We have been blasted on the national and local scene for the attendance at our American League best and first place Rays. While I am not absolving this area and its fans (there are attendance issues that remain problematic which I hope to address latter) I think the level of criticism is exaggerated, unwarranted and uninformed.
I am and have been a full season ticket holder who lives in Tampa. I have missed just 3 games (all 12:30 mid-week starts) this season at the Trop. I say this not for any kudos but simply to validate I am a firsthand witness to what’s been happening at the Trop since it was the former white elephant known as the Florida Suncoast Dome.
All I can tell you is that this year, this magical season, I have experienced such overwhelming pride and joy not only for the success of our exceptional team, but also for the fans and followers who have come out and cheered them on. The excitement and the glorious pandemonium that comes with the deafening raucous of a near capacity Rays-supporting crowd is priceless, and there have been more of those than ever before in the stadium’s history. This is one passionate and loud crowd
Since Stu et al arrived on the scene they have done a tremendous job in making the Trop a fan-friendly and inviting trip to the park. Remodeling the concourse, sprucing the field, installing a state of the art video/scoreboard and offering free parking led to a modest increase in attendance each of the first 2 years. But the construction job that really mattered was the one they did on the team itself and the result of that production has seen a dramatic increase in attendance.
Dramatic, isn’t that a little wrought with hyberbole? You tell me.
There’s no arguing that the crowds for the 3 LA Angels games and the 2 Toronto games have been horrendous. The Toronto series has been especially embarrassing. At least the Angels series had a legitimate excuse with Fay. I understand that school just started back and families have to get adjusted to new schedules, but 12 or 13 thousand for Toronto with a team in the heat of a pennant race is bad, plain and simple. But these games have been the exception not the rule.
Prior to the LA series the Rays were averaging 22,959 per game at the Trop. That’s nearly a 35% (33.8 to be precise) increase in attendance over last year and last year (at 17,148 per game) was our high-water mark in attendance for the millennium. Put another way, the attendance this year at Tropicana is 63% higher than what the Namoli era averaged over his last 4 years (14,104). Even with the drag of these past 5 games we’re still averaging 21,632 per game. That’s a 26% increase over last year and the highest increase in all of major league baseball. In fact, while attendance is down this year for the majority of teams (53%), Tampa Bay is one of only four teams which have seen an increase of at least 10%.
Make no mistake our percentage increases are attractive in part because the base numbers to which they’re compared were so woefully pathetic. We are still the 5th worst team in attendance and draw 34% less than MLB’s average attendance (32,647). IMO, that is a vestige of a pathetic losing record and the piss-poor management of the past regime. Most of our attendance is walk up, the season ticket base is gravely lacking. Watch for that to bump up dramatically next year and beyond.
Still, old parochial pouting and empty excuses are still too common. Too many Tampanians are acting like Tampons refusing to step out of their warm secure crevice. Listen, I will never judge a fan’s loyalty based on how many games they attend. You can be the world’s greatest fan who simply can’t get to the games for a wide variety of valid reasons, but still listen, watch and talk up the Rays. You are a valued and true fan and should stand up and be proud. But for those who call themselves fans, live in close proximity and have the ability and opportunity to come to the games but don’t and yet complain about everything, well….. I fart in your general direction.
Get over it. The stadium is in St Pete, not Tampa. It is no that far or difficult to get to from Tampa.
The fact remains, this team is more popular than ever and attendance is on the rise. Although the weekend series with Baltimore will compete with football, I’m confident you’ll see crowds more towards the norm. New York will draw and then its Boston and wild card contender Minnesota to finish the season’s home schedule. I’m confident will improve our average attendance.
The band-wagon is churning, even if it does take some 4 ½ hours to get here from downtown Tampa.
This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.