Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good team, bad attendance

The Tampa Bay Rays are a good baseball team, perhaps the best team in all of the sport. They went to the World Series two years ago, so it's not a complete surprise that they're good this year.

Baltimore's Koji Uehara
pitched Monday before
a Tampa Bay audience
of empty seats.
So there they were Monday — narrowly ahead of the defending World Series champs for the divisional lead, one win away from clinching a playoff berth — and their announced attendance for a home game with Baltimore was a lowly 12,000 plus. There may not have been 10,000 paying customers in the joint.

They aren't the worst-drawing team in the league — there are five AL teams (Cleveland, Oakland, Kansas City, Toronto and Baltimore) doing worse at the gate. Still, for a quality team to draw as poorly as the Rays  is a problem.

Tropicana Field is not among the 19 stadiums in which I've seen a game. All I know of it is what I see on TV and what I read. There is a general consensus that, as a baseball venue, it's worse than the Metrodome; in my experience, that's pretty bad. An unappealing facility in an unappealing, not-easily accessed location is a handicap.

I spent a lot of money over the Metrodome years to watch the Twins play there, because I am a Twins fan and that's where they played. I wouldn't — and never did — write that anybody else had to make that same choice. It is no coincidence that the Twins attendance shot through the roof this year with Target Field. The Metrodome handicapped the team as a draw. But when the team was really good, the handicap was brushed aside. People packed the place.

That isn't the case in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Whether that's because there is no sense of fan connection to the relatively new Rays, because the economy is so sour there, because the facility really is that much worse than the Metrodome, because the franchise doesn't market the team as well — any or all of those things may be real factors.

It will be interesting to see how well, or poorly, the Rays draw during the playoffs.


  1. In 2008, the Rays drew at least 34,904 in a 43,722-seat ballpark for every postseason game. They were at least 40,000 for both WS games but never over 41,000. I can't remember anytime the Twins not filling the Metrodome to capacity for a postseason game. The Marlins have terrible attendance and a terrible ballpark, but they at least got over 65,000 for every World Series game both years they won it.

  2. Here is a comment from a Yankee blogger; his thoughts are one of the reasons that I still prefer to play them in the first round.