During recent comments, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg lamented low attendance figures at Tropicana Field, noting it could have implications on the team’s future.
After discussions over a new Tampa ballpark ended late last year, the Rays find themselves in a situation where they cannot explore beyond St. Petersburg for a new ballpark. Their lease for Tropicana Field runs through the 2027 season, and a three-year window granted by St. Petersburg that effectively allowed them to explore a new ballpark in Tampa expired without renewal at the end of 2018.
On the field, the 2019 season has been a success for the Rays, who enter Monday’s action just a 1/2 game behind the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East. The on-field success has not translated into strong attendance numbers, however, as the Rays rank 29th out of 30th in attendance, averaging just over 14,500 fans per game.
When addressing attendance issues Friday, Sternberg emphasized that he and the organization are still looking for a solution to keep the team in the Tampa Bay region, and have still not dismissed the idea of remaining in St. Petersburg. However, he expressed frustration that attendance remains low despite the team’s on-field success and the various offers intended to lure fans to the ballpark, and warned of “ramifications” if the trend continues. More from the Tampa Bay Times:
“There are ramifications.’’…
“I’m genuinely enjoying this and trying to put us in the best position we can to win and provide an amazing experience for anybody who follows this team or chooses to show up at a ball game,’’ Sternberg said. “In the background we’re working to do what we can to ensure that baseball remains (in the bay area) for generations. That’s been my mantra, and it’s been no different.
“But certainly what has gone on and what goes on is going to have an effect on it. And it’s not purely in my hands to have that happen.’’
Sternberg said the Rays are “doing everything we can and are incredibly focused” on increasing attendance, citing free tickets for military on Mondays and the $7.11 tickets on Fridays. He said they are “thrilled to entertain” those who show up, watch and read about what he said is “without a doubt the most interesting and exciting team in baseball again; fun and successful.’’
The Rays have traditionally struggled to draw fans to Tropicana Field, but the on-going pursuit of a new ballpark and lagging numbers despite the team’s success have put those problems under a spotlight of sorts. For the Rays and Major League Baseball, there will be plenty of consideration about whether the market can support a new ballpark long-term. Factors in addition to attendance will play into those considerations–including ballpark financing, revenue, and corporate support–but the low attendance figures are surely a trend Rays would like to reverse before making commitment to a new ballpark in the market.
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