Tampa, are we just not a good sports town?"

An excerpt from Ernest Hooper's column questioning how hardcore Tampa Bay fans really are {link to Times' site}:
Plenty of Rays lovers who live in Tampa insist the team will draw more fans if a new stadium went up in the Channel District. After wading through 45 minutes of traffic on my way to the Yankees game — just to reach the Hillsborough entrance to the Howard Frankland Bridge — I want to believe a relocation might make a difference.

But would it really?

Maybe the team would struggle on either side of the bay. Maybe attendance lags for the Rays and Bucs because the economic dollars in the community won't stretch far enough to support three major franchises.

Or maybe we just don't care enough to go to every game or even a lot of games.

Usually when our teams contend and compete, we show up in droves. In the Bucs' heyday, seats proved scarce and the team boasted a waiting list. But when ticket prices went up and the economy went down, attendance began to bottom and it still hasn't recovered.

The University of South Florida football team's fortunes followed a similar path. When the Bulls climbed into the nation's Top 10, crowds filled Raymond James. But its tailspin into mediocrity has resulted in embarrassing numbers.

And we won't even talk about USF basketball, another program that draws more visiting fans than hometown supporters — when it's lucky.

In a great sports town, fans show up win or lose, seemingly adhering to the legendary code of letter carriers. In this town, I fear to think what would happen if our spectators had to fight through snow or rain or gloom of night.
Hooper talks about competing amusements, disposable family income, poor transit, and lack of corporate headquarters.  But he also questions if the lack of an "over-the-top fervor" from fans is the difference-maker here.

He also talks about waning attendance at Gators games, although I see that more of a sign of the HD TV effect than waning fandom.  However, when it comes to Tampa Bay teams, its clear there aren't enough fans who care about going to games.  And the fandom that will prompt a family to drive 3+ hours each way to a Gators football game is absent when it comes to driving 30 minutes each way to a Rays game.


  1. What is a good sports town? Is it one where fans can brag that "our team owners in our town make more than the team owners in your town!" Or is a good sports town pertain to the ease in which the taxpayers part with tax dollars?

  2. Actually, I don't think Mr. Hooper cares very much. He'd rather spend 45 minutes getting from Valrico to the Frankland than pay the Selmon Expressway tolls, for one.