The Rays’ 2014 payroll is now projected to be $81.3 million, the largest in franchise history. But while that means decent star power and a good shot at the playoffs, attendance is not likely to improve dramatically.

As we can see below, outside of the inaugural season, attendance at The Trop fluctuates between 13,000 per game in bad seasons to 23,000 per game in near-perfect conditions (cont. below).

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We saw early in Stuart Sternberg attendance rose as the payroll rose and the team improved. However, attendance hit what appears to be an upper-bound at 22,000-23,000 and then regressed the last three seasons.

In 2013 the Rays drew just 18,646 per game, their third straight season below 20,000.

With the payroll making a big jump in 2014 and expectations at an all-time high, attendance should improve. But don’t expect a huge boost. Maybe the Rays will average over 20,000 per game this season and if everything goes well and maybe they’ll even reach 22,000 or 23,000 per game.

The only real mystery left for attendance at Tropicana Field is the impact of winning a World Series. The carryover from a Championship could push the attendance up past the 23,000 mark. However, the improvement would almost certainly only last 1-2 seasons before the above pattern returns.

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8 Comments

  1. Mike M says:

    I'm wondering if the new Flex Packs will make much of a difference. And that combined with record pay roll? I don't expect sellouts, but maybe we can get back to 23K? 25K??

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  2. Gus says:

    As someone fresh off the website trying to buy individual game tickets, I have to say that the Rays could use an upgrade there, and an actual ticket office that isn't ticketmaster where you could talk to a real person who knows the Trop. But the incentives have never been there for Sternberg to paper the audience (rent goes up as ticket sales cross certain thresholds), so he doesn't. They stay in their sweetspot and hope it makes the case for a new stadium.

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    • Beth says:

      Isn't this pretty much standard across the MLB? I've bought tickets from other team websites and the interface is exactly the some. I wonder whether MLB has a league-wide contract with ticketmaster. Not saying the Rays couldn't find ways to do better, but I've wondered whether MLB teams all must follow a similar script.

      For anyone in and around downtown Tampa, you can get tickets at the team's downtown store (with a very small service fee) (and of course at the stadium).

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      • Mike M says:

        I think the process has actually improved. Now you can actually choose your seats where it wasn't possible in the past.

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        • Gus says:

          The site was letting me buy in certain sections; maddening. Just not user friendly, and I'd have no problem calling up the Rays box office, rather than being on hold for 11 minutes with some Ticketmaster person who couldn't get the computer to work. Rays won though -- I bought tickets in a more expensive section, but less dedicated people might give up.

          On the phone automated ordering, they just give you "best avialable" within your price range, and that is a lot more in art than computer algorithim what is the best seat.

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  3. Nick says:

    I grew up in a Baseball town. Hartford CT. The rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox was a big deal. After the Superbowl most sports talk revolved around Baseball from February - October. The reason the Rays don't put more people in the stands in my mind is two fold. The main reason is people here don't find baseball as important as football. Just turn on WDAE and listen to what is being talked about. Here we are in the middle of spring training in a year when the Rays have the potential to be the team to beat and 85 % of the conversation on any given day is about the Buc's, 10% Rays & 5% lightning. If that conversation percentage changes you will see more people in the seats. Another example of this is last year as the Rays were fighting to win the wild card and go to the play offs. I would turn on the radio to listen to the pregame show before a game, yet everyday Monday thru Friday there was one Buc's player or another with their own show preempting baseball talk as the Rays played their hearts out to make the playoffs.
    The second reason is more than winning the hearts of football fans over to baseball. Regardless of what politicians and media outlets say, a large part of our population who would like to go to games are hurting financially. The so called recovery really does not exist to the extent we are told. Even if we are still employed the retail prices of commodities are going through the roof. We are told there is low inflation. Really, have you bought a pound of bacon, cheese, steak or a gallon of milk lately. How about all the other products that did not go up in price but are now 10.6 oz. and a year ago they were 16 oz. Guess what that is a price increase. How about what you pay for health insurance, co payments and deductibles that eats at our disposable income. I am glad the Rays increased the payroll yet I am sorry that will not necessarily increase attendance. If people do not have disposable income it is hard to put rears in seats. Even with the financial challenges of the low paying jobs in our region I still feel the key lies with making a dent into the football dominance of the region. I am just not sure how. As a season ticket holder I tried to give tickets away to friends and co workers when I could not go to games. Most of the time I could not give them away for free. When I was in CT people would drive 2-1/2 hours on a weekday to get to Fenway or Yankee stadium with out thinking it a hardship. They would fake an illness at work to get out. Pull their kids out of school early. It was an event to go to these games. Here it is a hardship. I just don’t understand it.

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  4. TOM says:

    Since payroll makes no difference with attendance, I say trade price to get the payroll down. Also I could never understand that the promotional give aways are always on weekends when they get there best attendance. I think the give aways should be during the week when they have the worst attendance. This should be done in summer when the kids are out of school. Just a thought. It doesn't help either when they pay a fat over the hill catcher like Molina 2mil a year and trade (or should I say give away) Lobaton a switch hitter and a lot younger.

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  5. Sean says:

    Attendance this season will probably be around 23-24k a game. Respectable. There's a little more buzz around the team this year than normal.

    If they win a title, you'll see a season at like 26-28k. I'd call that good.

    I'm torn though. I'd like to get the attendance pests to shut up, but I feel like if they have good turnout one season it's going to hurt their chances of getting a new stadium sooner. So I don't really know which way to lean.

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