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).
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.