I know, I know. Many of you would rather be locked in a room with Derek Shelton reading the dictionary while wearing a speedo than talk about attendance. And for the most part we respected your strange wishes this season. Sickos. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least do a quick end-of-the-year look and see how things are trending at The Trop.

Below is the number of wins and the average attendance for each season in the (Devil) Rays existence. While we have already discussed how wins may only be the sixth most important factor in determining a team’s attendance, it does still play a role.

This season, attendance was up slightly to 19,255 tickets distributed per game. That is a modest rise of 2.0%. More importantly, it appears that the shine of the suddenly successful Rays has worn off. After three straight seasons north of 22,000, attendance now appears to have settled back down in the 19,000 area.

The other major point from this chart (something we have discusses in the past) is that it appears that Rays attendance at The Trop will always fall within the 13,000-24,000 range. That is, at their absolute worst, the Rays will never draw fewer than 13,000 per game. And under perfect conditions, the Rays will never draw more than 24,000 (with the inaugural season being a special exception).

Of course, the most important question is ‘Why?’ And if you ask ten Rays fans, you will get 12 different answers. And honestly, they are probably all right.

Let’s face it. If you put this franchise in Seattle or Minneapolis, they would have averaged 28,000-30,000 per game. And while some factors may be more important others, there is no single reason why the actual attendance is one-third less than that.

Would attendance improve with a rail system? Probably. But how much? Would corporate support improve in Tampa? Probably. But how much? Would attendance improve with a shiny new stadium. Yes. But for how long?

The fact is, the Rays need all these things, and more if they are ever to significantly improve attendance. And they will have to keep winning. But until that happens, this chart isn’t going to change.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    bonus assignment: show me home ERA and home OPS vs. attendance

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  2. Joe says:

    Which is another reason why I think a lot of the argument going on both sides is unnecessary. Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties have no agreement on a light rail or true intermodal transportation agreement. Fans have habits and humans are naturally creatures of habit.

    Everyone offers problems but no one offers solutions. We ALL know the problems, and everyone moves to Florida, it offers a higher quality of life. It does not mean that there is a lack of Rays' fans or a bad market. It's all habitual.

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  3. Mike says:

    The biggest thing holding back attendance is the economy. If the Rays had started their run of success during the boom years the attendance would be much higher, specifically with regard to season tickets. It would be interesting to compare how the Bucs attendance increased when they started winning in the late 90s in a strong economy to the Rays current situation. Nothing but anecdotal evidence, but I remember the Bucs games going from 50% capacity (unless the Packers or Bears fans filled the stadium) to having a waiting list for season tickets almost overnight when the team started winning. The Bucs also got the new stadium at the same time, but I think the majority of the new tickets were sold because the team was winning and people had the money to spend. The Rays popularity has increased exponentially, but people just don't have the money to go to many games right now.

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  4. Jeff says:

    It's a real shame the stadium location winds up as a Tampa vs. St. Pete thing. More fans need easy access to the stadium. Period. All the other metrics are very positive, extremely so for a "non-baseball smaller market". Baseball games are not expensive. Go to the International Mall this weekend and tell me if you think people don't have disposable income. Go to the Hard Rock and answer the same question. The TBT Forum is the second largest producing arena in the country next to the Meadowlands. All centrally located facilities. Take the Forum and all the same events and put it where the Trop is and you'd lose 1/3 of your ticket sales. You're 10 minutes from the beach! You cannot be 1 hour plus from the major family centers, i.e., New Tampa and Wesley Chapel/Pasco, Brandon/Riverview, and New Port Richey/Palm Harbor. There's a reason they put a Starbucks on every corner. This is simple economics, consumer behavior 101. Pretty simple.

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    • Dave L says:

      Also take the TGT Forum in its present location, then more than double the number of seats, raise the expectations to 40k+ sellouts and not 20K- sellouts and see how 'successful' it is.

      The expectations are just way too high for this area regardless of the neighborhood of the arena.

      If the Trop held only 21k fans, supply would equal demand and we would have 90% sellouts.

      Maybe Corks metric leads to a 24,000 seat stadium being ideal.

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  5. Jeff says:

    The TBT is actually above average capacity for arenas its size. The point is, most events held there are extremely well attended, whether its sports, music or other entertainment. The Rays are fighting for these very dollars. Strange that TBT is able to more than hold its own in this terrible economy where noone can spend anything (LOL). This is why Vinik bought it and poured 40 million into it, its an investment that will pay off as the arena already makes a ton of money. If the Rays had 24,000 this year everyone would be saying how it was heading in the right direction. Think about it another way--if every Rays fan that goes to games went to 1 more a year that would be 3000+ per game (figuring 300K fans divided by 81 minus those in St. Pete that itd be farther from)

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    • Mike says:

      I really don't know that the Forum is as profitable as you think. I think the average attendance at Lightning games and at Rays games was about the same for last season, and the Rays play a lot more games.

      In any event, the key to baseball attendance is season tickets, not single game tickets or special events. The hard part is getting people to go to the Tuesday night games against the Royals, and the way to do that is by selling season tickets, which in most areas are primarily purchased by businesses. Attendance was not bad for weekend games and for big draws, but there were way too many games with 10,000 people watching the Orioles play on a Wednesday night. Season tickets last year for lower box seats were over $6,000 for two seats last year, which is not cheap, but also pretty reasonable considering other teams. However, if you are considering laying off workers and worrying about meeting payroll, as a lot of small businesses owners are, spending that money on Rays tickets just isn't going to happen.

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