Attendance and the Rays

[Note by R.J. Anderson, 03/09/09 4:29 PM EDT ] Bumped to the front page.

I just saw this on MLBTR and it caught my interest.  According to Peter Gammons:

Major League Baseball has warned club business people that attendance is expected to be down 17-20 percent in 2009, and it could be worse, especially with franchises like the Padres, Blue Jays, Tigers, Indians, Astros, Rockies and others that could be seriously impacted by the recession.

Going into this season, the Rays have been counting on getting a significant bump in attendance figures this year in order to cover their expanding payroll.  Last year was the second highest attendance figure (22,370 people per game) the Rays have ever had outside of their inaugural season (30,942 per game).  The question, though, is how well the Rays are going to draw this year.


At the end of last season, I remember hearing it thrown about that with the newfound competitiveness of the team, the 2009 Rays could potentially reach and/or exceed their attendance figures from their inaugural year.  At the time, it certainly seemed plausible and that sort of an attendance spike would certainly help the case for building a new stadium.  However, after reading that info by Gammons, I can't help but wonder how much the recession could end up hurting the Rays' attendance figures this year.  I'm not from the Tampa region and so I have no idea how large an impact the recession has had in the area, but if the recession does end up significantly impacting the Rays' attendance figures, it makes me worried that nay-sayers will cite that as evidence that the Tampa region is a horrible baseball market, no new stadium should be built, and the team should think about moving.

I decided to make a nifty chart to take a look at what the attendance numbers could look like.  On the left are the "perfect world" attendance per game numbers, with a range of potential increases listed from about 10-50%.  The different "hit" columns are what attendance would look like if that "perfect world" attendance figure ending up suffering as a result of the recession (with percent decreases ranging from 5-20%).  If it's not clear, let me know in the comments and I'll try and clarify.

2009 attendance % increase from 2008 5% hit 10% hit 15% hit 17% hit 20% hit
25000 11.8% 23750 22500 21250 20750 20000
27000 20.7% 25650 24300 22950 22410 21600
29000 29.6% 27550 26100 24650 24070 23200
31000 38.6% 29450 27900 26350 25730 24800
33000 47.5% 31350 29700 28050 27390 26400

I've italicized the 31000 attendance number because that's basically how the Rays performed in their innaugural year.  So if the Rays expected themselves to draw an average of 31000 fans per game this season and what Gammons says is right, the actual attendance for the Rays could be more like 25K-26K per game.  That'd only be around a 10% increase from the previous year, so would that be enough to keep the nay-sayers at bay?  Would that be enough to help Friendman and Co. cover the large increase in payroll?  I can't say I have answers to these questions, but I find it interesting to ponder.

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.