I’ll admit, when reported attendance numbers are below 15,000 at Tropicana Field, I feel kinda guilty. I feel guilty because I think I could make a difference. It’s the same guilt I feel during an election when there is a candidate I support but I don’t bother to get out and vote. And then that candidate doesn’t win. Was it because of me? Or was it because of hundreds of other people like me who figured someone else would carry the burden of voting?
Although the worst a candidate can do is raise my taxes, approve or disapprove of transportation measures, cancel programs, stifle the economy, or generally cause the social fabric of the world around me to fall apart, for some reason I am more concerned about an empty seat at Tropicana Field that my tuckus could have sat in.
I wonder if I am the only one. Am I the only person who thinks if the team moves it would be partially my fault for not supporting them to the utmost of my ability?
I am a huge baseball fan. The fact that I am writing here is evidence enough that I am a huge Rays fan. So why aren’t I at every game contributing my +1 to the attendance total?
First and foremost, I am a partial season ticket holder. I go to over 20 games a season. I have the Rebecca Black Package, which means I am at Tropicana Field every Friday, Friday, Friday.
But what about Saturday through Thursday? I don’t have kids. I live 30 minutes from Tropicana Field. I don’t have a dog. I have a plant that requires watering once a week. And I’m watching most of those games on television. Why don’t I go?
There are a few reasons why I don’t go to very many games outside of my bundle. Number one, I am unemployed.
The fact that I lost my job two weeks ago and I am currently seeking employment is a huge factor in limiting my Rays live viewing experiences. I am now one of the 10-14% in the area out of work. It’s kind of a weird feeling. Every dollar spent is a dollar closer to running out of money.
Granted, it is only nine to 15 dollars to sit in the cheapest part of Tropicana Field, the TBT Party Deck. And I don’t think those are bad seats at all, although the experience of sitting the bleachers is different than sitting in other parts of the stadium closer to the action. But they are good seats, and live baseball is live baseball.
Number two, there is a lot more to a game than just a ticket.
Besides the cheap admission fee, there are other costs associated with going to a ballgame that send the cost up quite a bit. There is the gas cost – for me, about 10 dollars or so for a trip there and back. There is the often needed stop at the ATM for parking fee cash, because parking attendants never take credit or debit. And far be it for me to pass my usual bank for another God-forsaken ATM and its God-forsaken fees. That could cost upwards of another four dollars.
Then there is parking. Oh, beautiful parking. How much I would love to have public transportation. Or perhaps a Star Trek teleporter to “beam” me directly to the ballpark. But alas, as is, I must park. It’s free of course if I find a spot six blocks from the ballpark. And I just may if the total attendance is fewer than 15,000. But for a premium game, those few spots are as good as gone. So I must journey on.
There are a few five dollar parking lots around the vicinity of Tropicana Field. Those aren’t bad if I have my walking shoes on. Or I could park downtown for three dollars and take the shuttle bus. Or I can park across the street from an official lot for 10 dollars or so.
Or I could actually park on Tropicana Field property. Remember when parking was free? That was great, wasn’t it? I had a parking pass once and it was the greatest investment of my ballpark-going life. For nine dollars a game, I parked mere rows from the main entrance of Gate 1. Guards waved me in as I flashed my weekly pass like Wayne and Garth backstage at Alice Cooper. It wasn’t Milwaukee, but that part of the parking lot definitely was “the good land”.
Number three, the cost of satisfying my hunger.
I’ll admit, I am a sucker for good ballpark food. I’ve moved on from hotdogs and Cracker Jack and I would rather not go back. My dining area at the Trop is the hidden gem known as the Boar’s Head Spaghetti Bar on the third base side of the fourth floor from the Whitney Bank Club. The deli-spaghetti bar is the locale of choice of many of the vendors, staff, and even media types such as Fred McGriff and Orestes Destrade. The staff is friendly and the cheese-filled breadsticks are delicious.
But a drink and meal can cost at least 15 bucks. That adds up.
True, I don’t have to eat at the Boar’s Head Spaghetti Bar every time I go to the ballpark. I don’t have to check out the Everglades BBQ or Outback either. But I would rather spend good money on food once a week than spend five dollars on a hot dog and coke two or three times a week. If I am going to the ballpark, I want the trip to be a treat to myself.
So after averaging 15 for food, 10 for a ticket, 10 for parking, and 10 for gas, I’m spending roughly 45 dollars per trip to the ballpark. And that’s just me. Again, no kids, no family, and not even a date.
But yet I still feel guilty. I feel if I spend another dollar or go to one more game a week maybe we won’t hear the attendance issue anymore. Maybe if the attendance was 10,000 and 1 we would be in the clear. I like to think my butt counts. I like to think I make a difference.
Even if I don’t.
What about you? Do you go to as many games as you would like? Would you like to go to more? How much do you usually spend at a night at the ballpark? Am I only one who feels guilty?
(Picture from FifthWorldArt.com’s photo essay of the recent Rays tweet-up.)