9-19-2012 9-53-05 AMYesterday, Stuart Sternberg told the Pinellas County Commissioners that only 300 season ticket holders are from the city of St. Pete. We initially heard that these accounts represented “just shy of 1,000 tickets.” Today we have a better idea of what the numbers represent, and if anything, they sound worse today.

According to Marc Topkin, the 300 accounts represent full-season season-ticket holders, and that those accounts represent “about 800-900 seats per game.” Also, we initially gave St. Pete the benefit of the doubt that the 300 accounts represented just private season ticket holders and ignored corporate sales. But by all accounts, there is no distinction being made and the 300 accounts include tickets purchased by businesses in St. Pete.

Of course, this ignores the rest of Pinellas County which accounts for 72% of the county’s population. So let’s see if we can estimate how many season tickets come from the entire county and how that might change if the team moves to Hillsborough.

Noah Pransky points out that the Rays told the ABC Coalition in 2008 that 47% of the team’s season ticket holders were from Pinellas County. If we use the most conservative estimate we have seen for the total number of season tickets (6,000), that would mean approximately 2,800 season tickets (we are now talking about actual seats) are purchased by people or corporations from Pinellas County and 3,200 are from other counties. Of the 2,800 from Pinellas, we’ll say 850 (30%) are from St. Pete and about 1,950 (70%) are from other parts of the county*.

Of the remaining 3,200 tickets, how many season tickets are purchased by fans or corporations in Hillsborough? It would be a reasonable guess to say “most of them”**. But I am not sure it even matters. The point is that the Rays are not located where the majority of their fans are located.

The Rays claim that 33% of their fans live in Hillsborough County compared to just 25% in Pinellas County. In other words, there are 32% more people in Hillsborough County that consider themselves Rays Fan than in Pinellas County, a number that is consistent with the differences in population sizes between the two counties***.

So if the Rays move to Hillsborough, and the same percentage of local fans buy season tickets as Pinellas fans are doing now, season tickets from the Rays’ home county would jump 32% from 2,800 seats per game to 3,700 seats per game. And that is not even considering the number of Hillsborough residents jumping on the bandwagon or the higher rate of corporate support from being in Downtown Tampa.

If the ratio of corporate tickets-to-private tickets increased form 1:2 to 1:1 (still less than “typical” big league teams), that would bring the number of season tickets being purchased just from Hillsborough County to approximately 5,000 seats, or about 2,200 more than Pinellas County is doing now.

Of course, the number of season tickets being purchased from Pinellas would go down. Would it go down enough to off-set the increase in Hillsborough? Maybe. But I am willing to bet there are more season tickets would be bought by people from Polk County than by dolphins.

SUMMARY

  • Less than half of the Rays season tickets are purchased by fans or corporations from Pinellas County.
  • Using the most conservative estimate for number of current season tickets (6,000), 800-900 seats are purchased by people/businesses from St. Pete and another 2,000 come from other parts of Pinellas County.
  • There are 32% more Rays fans in Hillsborough as compared to Pinellas and Hillsborough County is 38.2% bigger than Pinellas.
  • A conservative estimate suggests that season tickets purchased for a stadium in Hillsborough County by residents of Hillsborough would be a minimum of 3,700 seats per game, or about 900 more than Pinellas County residents are purchasing now.
  • However, if the rate of corporate support increases as expected, the conservative estimate become 5,000 seats per game or 2,200 more than Pinellas is buying now.
.* This suggests that the estimate of 6,000 total season tickets is at least in the ballpark as the percentages are consistent with how the population is distributed in Pinellas
** There are approximately three times as many single-game tickets sold to residents of Hillsborough as compared to residents of Pasco.
*** Hillsborough was 38.2% bigger in 2011
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33 Comments

  1. Don says:

    20,000 people avg (rounded off) go to games in St Petersburg, Season tickets or not, Lets say the Rays pick up 10,000 new or season tickets holders moving to Tampa (thats high) But use it...that means they avg. 30,000 in Tampa..Right?....wrong!
    They lose at least 5000 (probably low) from the beaches, N pinellas Co, SW florida, the season tickets holders they do have, that are not going to drive an hour or two in Tampa rush hour traffic, and get out of a game in downtown tampa at midnight,.....believe me, so now they Avg. 25,000...pay for that stadium Stuie on that revenue increase, or you Hillsboro county residents will eat it.... ala Miami residents, I understand a billion dollars before its over.

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    • Bill says:

      You just arbitrarily picked a 5000 loss from beaches and other random places with no logic or math to back it up. But you didn't arbitrarily add anything in for Pasco, Polk, Lake Counties. More people driving over for a game fromDisney trips (some do now because they often seat near my seats and I speak to them, so I arbitrarily say more will, believe me). More walk ups on week nights from the many more businesses in Tampa, who might have client visiting. Now I arbitrarily choose to say that those add up to 6000 tickets. Now we're up to 31,000 - which is just as fictitious as your 25,000. The author really tried to use as much math as possible to compare the two counties and did well with what he had to work. He also documented his assumptions, which were much more than just, "assume I'm correct".

      For the record, I'm one of those Pasco County folks with full season tickets - 6 to be precise. And my 3 kids are often with their mom from a prior marriage. I often give a away their seats. Many of my neighbors claim they would go more and would purchase some package if the stadium was on this side of the bay. I also have a business in St. Pete and have 4 full season tickets for the business. I give those mostly to employees. Many of whom live in Hillsborough and claim they would take the weeknight tickets more if the stadium was on that side. All of this is anecdotal, not statistical, but it does support the article well.

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    • Burn H. says:

      I have read that it will be closer to 3.5 billion by the time all the bonds are paid off in 30 years.

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  2. Bill says:

    Nice analysis, Cork. I even missed the Polk county vs dolphins part before I responded to Don's new not math. I don't think anyone doubts that the market is better reached from Hillsborough. Don won't be able to walk to games anymore. But judging by his criticism of the off season, he won't be going to many more anyway.

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  3. Dave L says:

    Well thanks for the clarification.

    Sorry if I appear to be beating a dead horse here but there is alot of misinformation being given out here about partial season ticket packages. Partial season ticket holders get virtually all of the benefits of Full Season ticket holder, get in on presale, can buy parking passes, get playoff tickets etc. The only benefit they dont get is a nameplate on the seat and some special events which are unrelated to attendance. I didn’t renew last year and didn’t know the 10% discount went away. But we had it as did the Full season.

    Secondly, Friday, Saturday or Sunday package is 14 Weekend games and 7 of the lousiest weekday games against mostly the low draw teams plus Opening Day. So each Weekend package is virtually equal to 1/3 of a season ticket package no matter how you slice it. Its simple. Together they equal 66 of the 82 minus a lot of Sox and Yankee weekday games.

    This may seem insignifigant to those of you who don’t go to many games but its not. I have held Sunday packages in 3 different sections in the Press Level and Upper Deck. In two of those sections the Sunday contingent was much larger than the Full Season ticket contingent and in the third they were about equal. The Weekend package contingent was small in every section I was familiar with. Its quite possible Partial Season ticket plans account for 50- 100% more game commitments As Full Season. That’s what John Q Public buys and in this market he is more important the the corporate which is weak by any measure here.

    The Full Weekend Plans don’t help the weekday attendance granted but they put fans in the seats and the Weekend game tickets overall cost more so are more profitable to the team.

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    • Ricky C says:

      Weekend attendance is not the issue. If the weekend games aren't sold out they are very close. It is the weekday games attracting 8k-11k that are causing our low attendance numbers and as long as the stadium is located far away from a "majority" of the potential ticket buying fan base those weekday games are not going to improve.

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      • Dave L says:

        Most all weekend games are very far from sellouts. Only 4 games last year where the attendance was over 29,000 all season. Yankee games on weekdays do better than Seattle on a weekend series.

        Most weekend games could add another 8 to 12K easily. Not even close to a sell out.

        And as I noted those packages are 1/3 weekday games

        The last seats in any sellout is the outfield Press level which are very profitable

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        • Ricky C says:

          You were correct that the avg attendance for weekends could be higher. But for reference the Sat avg last year was just under 24k and the Sun avg was just under 25k. The low Sat game was in Sept against Toronto with 15.6k. The low Sun also came in the same series against Toronto with 18.9k.

          If the overall avg of all games was 24k the Rays would attract just under 2M fans which would move them into the 23-24 range of MLB attendance. Not great but certainly better than last place 19k we got last year.

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          • Dave L says:

            Yes we are getting closer to an agreement but remember its not about numbers its about dollars. Those Mon-Thurs games against non drawing teams are Bronze games where the ticket prices are considerably lower. Adding an extra 3000 fans on the weekend where there is plenty of room for improvement = maybe an extra 5000 during the week. You think the Monday crowd gulps down as many $$$ beers as the Sat Night Crowd?

            Its about dollars not numbers.

            Everyone here pooh poohs big weekend crowds at the games and dreams of 20,000 fans packing in to watch Cleveland on a Tuesday in July in Tampa. I doubt you can expect that.

            But I will bet the Tuesday eyeballs in 2013 on SunSports are as good as the Saturday eyeballs and thats becoming very lucrative.

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  4. Geoff Peterson says:

    The last figures I saw on corporate sales stated that the Rays sell 10,000-12,000 less seats per game to corporations than the average MLB team. No matter where you locate the stadium, that is key. If the Rays add just those sales, they get to the 30,000 number per game that they desire. And don't tell me Tampa will be that much better for corporate sales. Both Tampa venues are currently named for Pinellas based corporations. The Rays need to do a better job of selling to those corporate partners plain and simple. While a new stadium with better luxury boxes would surely help, so would a better effort on the Rays part to sell to those entities.

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  5. Beazy says:

    Back in the day teams didn't have to rely on individual season tix holders, it was all about corporate, which is mostly why when the Yankees announce 40k, they really have only 25-30k in the seats...

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  6. Gus says:

    If the Rays are going to firebomb St. Pete in the conversation, than we need real data. Cork's stuff is decent guessing, but still filled with all kinds of holes. (Ex: My Tampa firm owned season tickets, but as a St. Pete resident I go to games, is that really a Tampa account? I did this for years, so yes people like this exist -- just go west on the bridges at rush hour to Pinellas to see the volume; people like me prefered the stadium in St. Pete).

    We need real data. To have these conversations otherwise is to turn the region against itself (which is probably their real intent here). The comments about "dolphins" is recycled from the Tampa Tribune's old editors Harvil, who claimed their geographical advantage would crush the St. Pete Times, who "couldn't sell newspapers to dolphins". Well, that didn't work so well for the Trib. I believe it remains true (although less true than 20 years ago), that the vast majority of the Florida population lives within 10 miles of the coast. I love Polk County, but I suspect the increase in Polk tickets would be offset by the loss of Dicky V. and his Manatee bretheren. Lots of elasticity in tickets, and we haven't even gotten to individual tickets v. season tickets yet.

    It is complicated, but until somebody gets the real data from the Rays and looks at it thoughtfully, we aren't getting anywhere.

    PS -- you need to link to the NFL executive who admitted yesterday that almost every NFL football stadium built in the last 20 years may be outdated and too big. The live experience is being transformed. We can't fight the last war over stadium location just because Stu wants a new stadium today. Need to be thoughtful here and not repate the Miami mistake. Some real data would help.

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  7. Don says:

    Numbers are numbers, truth is Nobody is going to build an $800 mil stadium (probably cost more) AND MAKE MONEY, st pete, Tampa Carolina, las vegas, indy or no where, Stuie is making good money here and bitching for more, let him find out the hard way, just pay off St. Petersburg and move....Two Councilmen on the radio today (1040am) said that would be fine with them

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  8. Brian says:

    But I am willing to bet there are more season tickets would be bought by people from Polk County than by dolphins. - CLASSIC!

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  9. JA says:

    We all look at this issue from an egocentric point of view. If we are fans and the stadium is next to our home, we're going to a lot of games. The greater the distance, the fewer games we attend. That said, it seems like a no brainer to put a new stadium where the greatest concentration of people are located. Keep the status quo, keep the Trop, and the Rays are gone. Build a new ballpark and they might last a few years longer. Attendance will never be great in this area, no matter where the Rays play. For the true fans, enjoy it while you can. We can't even keep our players. How does anybody expect us to keep our team?

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  10. Mike says:

    We can play all of the number games that we want, but since we don't have the actual figures then everything here is speculation. However, there are people who DO have the actual numbers and research this stuff as a full time job. These people are employed by the Rays, and I am sure they have considered every population dynamic and ticket buyer shift imaginable. From the statements that I have read, they have concluded that Hillsborough is the best option. They even seem to believe that Hillsborough is more viable than Orlando, Vegas, Carolina, and all of the other places mentioned.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      Actually, not everything here is speculation. Some of these numbers come from the Rays. As for the second point, that is true. But as long as the Rays refuse to release their research, there are many that will remain skeptical and want to know how big of a difference there really is. This was an educated attempt to answer those questions.

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  11. nate says:

    I think this is a more thoughtful approach than what the Rays did the other night by cherry picking data and finger pointing at St Pete. Putting my personal biases aside (pro-St Pete) I think acknowledging the importance of all citizens is important to getting the Rays in a location that is the best. I've lived and worked on both sides of the bay and the afternoon rush hour drive into Tampa is worse than the one leaving Tampa. That must be considered. If the Rays are going to take a forward thinking approach to a new stadium with a scaled down capacity and more space allocated to corporate/luxury boxes then it certainly is more sensible to be closer to your corporate base. At the same time I think people are overdoing the whole notion that future population growth will happen eastward where empty land is. Gus pointed this out above...people want to live near the water. There is a population base along the gulf that cannot be excluded. For me that rules out anything east of downtown Tampa. As a destination, I really think St Pete's downtown is head and shoulders above Tampa's. But when the concern becomes proximity to businesses and more people Tampa gets the nod. Either way, we're asking a significant portion of the fan base to spend time in their car which means there will be very little "hanging out" downtown before or after games. So maybe Tampa's downtown many shortcomings can be overlooked.

    Either way, I'd hate the team to leave the area. But if the community is being asked to build something it would have to be a huge benefit to the team, who would in turn reinvest that into the club. Reinvest is the key word. That doesn't mean burn it on wages for free agents (Marlins with Reyes & Co). That means keeping the status quo, paying guys who grew up in the organization to stay through their prime. That means putting money into the club that makes coaches and players want to stay here. Baseball fans just want a good product.

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    • Mike says:

      I agree that downtown St. Pete is (now) much better than downtown Tampa, although as a native Tampon it pains me to admit it. They have done a great job the past 10 years of developing that area into something really cool. That said, as you acknowledge someone driving over the bridge to go to a night game doesn't care about anything other than getting to the stadium and getting home. With the exception of opening day, playoffs, and the occasional Sunday day game I never go anywhere in St. Pete other than the stadium on game days (I have season tickets). I doubt anyone coming over the bridge the other way would be any different. Especially on weeknights, you leave work a little after 6, drive to the stadium, park, watch the game, then get back in the car and drive home. There isn't time to do anything else if you plan on working the next day.

      The big issue is and always will be businesses buying season tickets. There are simply many more businesses in Tampa than in St. Pete, and if the stadium was in Tampa you would have a lot more businesses buying season tickets. It would be interesting to see the season ticket numbers from the inaugural season, because there were a lot of us then. If I remember correctly almost all of the boxes were sold to businesses, and a ton of Tampa companies had tickets. Of course, the boxes at the Trop are terrible and have lousy views so most companies dropped them pretty quickly, and Namoli did his thing to drive most of the business support away. But looking at the original numbers may give you an indication of the potential business support that Tampa could provide.

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      • Gus says:

        The tough thing about the bay area is that there is not a undisputed concentration of businesses. Last time I looked, Westshore had more office space than downtown Tampa, and Carillon had as much (if not more) than downtown St. Pete. The hump of the Howard Franklin seems like the best place to put a stadium. You could imagine if the Trop were located where the Florida Acquarium is now, Sternberg & Co. could be making a new stadium argument in the exact opposite direction -- we need to be in Westshore/Carillon -- if they thought they could get a new park out of it.

        But all of us want the team to stay in the area and, almost as importantly, be a viable economic entity. Just as community oppoisition to the Al Lang stadium plan may have been the best thing ever to happen to the Rays, I believe an approach that looks hard at the real $ will lead us all to a conclusion that the best approach for the next 5 years is status quo, and then a replacement facility discussion is well-timed in 2018. By then will know exactly where live attendance trends are headed nationally in our digital world and in the market. I guarantee Stu will make lots of money in the next five years in the Trop, and probably get a World Series in there, which may also change some attitudes.

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        • nate says:

          I think you are right about slow playing this thing till 2018. Even when the original use agreement was signed nobody in their right mind would think the Rays would play through the whole agreement and then say "Hey lets re-up at the Trop". The last 5 years of that thing will be easily bought out. Set aside two years for construction and 3 years for serious negotiations on location and funding votes that puts you right around that 2018/2017 range.

          One last thing on this season ticket stat discussion. We seem to be focusing on Full seasons tickets packages. Are we ignoring partial seasons tickets? Also, if we are using seasons ticket accounts as a barometer for measuring fan interest it ignores another huge factor. Most season ticket accounts, while in one persons name, are likely being shared by multiple people. My family had them from 1998 until I moved (2007....yes bad timing by me I know) and we shared an account with three other families. SO if Sternberg wants to make it sound like only 300 people in St Pete like baseball enough to be seasons ticket holders, that is totally unfair. There is a lot of fan interest in St Pete. As there is everywhere else.

          I hate the idea of taxpayers building a stadium for these guys. But as was stated above, the best central location for businesses and population is probably where westshore mall sits.

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          • Mike says:

            But if you do nothing until 2018, there will be no new stadium until at least 2022, and the Rays are not going to like that. They need to be in a new stadium by 2020, and that means they need to have a plan with financing lined up by 2015. That leaves 2 more years, at most, to figure out the logistics. I do think that MLB is overplaying its hand a little now and trying to assert more leverage than it really has, but if nothing happens in the next 2 years it is very conceivable that they will get sick of this and move the team to Charlotte, Vegas, Connecticut, or somewhere else.

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  12. Michael says:

    Again - season tickets in St. Pete have dropped every year since the Rays employed a strategy of bad mouthing their home field (and by association their home city) after attendance #'s didn't continue to increase starting in 2010 (after a huge increase in '08 and modest increase over that in '09). Season ticket holders are investors. Why would the residents of St. Pete invest in a team that for all intents and purposes is stating "We hate our home, it's a dump, and we want to leave town". I'm scratching my head that the Rays and all the St. Pete haters are scratching their heads as to why their are so few FULL season ticket holders when they are constantly berated by the Rays, the media (national and local) and online commentators. The Rays, with this campaign of badmouthing their home and home city (and allowing ESPN and MLB Network to do the same) has made it impossible to enthusiastically support their on-field success -- at least for the residents of St. Pete (and Pinellas County) who KNOW that the Rays are leaving, and that wherever they go, they will be on the losing end of the stick.

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    • Gus says:

      You speak the truth. For the Rays to complain about their season ticket base 16 months after the owner speculated on vaporizing the team after a bad playoff loss is hilarious. What can you expect?

      Live up to your contract with the City and sign some hitting.

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  13. Ry Baker says:

    This is a lose , lose situation. People from Tampa Bay take driving for granted. We cry and complain about having to drive 24-45 minutes to go to a game. Heck , we even cry when we have to drive 5 minutes to go to the grocery store. This is laziness at its finest.

    As a St. Petersburg resident, I completely agree that “If” the rays do go forward with getting a new stadium, it would be beneficial to the wallets of ownership to have the stadium in Tampa, but would it be beneficial to the fans and the long term viability of the franchise? I’m not so sure about that. The Yankees sell a Gazillion season tickets because of corporate buyers. But if any of you recall last season , when the Yankees were in the POSTSEASON, their stadium was empty, flat empty. But hey, this is the Yankees we are talking about , they are worth billions.

    Its not that people can’t afford to go, (Ticket Prices are low and would be just a little bit higher with a new stadium.) Its that people just don’t have the wan’t to go. They are just lazy. Regardless of where the stadium is , driving 45 min is a pretty fair transit price to be able to watch an amazing and talented young “WINNING” baseball team.

    #UNITED WE STAND
    DIVIDED WE FALL

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    • nate says:

      F-ing A. Brother, I think you speak the truth and that is frightening. I still think people love baseball here as the TV numbers show but the laziness of the consumer to get out to the park is a significant hurdle

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  14. ScottB says:

    I can't believe it's even a debate that the Rays will increase attendence by moving to downtown Tampa. Look no further than the attandence at Lightning games

    2012 Lightning 18,468 avg. attendence, 38 wins in 82 games, tied with the 22nd best record in the NHL (out of 30 teams), avg ticket price $38.00

    2012 Rays 19,255 avg. attendence, record 90 wins 72 losses, avg ticket price $18.35

    So... more people are willing to spend more money on an inferior product in Tampa than drive to St. Pete to spend less money and get a superior product.

    And I'm not even going to go into the whole lack of infrastructure in Pinellas versus Hillsborough debate.

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    • Gus says:

      Isn't there a consideration of saturation? That is, the exact same Lightning fanbase is being asked to support the Rays in your example. As it is, some are questioning Hillsborough's ability to even support 2 franchises. Throw 81 more dates in there, and that will not help, will it? The Lightning would be the big loser in a Rays move, no?

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    • Michael says:

      What "infrastructure" are you referring to? Public transit? Light rail? Oh yeah, Hillsborough voters rejected that. Other than that, what infrastructure are you referring to? Infrastructure refers to roads, public transit, sewer systems. A previous poster said it best - the only thing causing this issue is laziness on the part of people in Tampa who don't want to be bothered to drive over the bridge to a game. REAL fans in other cities driver further and pay more to watch more mediocre teams. This whole "regional" approach is a catch 22. If the residents and county commission of Hillsborough truly advocated a reasonable approach, they would be encouraging all of their residents to go to the Trop - as it is in the region. Funny how the "regional approach" only applies when discussing a hypothetical move to Tampa. When talking about the Trop - it's "it's in the wrong location", instead of "we're all one happy region - we all need to support the Rays and show up at the Trop". Instead, the toy is being ripped from the child who is playing nice (considering we cross the bridges for Lightning & Bucs games) and being given to the spoiled brat who is throwing a temper tantrum.

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    • Dave L says:

      Your numbers are helpful so thanks but its more about the nature of the sport to its viewers and fans in the seats versus TV. No one would argue credibly that the Lightning is a distant third in fan interest in the Tampa Bay area. But its fan base is definitely the most hard core and im sure the most affluent and young. But affluent and young is not a hallmark of the Tampa Bay area population and sports interested potential audience, which is reflected in it very low TV ratings compared to other traditional Florida sports.

      I dont think this teaches us much about what a Tampa downtown baseball team can generate turnstyle wise however.

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  15. Don says:

    Lightning get 19,000 on an oppening night everybody says what a good job (and they play at home 2x a week)
    Rays get 19,000 after playing 8 days in a row and there will be empty seat pictures on front page, Bucs can't sell out 7-8 games A YEAR...
    Now make your "Fan support", "closer to the Stadium" arguments...For Tampa..
    PLease..

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  16. Jim says:

    Cork,
    I told you years ago that the Ray’s could give two shits about attendance, especially season ticket holders. They bitch and moan in the press, yet what are they actually doing to promote and retain season ticket holders? Not much, because if they weren’t at the bottom in attendance then they wouldn’t be looking to get out of the trop.

    It all goes back to 2010 season. The rays had a pretty successful attendance (by Ray’s standards) due to people being locked into “deposits” from the 2008 playoff run.

    So how did the Rays try to retain these first time season ticket holders for future seasons? They jacked the prices of the 40 game upper level weekend packages up 35%. I’m no marketing genius, but if you’re truly trying to fill seats and keep the season ticket holders coming back then this is a questionable strategy. It basically was going to cost the same for 2 tickets in 2010 as it did for 3 in 2009.

    This is when I realized that “bad press” from the attendance was all a ploy from the Rays to get out of the trop. If they want to fill the trop in this market and actually sell season ticket packages, then they had better cater to old people and families. These two groups can only afford the upper level packages, and partial packages, yet the Rays took a huge dump on them by raising the prices at unrealistic rates. A 35% increase is unheard of in season ticket increases, yet the Rays will still moan to the press about lack of fan support. Filling the trop was no longer a goal, they now had a higher goal of relocation.

    I was a 40 game season ticket holder for 3 season, and I expected (and received) slight increases. After telling the Rays politely to rot at a 35% increase, I’ve only been to around 20 games since 2009. Do the math FO, and figure out how many thousands I spend on parking, concessions, and merchandise, and that goes for 95% of the people that had tickets in my section. With the spring training games and my HD TV, I choose not to give the Rays my hard earned money and I just chuckle every time I hear the Ray bitch and moan about the lack of season ticket sales. What a farce!!

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