This blog has long-documented how Rays' attendance struggles when the Lightning are in the playoffs (as well as in the fall, once football season starts). The sad truth is the Tampa Bay market is stretched a bit thin, especially given the region's lukewarm interest in pro sports.
So just how bad are the Lightning playoffs hurting the Rays?
Now, those numbers for the most recent playoff round have rebounded a little bit for the Rays since the original tweet Saturday morning, but the team is trying to stop the bleeding with $7 party deck tickets through the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs.#Rays avg attendance prior to NHL Playoffs: 19506 per gm Avg att during Rnd 1: 16891 Avg att during Rnd 2: 13298 Avg att during Rnd 3: 11450— TBBaseballMarket (@TBBaseballMkt) May 23, 2015
However, there's been little-to-no promotion of the discount, causing sportstalk hosts and bloggers alike to question whether the Rays care if attendance continues to plummet, as long as folks keep watching on TV.
The theory may be a bit far-fetched, as the lack of promotion may have to do more with concerns about de-valuing their product, especially after three $15 general admission games when the Orioles had relocated their series to the Trop on short-notice.
Rays not the cool kids on the block
The bottom line is Rays games just aren't the kind of event fans want to cut out of work early for. The Trop isn't the kind of venue fans want to brag about with photos on social media. And Stu Sternberg hasn't made his team very "cool."
In comparison, Jeff Vinik made the Lightning and Amalie Arena "cool." It's more about PR and social media than it is infrastructure. It's why Vinik has a rubber stamp in Tampa and Sternberg is seen as the enemy in many parts of St. Petersburg.
My friends are sick of me repeating this mantra, so I'll just direct you to a Tom Jones piece in this weekend's Times. He writes, "Tampa Bay is not considered a great sports market...We become a good sports market when one of our teams gets really good and following that team becomes the cool thing to do. Right now that team is the Lightning."
The Rays' self-fulfilling prophecy?
The Rays are now drawing an average of 15,215 fans per game, about 3,000 off their mark from the same time last year. Across the state, the Marlins aren't doing much better, posting 20,126 per game, 28th in Major League Baseball.
Across the board, MLB attendance is actually up about 2% this year - almost entirely due to huge crowds in Kansas City. There are also some big gains in Cleveland, Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, and Oakland. There are big drops in Anaheim, Philly, Texas, Atlanta, and of course, Tampa Bay.
The Trib's Chris O'Donnell wrote this weekend that there are lots of reasons the Rays are struggling, but it was nice to see my self-fulfilling prophecy theory in print:
just how ugly it would get in just a few years.
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