Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Articles That Aged Well: How Many Fans Do the Rays Need? (Oct '12)

Reposted from October 2012 (links may not all work):


It's been a busy three weeks in the Stadium Saga, especially for columnists and editorial boards. Sunday, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano wrote that the Rays are as good as gone from St. Pete and Mayor Bill Foster should use his leverage now to negotiate financial compensation....before it's too late. 
 
That column drew the ire of Rays blogger "Schmitty," who wrote "An Open Letter to John Romano and the Tampa Bay Times About the Rays Stadium Situation."

(For what it's worth, Romano wrote in April about how the Rays' contract with St. Pete is "very close" to ironclad)
And today, the Tampa Tribune editorial board authored a blunt recommendation to move the Rays to somewhere more centralized in Tampa Bay.  Where, you ask?  They did not specify.
But the editorial brought up several good points:
  • "The region must get it right because it's highly unlikely we'll get a third chance."
  • "Wherever the Rays play, some fans are going to have to drive across the bay bridges," implying fans should get over it.
  • "Cut 15 minutes off the time it takes most fans to get to the stadium and the Rays still will have empty seats."
The Trib contends the goal is getting out of the league's attendance cellar, but that strikes me as setting their sights extremely low.  A $500-600 million stadium to lift the Rays from 30th place to 26th place doesn't seem to me like a good investment.

So how many more fans are needed to warrant the investment? 

Thirty-thousand?  That would bump the Rays up to 15th out of 30 teams and would mean an extra 870,000 fans a year.  But 30,000/game seems unsustainable given the fact that the Marlins only drew 27,400 in their first season and playoff teams like Cincinnati and Baltimore only drew 28,978 and 26,610, respectively, this year despite their modern stadiums.

Twenty-five thousand?  That would bump the Rays up to 24th in the league in attendance and mean 465,000 more fans a year.  But there's a big question if the Marlins could draw that many next year or if the Rays - by moving from a county with 900,000 residents to a county with 1.1 million residents could either.

Twenty-three thousand?  Is it worth $500-600 million for 303,000 fans a year?  If the ticket average is $25, that's $7.5 million a year for the Rays.  Add parking and concessions and maybe it's $15 million a year for the Rays.  Might just be cheaper for Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties to hand the team an annual tax credit.

Back to the Trib, the editorial board implies a Rays departure from St. Pete is imminent: "Because its attendance is the poorest in Major League Baseball, the Rays will not remain in Tropicana Field much longer, regardless of the lease with St. Petersburg."

That's a bold assumption given no track record of MLB teams breaking seemingly ironclad contracts.  But the Trib probably was right when it conceded, "Whatever compensation (St. Petersburg) negotiates, or is awarded, it likely will be much less than the value of keeping the Rays as a regional asset."

Which begs the question, "Do the City of St. Pete and Pinellas County owe it to Tampa Bay to give up the equity they've built in the Rays?"  And should the rest of Tampa Bay (i.e. Hillsborough Co.) pay them for it if they hop across the bay?






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4 comments:

  1. The Rays allegedly need a new stadium so that they can draw more fans to generate more revenue to increase player payroll to put a more competitive team on the field. A new stadium is not going to make that happen because the revenue increase will be way less than what is needed to move player payroll to the middle of the pack. MLB has to do a more aggressive job of revenue sharing to solve this problem. The taxpayers should not pay a dime for this ridiculousness.

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  2. Montreal is gearing up their stadium drive and potential owners suggesting that no tax-payer money to be used...

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  3. Too bad Montreal won’t be getting a new stadium. As the little Alouette says: continue de rêver! Maybe the Marlins should get a new stadium, that way their attendance will increase as well.

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    1. You are right. Montreal is not getting a new stadium. First, Montreal will get a team and then, the new stadium will be announced!

      Alouette, gentille aloutette;
      Alouette, je te plumerai!

      Stay Tuned!

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