[UPDATE: We were just informed by the Rays that MLB's data was mislabeled. The data was supposed to refer to the home counties of Rays fans in general and not "attendees" of Rays games as indicated on the data. They are in the process of correcting the report]
Stuart Sternberg’s latest comments on the Rays’ attendance struggles have caused quite a stir on both sides of the Bay.
The defenders point out that the comments were accurate and that the Bay is indeed “a big divide.” On the other side, some are offended that Sternberg would joke about Hillsborough County residents and their “willingness to navigate bridges.”
Whether or not the comments were a jab at people east of the Bay, the bigger question is whether or not the comments were waranted, or even accurate.
Here is a look at the residency of Rays fans from Major League Baseball’s own data (thanks Jeff)…
This means that on a typical night at The Trop (22,758 fans in 2010), 7,692 people come from Piniellas County and 6,827 fans are coming across those bridges. That is a difference of just 865 people. And that is not counting Pasco County or the people that must “navigate bridges” on their way from Manatee or Sarasota counties, or what is certainly a big chunk of the “other.”
Still, Tampa is a big town. Maybe Sternberg was hoping Rays fans would be made up of a majority of Hillsborough residents. Let’s compare the population sizes of each of these six counties…
So Hillsborough makes up 31.4 percent of the area population and 30.0 percent of the population at the Trop. If you ask us, it looks like Hillsborough is pulling their weight.
Rather it appears the lack of support may be more dramatic in Piniellas County. While there are over 7,000 fans on the average night driving 45 minutes or more to come from Hillsborough County, only 7,700 fans are coming from the Trop’s own neighborhood.
Water is a big divide. And for a lot of fans it has a huge impact on the number of games they attend. But when it comes to attendance issues, the bigger problem might be in the Rays’ own backyard.