Public jousting over a potential new ballpark in Tampa Bay have many wondering whether or not the area is truly capable of supporting Major League Baseball. The numbers may surprise you. Meanwhile, another entity emerges as a potential ballpark player.
Public jousting over a potential new ballpark in Tampa Bay have many wondering whether or not the area is truly capable of supporting Major League Baseball.
There's been lots of research done on the subject, and the answer is: maybe.
In an ideal world, a good MLB market would have an abundance of men ages 15 to 44 — the prime MLB demographic. This isn't true in Tampa Bay, where only 40 percent of Tampa Bay's population is men ages 15 to 44. (That's OK: A New York Times study found that 19 of the top 55 U.S. markets shared this shortcoming with Tampa Bay.)
In addition, a large number of Tampa Bay residents — as well as the entire region — are originally from out of town. Traditionally these folks have shown up when teams from their former home towns were at the Trop, but this seems to have diminished as the Rays have become a better team.
Attendance, though, has lagged this season: through Sunday the team has drawn 22,046 per game, good for 24th in all of baseball. A recent series with the Boston Red Sox, usually a solid draw, failed to impact those numbers very much.
We're not sure Tampa Bay is a bad baseball market. One well-documented side effect of asking for a new ballpark is that a team basically is dissing its current ballpark, turning some fans off. As the Rays continue working for a new ballpark, we think that factor is at play — and attendance will probably pop up only when the Rays have secured funding for a new facility.
Meanwhile, another entity emerges as a potential ballpark player: Tampa Bay Partnership. This nonprofit says it can mediate a new-ballpark deal with St. Pete; of course, bringing in the partnership means committing the Rays to St. Pete.
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