Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 Rays Attendance Post-Mortem

No sugar-coatin' this one: the 2015 Rays' attendance numbers stunk.

Tampa Bay ended its season Sunday in front of 15,815 fans, raising its average attendance all the way up to 15,403 fans per game - once again, the lowest in MLB.  It was also the team's lowest mark since 2005.

That's a full 1,744 fans fewer than the Cleveland Indians (whose state-of-the-art stadium helped them average 17,147 fans this year).

For the Rays, the 1.25 million fans through the turnstiles is a drop of nearly 200,000 fans from a year ago, or about 2,454 fans per game.

Attendance has been a challenge for a lot of teams this year, but thanks to a 9,000+ fans-per-game boost in Kansas City after their league title last year, overall MLB attendance was flat from a year ago.

In Tampa Bay, my personal favorite explanations are the front office's self-fulfilling prophecy, the team's failure to be "cool," and of course, location location location.

But my WTSP colleague Grayson Kamm took a look at some other explanations too.

He looked at Florida's oldest-in-the-nation demographic and the stubborn allegiances older baseball fans still have to the teams they grew up watching.

He also looked at the competition from technology, such as television and cell phones.  Columnist Joe Brown succinctly summarized that aspect this morning in the Trib: "The report also warned that a new ballpark won’t necessarily cure attendance problems because of the growing allure of high-definition TV and other digital options."
More adults are watching the Rays on TV than at the ballpark.  And MLB's revenues will soon be dominated by media rights.  Which raises a couple questions:

Are MLB's glory days behind them as the fan base ages out of prime 25-54 demographics?  And can the league attract young fans who seem to be more interested in selfies than stolen bases?
Those are questions for the Rays and Stu Sternberg to address as they enter 2016, the final year of their television contract and presumably, the time when they'll be negotiating how big of a bucket of money they'll score with a new one in 2017.

But in the meantime, Stu's busy celebrating his 10-year anniversary of owning the franchise...and busy not getting involved in the pivotal St. Pete election on Nov. 3.

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  1. Noah, just want to remind you that the fans doing selfies in Arizona paid their tickets (and showed up at the stadium) and even if they have fun with the mobile phones, better have those young fans in the stands than nobody. Probably that Rays would love to have hundreds of those young fans in the stands!

    And is it better to have a 5 year-old boy or girl that don't care about the sponsors or a young men or woman from a college/university that is a perfect fit for a sponsor in the stadium?

    Also, even if the TV ratings are high, it does not guaranty that viewers are listening to the game. They may be using their mobile phone, tablet or laptop to do something else while watching/listening the game. So what's the value of a TV listener compare to a fan in the stand?

    I will go further. Does the value of a regular TV game listener is equal, less or higher than a MLB.TV listener that interact with the content on their device?

    I think the future is MLB.TV within the stadium. Because MLB will probably offer more content and interactivity with fans in the stands than the ones outside the stadium. Remember also that lot of players will not want to play in boring stadium even if the paycheque is over the roof.

    Sternberg said that he will not negotiate during the season and he did what he said. Now that the season is finished, he will probably wait from formal propositions or topics to discuss. I do believe that he will respect the election process and will make his mind once the winning candidate is announced.

    Fall and winter seasons will be more active than ever in St-Pete and TB, I think.

  2. There's no guarantee they will get a raise on their TV deal with the cable rights bubble about to burst. You can't expect new TV money to save this franchise.

    1. And as a example of the cable bubble close to bursting, look at the mess at ESPN:

      ESPN just announced layoffs recently.. those TV deals they gave out for all the leagues, including MLB, are killing them.

    2. ? Sorry, but ESPN directing more revenue towards tv contracts then employees at Bristol doesn't mean a bubble, duh!

    3. ^^ escalating TV rights fees --> escalating cable costs --> escalating # of people "cutting the cord" --> escalating pressure on ESPN to reduce overhead

      It really is that simple, man.

    4. Sorry to burst your "bubble", "man", but viewership of games are at an all time high with no sign of decline...

    5. There is definitely a guarantee they'll make more than the sparse payments they're currently locked into.

  3. Here is the Montreal Point of View on Rays situation. A journalist from Montreal was in St-Pete to discuss the topic.

    Original article:

    Translated one:

    1. Seems that artists from Montreal were participating at a gratifies festival. See what they did at the bottom of the page.

      Interesting that it took a journalist from Montreal to broadcast publicly the information and the photo.

  4. A few random thoughts:

    Were the Rays considered "cool" when they were making the postseason or sporting winning records?

    If many residents are fans of other teams, why are the Rays' TV ratings so good? Let's say I'm a transplanted Pirates fan living in St Pete. I don't have MLB.TV, so I only get to watch Bucs games when they're nationally televised. But I still want to watch baseball. Are we saying that I would only watch the Rays on TV, but not show up to the Trop? That I would stay a staunch Pirates supported, and not even spend a dime on the team I watch the most?

    Cleveland was a great baseball market when the team was consistently winning. They sold out like 500 times in a row or something crazy like that. Most fans I spoke to when I took in a game this summer were frustrated with the current ownership, and many have stayed away at an inconsistent product. But they have proven that they'll show up when given a reason, like most markets. Tampa Bay has never done this.

    Overall, I have a bad feeling about the future. Payroll is going to be trimmed. There aren't many superstars in the lineup, and fan interest, at least attendance-wise, is back to their Devil Rays days. The opportunity to strike while the iron was hot, like the M's did when securing Safeco Field funding in 95, has been missed, and most people are tired of taxpayers being on the hook for projects that allegedly never pay off for the 99%.

    How many years will go by until they are under 1 million people? Yes, Montreal had this problem at the end, but books have been written about how their fanbase being alienated. As I'm sure I've said on here before, if they wrote a book about the Rays' attendance woes, what horrors would they uncover? Oooh, traffic is bad. I don't like the stadium. The team isn't cool. Other teams have had similar problems, but the fans still showed up. What is so much worse on this side on the Bay?

  5. And next month all Pinellas's snowbirds are going to coming back and go watch hockey...
    Demographics is a big unspoken reason why the Rays will fare bigger attendance #s when they move to Tampa...

  6. Anyone notice the huge spike in sold out games for the Blue Jays after they acquired D Price (a former Ray)... Hmmmm.

    1. Jays fans were waiting for the ownership to put a decent winning team on the field.. and they did so. Plus, even though it's not the best stadium, it's in a decent location in Toronto which can be reached easily by transit and driving.

      The saying is "If you build it, they will come.." Unfortunately, when the stadium is in an awful location like the Rays have, nothing will improve attendance. They must get a new stadium in the Tampa area or they will risk being contracted or relocated by MLB in a few years.. they cannot wait until 2027, especially with a new CBA looming, where the other owners will not continue to support Tampa without plans for a new stadium.

    2. "If you build it, they will come.." ... Sadly, it's not meant to be for MLB in Florida. The Marlins used that excuse and swindled a $650Mn+ stadium and no one is going to their games either,

      Face it Florida, MLB is DEAD there. The only baseball that is attracting people is ST and the Minor Leagues.

  7. It’s a real shame, because the Rays are such a polar opposite of their neighbors in South Beach. They field a competitive team, have great marketing and promotions, and have an ownership group that doesn’t regularly hold fire sales. Yet because of Loria’s stadium debacle, most folks are wary of funding another rich owner, as they should be.

  8. Haha, our owner doesn't live here, is a Mets fan, and has Marlin-like rare spurts of success amid the steady current of small-market dismantling. If you had to pick the worst team/franchise at any level in Florida, what would it be? The Marlins and Rays try hard to be the worst, but they don't have that distinctly Tallahassee rape-y factor that the Bucs now have.

    1. Stu sounds like a typical Mets fan, only willing to admit it when they are relevant. I'd say the Marlins would kill for 6 straight years of winning, competitive baseball in their history. Although they are the poster child for what is wrong with the Wild Card, having never won an NL East title, yet somehow holding two World Series Championships. Either way, they'd get my vote for worst, although the Jags or Panthers can never be left out of the conversation.

      My point is that the Rays ownership could be a lot worse, and I would go as far to say that they have done little to alienate their fanbase, when compared to Loria, aside from pointing out what we all know, that the Trop isn't a long term solution for the team. As long as they win, who cares where he lives, right?