Thursday, April 23, 2015

Are Fans Tiring of Stadium Saga? You Bet They Are!

We've seen a lot of talk lately about the Rays' poor start at the box office and the possibilities of Stadium Saga fatigue.  Well, prepare to see a lot more, because as I first wrote in 2010, declining attendance numbers are all but a forgone conclusion as the team's frustrating campaign for a new stadium drags on.

Just ask the Expos, whose attendance dropped to 4,000 fans many nights when MLB indicated it was done with the market.

At 18,000+ fans per night, the Rays are a long way from those Montreal lows.  And its ownership group has done less complaining about the stadium as it has done in previous years.

But what I wrote five years ago still rings true:
From my vantage point, it seems that the Rays have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In continuing to point out problems with the Trop, the Rays (perhaps inadvertently) are building - and reinforcing - the stadium's negative image.

Why else would so many people dislike the Trop but have trouble explaining why? It's like politics. The more the issue is discussed on talk radio and on the evening news, the more people will believe it. Perception is reality.
And, in a separate post from 2009, I also predicted the team would "re-affirm its commitment to stay in the area, but it won't be shy about its need for a new park."  The post also included:
It will be right about that time a high-ranking team executive (Stuart Sternberg? Matthew Silverman? Stadium Czar Michael Kalt?) will take a trip to Charlotte.  Or Portland.  Or some other MLB-starved city.  A trip like that would normally go under-the-radar, but a well-placed call to someone like Peter Gammons or Rob Neyer will drop the tip that the Rays are exploring other communities.
By the way, great minds must think alike, since Gary Shelton wrote last week, "You know how it will work. Stu Sternberg will show up at an exhibition game in Montreal. There is no funny business, he’ll say. He just wanted to see a ballgame. Then a team official will be seen in Charlotte. Or Las Vegas. Or somewhere."

The Rays are continuing down the path they set out on in 2010 when Sternberg gave the region an ultimatum and essentially demanded St. Petersburg amend its contract.  He created a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the only real change in the Stadium Saga since then has been in the attendance numbers.


  1. To be fair Noah, it's a bit of a stretch to use Montreal as an example for people not showing up because they were tired of the stadium saga. The situation in Montreal was MUCH more serious than it is in St. Pete.

    1. Olympic Stadium is a place where multi-ton concrete slabs fall from the roof. The Trop is not.
    2. I've written this on your site before, the Expos were told in 1998 that no government money would go towards a stadium. Only 1 or 2 teams play in 100% publicly financed ballparks. So I think Montreal pretty much knew in 1998 that the team would definitely leave. We can't say the same about Bay area residents today.
    3. I would not say that MLB has indicated it's done with the area. It's still very likely that the Rays stay in Tampa-St. Pete. Something that could not be said of the 1998 Expos.
    4. Even when you include those terrible last 7 years for the Expos, their yearly attendance is still closer to league average over their existence than the Rays' yearly attendance has been. (used simple math and

    Considering that I don't believe the Rays are in an "Expos-level" dire situation, I find it very depressing that this area has attendance figures that are relatively less than the Expos.

    1. I agree 100% with you.

      Comparing what Sternberg did so far to what Brochu/Loria/MLB did to the Expos from 1995 to 2004 is a big big step.

      The Trop. is way better than the Big O. I'm from Montreal and went to the Big O dozen and dozen of times to Baseball games, soccer games, events, show, ... And I went to the Trop. last summer. It is a complet different story.

      What happen to the Expos over a period of almost 10 years is exceptional and I'm pretty sure Manfred will not repeat the same process. The situation in TB will be resolved or fixed in the next few years.

      A new stadium with a viable business plan will be approved by all parties (no matter where the money is coming from) or the team will move. Before 2018. Before the end of the 5 years mandate of Manfred.

      In the meantime, even if we cannot cheer for our baseball team, we are behind the Habs in the playoffs and the Impact for the final game in the Soccer CONCACAF Champion League next week against CF América. More than 59 000 fans will be at the Big O for that historical game.

      When a competitive team is on the field (or on the ice), the whole city and province is behind them and the stadiums are packed. This is how a community should cheer for their sports team. No matter if the stadium is far, or old or whatever other reasons.

    2. No matter how nice a new stadium would be, or perfectly located (downtown Tampa or Westshore/airport area) will not get this market anywhere near that MLB average of about 31,000 to a game. Even if they were to add 5,000 fans (a goal I have seen before) a game, that would put the average crowd at about 23,000 fans a game - well below the MLB average.

      Everyone blames the Trop itself, the location, the drive time it takes and people being devoted to the team they grew up watching - like the Yankees, Red Sox or whoever. Yes, those are all contributing factors of why people don't go.

      But I think the number one factor is the demographics of this market itself. Yes, we are the 14th largest TV market and people are watching. And people here do like and care about the Rays.

      The bottom line is, this market can't afford to go to these games. Last year, a study came out that said about 51% of this market had very little disposable income, if any. This area has not recovered from the recession and the unemployment don't tell the truth. People may be working, but they are not making what they did before, nor are a majority of small business's in this market either.

      People that live in this market will not pay $20 to park, buy $11 sodas and $6 hot dogs on top of $100 tickets like the beefed up prices at the Yankee games this past weekend. And I don't want to hear "you can bring your own food in", "park for free with 4 people" "you can sit in the bleachers for ....whatever".

      That's why the laid-back people of this market watch it on their big screen TV at home.

    3. Agree.

      Florida Panthers stopped giving away tickets and the arena was empty during the NHL season. So disposable income is a big factor.

      So maybe the solution is to charge more for the eyeballs in front of TV and reduce drastically the size of the stadium to make it look full.

      Because, when I watch the Rays games lately, it is sad, really sad. No vibes, no life in the stands. Something need to be done quick.

  2. Baseball, as an individual-centric sport, needs stars. It also probably needs more fights. I am now a huge fan of this Royals pitcher who has had 4 starts and 2 ejections. I am hoping he can keep his Ejections (per) Start Average (ESA) up around .5, and I think he may have a higher upside. Putting the saber in sabermetrics. Anything to break up the idleness.

    Stardom goes in cycles I suppose, but...

    The star of the AL East is _____________. (2004 Papi*?)
    The star of the AL Central is _____________. (Verlander's iPhone?)
    The star of the AL West is Mike Trout.
    The star of the Rays is _____________. (2008 Longo?)
    The star of the NL West is __________. (Melvin Upton?)

    Baseball is still dealing with the departure of the stars* of the last generation, whose accomplishments will be forever clouded in the ignominy of steroids. In the meantime, MLB should be selling us branded electro-stim abdominal workout packs to keep us all awake on the couch until September. I made the mistake of switching between the Bolts and Rays a couple nights ago (playoffs vs. early season, I know, but still...). I think the Sox manager was out on the field stalling to determine if they were going to challenge a call. It was 1-0 because of an E-4. Yikes, kill me now. Last night was fun, though, so maybe we could set up walk-offs for every game? Or at least more fighting and/or pyrotechnics?

    1. Interesting comment. I never looked at it that way.

      Maybe more players from Cuba and Central/South America?

      Remember Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, "El Presidente" Dennis Martinez or Moise Alou with Felipe Alou as a coach. All those players/coach were like peppers in a salsa sauce.

      Also remember Steve Rogers, "Spaceman " Bill Lee (a US National Treasure, I can tell you, he's on TSN690 Radio in Montreal every weekday and this is one of the most entertaining players I heard so far) or "The Kid" Gary Carter.

      I missed those eccentric players.

    2. LMAO Verlander's iPhone

  3. Lot’s of good points covered in this discussion.
    Here is my 2 cents:
    For the Rays to have a chance of being ‘successful’ in Tampa Bay, a minimum of these two realities must happen:
    1. The Rays must be a winning and contending team on an on-going basis
    2. The Tampa Bay economy must be doing well on an on-going basis
    Up to this point in the Devil Rays/Rays 17year+ history, these 2 realities have never occurred simultaneously.
    Even if these two realities do occur simultaneously and over an extended period, there is still the issues of:
    1. A history of the owner, manager, and players denigrating Tropicana Field. If I had never been to the Trop, I don’t know if I would ever go based on all the negative comments. I wonder how many Tampa Bay folks who have never gone, have decided not to go because of this.
    2. The location of the park is probably not ideal, and people can easily find an excuse not to go because of this unimportant fact.
    3. The Rays keep trading away their strongest players, allegedly because they can’t afford them (maybe true or not) such as Carl Crawford, David Price, James Shields, etc. This does lessen the appeal of the team, on a year-over-year basis, and of course reduces their on-the-field success as well. How can you build a strong allegiance among the fan base, if the lineup keeps turning over year after year and there are very few if any marquis players? How to you build a tradition with this team in a relatively new market? Will the Rays ever have a Hall Of Fame player who spent the majority of his career with the Rays?
    4. And a reality check – even if the Rays, with a new stadium, were to increase their average attendance by 10,000 per game, it would add just $20 million to revenues (per Rays president Brian Auld), and probably less to profit. When you consider that the cost of a new $600 million stadium, financed at 4% for 30 years, will cost $34 million per year, it is obvious that Stu Sternberg is looking for a major handout from us taxpayers. For the Rays to move from their current payroll (about $70 million per year) to middle of the pack payroll (about $106 million per year), where Stu Sternberg says the team can be successful over the long term, requires an increase in Rays cash flow of about $50 million per year. If the Rays/MLB deems that we need a new stadium, and that MLB wants to continue to have a franchise in Tampa Bay (13th largest TV market and just 12,000 households short of passing Detroit and Phoenix for 11th place), then the Rays/MLB need to pay for the new stadium. Taxpayers should not be having to pay for MLB’s broken business model that does not adequately distribute revenues from the richest to poorest teams and continually over pays players with ridiculous long term contracts such as with Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Max Scherzer, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Justin Verlander, Melvin (formerly BJ) Upton, etc.? Need I list more?

  4. OFF-TOPIC - TB Lightning fans are quiet on this blog since the beginning of the NHL playoffs. All the comments regarding what happen during the seasons were really funny.

    I think they now understand that playoff is another season, no matter if TB swept the Habs during the regular season. Not sure it matter anymore.

    Would love to see a Habs/TB series, but it is still a long road, right?

    We'll watch the game tonight. And "que le meilleur gagne!".

    1. Will the Habs ever beat the Lightning again? Tune in Wednesday to find out.