via Tampa Bay Rays

via Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays finished dead-last in attendance last season with just 17,857 tickets distributed per game, their lowest average since the 2007 season, and there are good reasons to think it will go even lower this season.

But if attendance at this weekend’s Fan Fest is any indication, this year’s attendance could be even worse than any of us imagined.

The Rays estimated attendance at Fan Fest to be 16,000 fans according to Marc Topkin. That is a 20% drop from last year’s estimated attendance of 20,000.

If Rays games this year were to see a similar 20% drop, attendance would fall below 15,000 to about 14,300, which is almost exactly what the attendance was in the last season before Stuart Sternberg took control of the Rays (in 2005 avg. attendance was 14,232).

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Even a drop of just 10% would take attendance down to about 16,000 per game, which would still be the lowest mark under Sternberg.

This projection also falls in line with what I have always said about Tropicana Field. That no matter what the front office does, attendance will almost always fall somewhere between 13,000 and 23,000 as long as the team is playing at The Trop. Meaning, at the team’s absolute worst, they will draw around 13,000 and under absolutely peak conditions, they could reach 23,000 per game.

This year is going to be anything but peak conditions.

The team traded away two of their three most popular players in David Price and Ben Zobrist. They lost one of the most colorful people in baseball, Joe Maddon. Most think this team will struggle to reach .500. And the biggest storyline for the 2015 season is the ongoing stadium debate which is a story most Rays fans are just plain sick of.

And here we are right out of the gate and the first measurable sign of fan interest in the 2015 Rays is down 20% from a season that didn’t show much fan interest outside of TV ratings.

I’m sure if we asked 12 Rays fans why this year’s attendance at Fan Fest was down we would get 13 different answers and excuses. And let’s face it, this is hardly scientific. But it is not a good sign no matter how you want to spin it.

This is going to be a long season. Brace yourselves.

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17 Comments

  1. sledge says:

    It could just crappy scheduling. (a) All of the little league baseball leagues in my area held their opening day ceremonies on Saturday. That's a huge part of the attendance at those things. (b) Tampa had it's annual Gasparilla Distance Classic races on Sat, another meaningful draw around the area. (c) After a week of frigid weather in Tampa, Saturday was absolutely gorgeous outdoor weather. While I had kids baseball, I probably wouldn't have wanted to be inside if I had a choice on Saturday.

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  2. mep645 says:

    The 2015 attendance may not so bad, if the Spring Training goes well. With all the new players plus the best of the team, excitement can be fostered.

    Good stuff from 2014: Continue the Saturday games at 4:30 PM rather than 7PM attracted more fans. Sunday family prices also filled the outer reaches of the stadium. Since baseball has an entertainment factor, Rays need to hire someone with an entertainment background. Try some new stuff btwn innings, new music, push the Flex packs, attract new food push carts. Try everything. Keep advertising on Sun Sports, try to get more Tampa TV airtime, contact local companies with young professional staff to put together groups to fill the Porch..

    See you in Port Charlotte and the Trop.

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    • FortMyersDave says:

      Good idea about the Saturday starts MEP645, the early start makes for a better draaw especially with families and seniors who would rather not be leaving the Trop at 11 PM or later; you would probably also get a lot of tour buses from places like Orlando, Daytona, Fort Myers, Ocala/Gainesville etc with the early start, I do know the Rays have offered decent group packages to anyone (church groups, civic organizations, bars, fan clubs, little league teams,etc). I wonder how many FOX national broadcasts the Rays will get this season? The broadcasts normally are 4PM EST if I recall right and I am guessing that the Rays against the Yankmes or BoSox on a Saturday afternoon will likely bring one of the Fox teams to do a regional broadcast at the Trop and the 1PM start on Sundays could bring the TBS team to the Trop....

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  3. Tony says:

    The issue I'm seeing is, (and I'm basing it on social media so, I'm not really sure this actually holds merit), is the loss of "fan favorites" driving down overall excitement. Everyone on the interwebs (facebook specifically) is all up in arms that the team is "gutted" and that the front office really doesn't care about the fanbase by letting players like Zobrist, S-Rod, and Escobar go.

    Purists will argue that the 2014 squad was a 4th place team, with a tactical manager that was ready to see other pastures. Sure, the pace of attendance may be slow going at the beginning, but once those "fans" see that maybe the situation isn't all that bad, and that Silverman might have a few things right with his re-organization, I'd predict a rise in attendance as things go on.

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  4. Pat says:

    A few more afternoon games on the home schedule would also help, in line with MEP645's remarks. Seniors, or near seniors, who really don't care to, or simply cannot drive in darkness would have a few weekday opportunities to attend games. Weekends are often difficult when they conflict with family obligations that compete for time and attention.

    Bring over some MiLB ideas, too.

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    • Geoff Peterson says:

      Seniors won't come no matter what, they need to stop marketing to them. Even the ones that come don't spend money. The summer day games do draw the camp kids and attendance is good as a result. If they don't do a better job marketing season tickets to corporations, they will never average 20k

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      • FortMyersDave says:

        Good point Geoff but what big corporations could the Rays market season tickets to? Tropicana, Ben Hill Griffen, Publix and WinnDixie all have a SunCoast presence as do banks like Wells Fargo, AmSouth, and Bank of America. I could see AmSouth and Publix do some regional ticket giveaways but will hey spend $ on season tickets? Maybe Publix could give some away for kids groups on certain afternoon games in the summer but that will just pop the attendance of a matinee up to 25 to 30 K for a game as opposed to the usual 13 to 15 K draw that one normally sees unless the RedSox or Yankees are in town and are atop the standings.... A company like Publix could offer season tickets at a discount to its employees as a tie-in to an advertising scheme as could Winn Dixie which took over the Sweetbays/Kash n Karry's that used to be the "Supermarket" of the Rays. Tampa just does not have many big Fortune 500 companies like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, or even Charlotte. But Tampa Bay has the following: Publix Super Markets in Lakeland was the largest at No. 104, Clearwater's Tech Data Corp. was No. 111. St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit was No. 155 and Tampa's WellCare Health was No. 345: perhaps one of these players can step up and help save the Rays...

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        • LaneMeyer says:

          I agree Dave but other small markets seem to do fine selling season tickets to corporations. The last numbers I saw showed the Rays have 10-12,000 less corporate season tickets sold than the average MLB team. I have long believed that Stu has tanked this on purpose in order to get a new stadium.

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        • Pat says:

          An abundance of Fortune 500 companies would certainly provide a season ticket base well larger than it is now, but many others could and should participate, if marketed correctly - - law firms, investment firms, large hotels and other tourism based outfits, etc. No reason why Busch Gardens and Tampa Bay Downs should not be in the mix too, to feed the 'regional' concept.

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  5. zenny says:

    I didn't go to fan fest for the first time in years - just not particularly excited yet after that offseason of change.

    There's plenty of time between now and opening day to get the fans interested again. However, if they get off to a poor start, it could get pretty lonely in ol' Tropicana Field.

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  6. Mr. Smith 1980 says:

    I think the limited number of pre-sold autographs for the stars of the team stymies the excitement of those who may have gone had they thought they may get a chance at a Longo or Cobb-er autograph.

    The event was great and deserves high accolades. Anytime my kids and I can walk up to a batting cage and Brandon Guyer is standing there putting balls on the Tee for the kids, or where Orestes Estrada stops and gives 100 little guys personal hitting tips all for the amazing price of free is a good event.

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  7. Berdj Joseph Rassam says:

    This is not surprising to me - they are run much like the Oakland A's, profits first, with a strong minor league to keep replacing the guys who make a name for themselves in MLB, and want to make the money they deserve.

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  8. Gus says:

    Project what 81 game attendance may be based on an estimate of FanFest as compared to a prior year's estimate may be about the most Debbie Downer thing Cork has ever posted (at least since the "team is going to be duller because Maddon isn't showing off his motorhome to the drolling press corps" post from last Friday).

    Maddon's clubhouse antics masked the fact that last year's team may have been one of the most unlikable teams the Rays have every featured. Without Molina, Perlata, Escobar, I for one am really looking forward to seeing more games this year. If they are good, they'll outdraw last year. If they stink, they won't. Predicting that outcome based on FanFest is just silly.

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    • zenny says:

      Yeah, Gus, all those Latin players were so unlikeable... cabron.

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    • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

      Prof has definitely taken a negative tone as of late.

      Although I know better, it almost seems to the casual reader that he is more a fan of Maddon than of the Rays as a whole. (Of course we know he is writing as an analyst not as a fan.)

      I can only hope that he is trying the old reverse psychology routine where he keeps being negative hoping to be pleasantly surprised if it's positive.
      The old "under promise and over deliver" technique

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  9. Zach says:

    It's bad enough that we have to hear about attendance woes from ESPN every time the Rays come up in conversation. Do we really need to keep harping on it here? We're all resigned to the fact poor showing at the games means either a new stadium is coming or the Rays are going somewhere else.

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