The Rays have an attendance problem. Most people outside of the Bay Area blame that problem on a lack of fan support. However, there has been some speculation recently that the Rays attendance numbers would look much better if they received the same amount of corporate support that other teams receive.
The case goes like this: In their final report, The ABC Coalition noted that for every two season-tickets the Rays sell to regular fans, they sell one season-ticket to a business. However, the average in Major League Baseball is actually four corporate season-tickets for every two season-tickets sold to fans.
In other words, one-third of all Rays season tickets are sold to businesses while the MLB average is two-thirds.
Toby David of 1010 Sports speculated that the Rays have a season-ticket base of 9,000. That would mean 6,000 season-tickets are purchased by fans and 3,000 purchased by businesses. If the Rays were selling the typical amount of tickets to corporations (twice as many as fans), the Rays should actually be selling 12,000 season-tickets to businesses, or 9,000 more tickets per game than what they are selling now.
In other words, if the Rays continued to receive the same support from fans, but the corporate support was the same as what other teams receive, Rays attendance would be about 29,000 per game. That would be 15th in Major League Baseball, and all of a sudden the talking heads no longer have anything to bitch about.
John Romano of TampaBay.com used a lower number, speculating that the season-ticket base is actually 6,000 (4,000 fans, 2,000 corporate). Using his numbers, businesses should actually be buying 8,000 season-tickets, or 6,000 more than they are now. That would make the Rays attendance about 26,000 per game, 18th in baseball. Still pretty good.
The arguments are sound. But there might be a problem. First of all, we don’t know what the season-ticket sales look like now. The Rays have never released the numbers. But more importantly, we may be placing too much trust in the numbers from The ABC Coalition.
The ABC group was tantalizingly vague when they presented their research…
Typically, two-thirds of MLB season tickets are purchased by corporations and one-third by individuals…However, only one-third of the Rays’ current season ticket holders are corporate, in reverse proportion to the typical MLB team. If the rays total season-ticket base were at MLB average levels, ticket revenue would not be a significant problem.
First of all, where did this information come from? Considering the Rays have never released their season-ticket sales figures, the ABC group either went seat-to-seat at the Trop, or they got the numbers from the Rays or Major League Baseball. That raises a red flag.
But more importantly, what are the actual numbers, and how were they compiled?
In the above statement, the ABC group uses the word “typically” and later says “average.” Those two things are not necessarily the same. In fact, we would be surprised if they were the same.
Hypothetically, let’s say the ABC group weren’t just told this by somebody in Major League Baseball (the lack of actual data suggest they were). Let’s say they had the actual hard data. The data are going to be heavily influenced by the big-market teams whose season-tickets, and corporate support, dwarf other teams. Teams like the Yankees and Mets. Their numbers may be so high, that the average is actually much higher than what is “typical.”
And if the numbers are indeed skewed towards the big-market clubs, then “typical” corporate support for small- and mid-market teams might actually be much less than the 2-to-1 ratio of support presented by the ABC Coalition.
So let’s split the two figures proposed earlier and say the Rays have a season-ticket base of 7,500. That would be 5,000 tickets purchased by fans and 2,500 by businesses. Now let’s guess that the typical ratio in a non-big-market city is 1-to-1. That means the Rays should be selling 2,500 more tickets, which would raise their average attendance to 22,500, 25th in baseball.
And all of a sudden it doesn’t seem like that big of a difference.
This doesn’t mean David or Romano are wrong, or that our numbers are any better. And we can all agree that the Rays lack of corporate support does hurt attendance.
Our point is only that we don’t know how much better attendance would be, because the ABC group was very vague with their presentation. And we have a feeling that the ABC group was vague because the people who gave them the information were also vague.
It is our experience that when people are vague it is either because they think their audience is dumb, or they are hiding something. Take your pick.