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Rays Monthly Attendance Analysis: May 2019

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MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
Fans holds up lights on their phones as lights turn off inside the dome during the ninth inning between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees at Tropicana Field.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to our second monthly review of the Tampa Rays 2019 attendance. This post will look at attendance in the Rays 13 home games played from May 6, 2019 to May 31, 2019.

  • Total May 2019 Tampa Bay Rays home attendance: 174,716
  • Average attendance per game: 13,440
  • Highest attendance: 25,025 (2x) on Saturday and Sunday, May 11th and 12th
  • Lowest attendance: 5,786 on Tuesday, May 28th
  • Average May game time: 3 hours, 11 minutes (incl 2 extra inning games)
  • Highest attended series: 23,632 per game vs Yankees, May 10-12
  • Lowest attended series: 8,282 per game vs Arizona, May 6-8
  • Total Tampa Bay Minor League April attendance: 62,175
  • Tampa Bay Minor League attendance per game: 1,110 (59 games)

Note: TB Minor League attendance includes Tampa, Clearwater, Bradenton, and Dunedin based teams within 30 miles of Tropicana Field.

Comparing May 2019 with previous years

The following chart compares May 2019 average attendance to other recent years.

Let’s escort the elephant out of the room first. Yes, the Rays set a single-game attendance low on Tuesday, May 28th, with attendance was almost as equally as low on Wednesday, May 29th, by drawing less than 6,000 fans to the ballpark.

While that is not a good sign for the Rays at a micro level, let’s talk month-long trends.

Here is the team’s May attendance from 2007 to 2019, and the percentage of change from the previous year:

The Rays’ May 2019 average attendance increased 4% (565 more fans per game) from their May 2018 per game average.

Overall, Rays May attendance was higher than it had been since 2016. Rays attendance in May 2019 was similar to attendance in May 2017, with several games attendance below 10,000 and a series against the Yankees on a weekend averaging over 20K a game. In 2018, on the other hand, the Rays averaged over 10,000 every game but did not have a boost playing an AL East rival on a weekend.

Weekdays vs Weekends

Let’s look at the Rays May attendance on weekdays (Mon-Thurs) and weekends (Fri-Sun). The Rays usually have one of the biggest differences in Major League Baseball in regards to weekday versus weekend attendance.

May 2019 breakdown:

  • Weekday home games: 9
  • Weekend home games: 4

The Rays played fewer games in May than average. This may be because they played more home games in April than average (possibly an MLB attempt to reduce cold weather cancellations?).

The following chart shows the Rays average May weekday attendance since 2007.

The Rays weekday average attendance in May 2019 was lower than it had been at any point during the Sternberg ownership. This is where the May 27 and 28th games come in to play.

The following chart shows Rays average weekend attendance in May since 2007.

Rays May weekend average attendance in 2019 was much higher than their May average attendance in 2018, and their 2019 weekend average was the highest it had been since 2014. However, this is highly impacted by the weekend series against the Yankees.

Only the Rays May 31st game against the Twins was not a weekend game against the Yankees. All of the other weekend games in May were against the Rays AL East and Tampa-based rival.

If we look at the difference between weekend and weekday attendance, May 2019 had the biggest gain since 2009.

As mentioned earlier, in May 2018 the Rays drew over 10K to every game, however did not play the Yankees or Red Sox. In 2019, the schedule and results were nearly the opposite. Hence the large increase in weekend/weekday percentage.

The Rays have always had one of, if not the largest weekend to weekday differential in Major League Baseball. This is explainable by the distance of the stadium to the fanbase. Monday through Thursday attendance is impacted by traffic and time both to the stadium’s location and the hour fans are heading home after the game. Weekend games do not have the same pressures and time crunch. Convenience counts.

Conclusion

While the media whooped and hollered about the Rays low attendance on May 27th and May 28th, single games have a small impact on the big picture. The bigger impact is in public relations, which was mitigated in part by Rays President Brian Auld with his statement regarding the Rays record-low single game attendance and his belief in the area:

“We appreciate the support of our fans, and we believe that St. Petersburg, Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay region will rally around this exciting and compelling Rays team.”

The Rays obviously do not want fans to panic. The team is not going anywhere this year, nor next year, and not the year after that either. I don’t need to reiterate the reason why Rays attendance is lower than the MLB average, other than to say that all factors are still there.

As we warned last month, May was always going to be bad. It is typically the Rays worst attended month. To plot that out, here are months ranked highest to lowest in attendance in the preceding years:

Yellow = highest average attendance. Red = lowest average attendance.

Monthly rankings are averaged on the bottom of the chart. July typically has the highest average attendance and May has the worst. Interestingly, June and Sept/Oct have the same rank. This does not mean they have the same attendance, just that during the course of the season, they have equally been better attended than May but not as attended as July. I will talk monthly trends at a later point, but this is just to show that May is not the Rays best month for attendance.

In May 2019, the Rays benefited the re-emergence of the Yankees as AL East contenders and a weekend friendly schedule. This creates favorable factors for the estimated 300,000 Yankees fans living in the Tampa Bay area.

Keep in mind, Yankees fans only have to attend 9 games at Tropicana Field and 10-15 Spring Training games. There are approximately 750,000 Rays fans in Tampa Bay. They have to attend 81 games at Tropicana Field.

If you do the quick math, that means if each fan in the fanbase went only once, 12,500 Yankees fans would attend each game. For the Rays, that means 9,260 would attend each game. This back of the napkin math is not too far off from average weekday attendance and the combined attendance of the Rays and Yankees fans at Tropicana Field.

Looking ahead, the Rays only have 12 home games in June. Eight of those games are weekend games and one weekday game is Kids Camp Day. Although the Rays are playing non-division games, because of the heavy weekend schedule, attendance should not be as bad as in May.

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Previous Monthly Attendance Analysis: