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Rays Monthly Attendance Analysis: July 2019

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Surprise $2 tickets boost Rays attendance in July

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
Accidental Renaissance
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to our fourth monthly review of the Tampa Rays 2019 attendance. This post will look at attendance in the Rays 13 home games played from July 1 to July 24, 2019.

  • Total July 2019 Tampa Bay Rays home attendance: 247,934
  • Average attendance per July game: 19,072
  • Highest attendance: 24,161 on Wednesday, July 24th
  • Lowest attendance: 10,966 on Monday, July 22nd
  • Average June game time: 3 hours, 20 minutes
  • Highest attended series: 21,431 per game vs Yankees, July 4-7
  • Lowest attended series: 16,099 per game vs White Sox, July 19-21
  • Total Tampa Bay Minor League July attendance: 78,125
  • Tampa Bay Minor League July attendance per game: 1,240 (63 games)

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

Comparing July 2019 with previous years

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

The Rays’ July 2019 average attendance increased 18% from their July 2018 average (2,951 more fans per game).

Overall, Rays July attendance was the highest it had been since 2017, but below were it was from 2007 to 2012.

Of course, we have to start by discussing the Rays $2 ticket deal during the first week of July.

Thanks to this flash ticket sale, every game versus the Orioles had over 20,000 fans in attendance. In 2018, only one July game had over 20,000 fans in attendance. In 2019, eight of 13 July games had over 20,000.

In 2018, only 9 games TOTAL had over 20,000 fans in attendance. As of July, the Rays have already had 20,000 or more fans 17 times. But let’s estimate how much impact the $2 tickets had.

Since 2013 (an arbitrary cutoff), weekday games against Baltimore have averaged 12,310 tickets sold per game. Earlier in 2019 (4/16-4/18), each game during a weekday series versus the Orioles drew between 9,000 and 10,000. So perhaps the Rays front office predicted a drop to closer to 10K. Although if we say July attendance is higher than April, let’s use the 12K Baltimore average.

Using this 12K presumption, the $2 tickets sold 8,000 more tickets per game. That’s a total of 24,000 additional tickets sold in July thanks to the promotion.

If we were to take away that 24,000, the Rays average July attendance becomes 17,225 per game. That is still more than 2018 and 2016’s average July attendance, but still remains the Rays third lowest July attendance since 2007. Instead, 2019 July attendance sits in the middle of the 13 seasons since 2007.

Here is the Rays July attendance since 2007, with percentage changes and winning percentage.

Here is July’s average attendance as relation of winning percentage.

This is a very interesting chart. By July we should know the character of the team on the field — will they compete for the division or not? — but with the Rays, there is no correlation between winning percentage and higher attendance in July.

As a matter of fact, the Rays best three July records (2010, 2013, and 2008) all saw lower July attendance than the previous year. That has to be maddening for the Rays front office. Of course, there are other factors involved such as opponent and weekday/weekend games. But should the Rays Marketing Department even try to sell record and quality of play in advertising?

According to this chart, that doesn’t put butts in seats.

It would be interesting to compare the Rays winning percentage/attendance plot to local Minor League Baseball winning percentage/attendance. Winning matters very little to Minor League attendance — fans tend to value experience, day of the week, and promotions far more. Perhaps Rays tickets sell similarly to Minor League tickets in this market.

Weekdays vs Weekends

Let’s look at the Rays July 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.

July 2019 breakdown:

  • Weekday home games: 7
  • Weekend home games: 6

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

The Rays weekday attendance in July 2019 averaged nearly 2,400 more fans than in 2018. This is where the Rays $2 ticket flash sale made a difference, as discussed earlier. Three of seven weekday games featured a discounted promotion.

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

The Rays July weekend average attendance in 2019 increased almost 4,000 fans per game over 2018. It was the highest weekend attendance since 2014, although it is the fourth lowest weekend average in July since 2007.

If we look at the difference between weekend and weekday attendance, July 2019 continues a very odd trend in July attendance overall:

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 from the wealth of the fanbase. Monday through Thursday attendance is impacted by traffic and time both to the stadium and heading home after the game. Weekend games do not have the same pressures and time crunch. Convenience counts.

However, for the last two seasons, the Rays have averaged more fans during the week than on the weekends in July. This is a circumstance of scheduling and promotions, but it should not expected to be the norm.

Conclusion

July 2019 was better than previous years by Rays standards. Obviously, the $2 flash sale worked. Whether or not discounting tickets so severely is sustainable is something only the Rays front office can tell. But from what we know about the business of Major League Baseball, the answer is probably no.

That the Rays did not average 20,000 in July is slightly discerning. July is traditionally the Rays best month for attendance. In August, kids start to go back to school and parents face a more severe time crunch on weekday games. Expect August games to mirror June attendance, not as bad as May, but not as good as July. I would be very surprised if the Rays held another flash sale, especially as steep as $2 a ticket. $5 a ticket is a possibility.

If the Rays stay in contention, attendance should stay in the 10,000 to 15,000 range for weekdays and the 15,000-20,000 range on weekends. If they do not stay in contention, attendance will be on the lower side of the range.

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Previous Monthly Attendance Analysis:

You can find Michael Lortz’s previous attendance analysis work at Tampa Bay Baseball Market and FanGraphs.