Earlier today we looked at how the payroll has changed through the years. Now let’s compare the evolution of the payroll to the Rays’ average attendance through the years. And to our surprise, there is more correlation than we would have expected.

Payroll values are in millions…

It is hard to believe that there was a time when the attendance was about 13,000 per game. However, those years also correlate with the years with the lowest payroll. And as payroll went up, so did attendance. Of course, wins also went up. But when the payroll went down in 2011, so did attendance.

However, there also appears that there is a limit to what the attendance can be. Even when the payroll continued to grow in 2009 and 2010, the attendance remained the same.

This is hardly scientific, and there are a lot of other factors at work here. But it appears that payroll influences attendance to some extent. And depending on what the payroll and wins look like, attendance at The Trop will always fall between 13,000 and 23,000. Never lower, never higher.

In the book “Baseball Between the Numbers,” they looked at factors that have an influence on attendance. The research wasn’t perfect, but the seven factors were ranked like this (with the most important factor ranked first)…

  1. Stadium Quality
  2. Market Size
  3. Honeymoon effect (impact of new stadium typically lasts 3 years)
  4. Games won in previous season
  5. Playoff appearances in past 10 years
  6. Games won in current season
  7. Per-capita income

The Rays fail miserably at the top three. But what they didn’t look at was payroll. We have seen that payroll and wins are not always correlated. And typically, higher payrolls mean bigger stars on the roster. And bigger stars will draw more fans.

We need to see a lot more data before we can say payroll has a big influence on attendance. But looking at the data above seems to indicate that there is at least some influence with the Rays.

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2 Comments

  1. Gus says:

    "13,000 to 23,000, never higher, never lower."

    If the management team continues to run the team on the cheap over a period of years (this year I can't accuse them of that), they'll never build a consistent fan base. If they don't get a better local TV deal, they may be forced to run the team on the cheap. If the management team continues to complain about their own stadium, they'll never build a consistent fan base.

    If they try to run the team and avoid the behavior described in the preceeding paragraph, they'll show nice long-term growth in attendance, especially as the local economy recovers and starts to grow again. Live attendance is decreasing in importance. The telelvision market of Florida is where this team has long-term value, especially as the Marlins have poistioned themselves further south geographically and as a more latino orientated team (opening day there (brazilian dancers, Miami schlock, etc.) was certainly not designed for the baseball fan in Orlando, Naples or Daytona Beach). If the Rays continue to win, they should be Florida's team, and the Marlins will become Miami-Latin America's team.

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  2. Joe says:

    Gus, for sake of argument here, I will say that this team is still being run cheap this year. In relative terms, they raised it more than anyone thought, but payroll can be whatever Stu wants it to be. Stu can run it with his investment team however he wants to run it, free of any reprisal shots or any because of what we know to be a VERY friendly media to his caause. Salaries are exploding and the Rays basically had to keep their arb players just because they have to keep up with the "Joneses". They put Scott in the Damon role and Pena came into a range where it was "palatable" for the Rays to spend the "little extra" (COUGH, COUGH) to get him. Everyone else was retained, but arbitration prices and other market forces, I think continue to catch the Rays in a way they have to begrudingly pay up.

    I don't like Stu treated 2012 after 2011 right after the Rangers' LDS loss and called the situation "untenable". So is it so "untenable" that you raised payroll $20 million?! Who the heck are you kidding, Stu?!

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