A story by Stephen Nohgren of TampaBay.com includes the results of a recent telephone survey of Pinellas and Hillsborough County residents that suggests Hillsborough County residents prefer Tropicana Field over potential locations for a new stadium in Tampa. However, there are problems with the way in which the survey was conducted that likely skewed the results.
The poll appears to have asked the residents where the Rays should play in the future with Tropicana Field listed along with other locations in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. Of those asked, 28% of Hillsborough County residents said they want the Rays to stay at The Trop and only 16% of those in Hillsborough want the team in downtown Tampa.
Nohlgren concludes that “even among Hillsborough residents, the Trop remains the favored site.” However, this is misleading.
The problem with this method of questioning is that “Trop versus New location” and “Downtown Tampa versus Other new locations” are two completely different issues. If only 28% want the team to remain in The Trop, that means 72% believe the team should move to a new location. Even 58% of Pinellas residents prefer a new location over remaining at The Trop.
And if we assume those polled were evenly split among Hillsborough and Pinellas county, that means 65% of residents picked a new location over remaining at Tropicana Field. That is an overwhelming number considering not all of those asked were baseball fans.
The poll should have asked two separate questions including: 1) Do you think the Rays should remain in Tropicana Field for the foreseeable future? and 2) If the Rays do move, which of these locations do you prefer?
The first question is about funding and who should have to pay for the stadium, while the second question is about what is most convenient or will draw the most fans.
In the end, the first question is virtually meaningless as the Rays want to move, and will find a way. And responses to the second question should have been limited to baseball fans as non-baseball fans will likely pick locations based on how it affects them as opposed to how successful the location might be for the team and the area.
Either way, it is clear that Tropicana Field is not the preferred location for the Rays, despite what the story wants you to believe.