Rays to Tampa Bay: If you don’t wanna buy tickets, maybe we just won’t offer you as many seats

Tampa Bay Rays management has announced its first plan for the immediate future following the collapse of its new-stadium plan, and it involves that favorite refuge of the attendance-challenged: tarpaulins.

Seating capacity at Tropicana Field will be reduced to about 25,000 to 26,000 under a renovation plan aimed at improving fans’ experience.

The team on Friday announced plans to create a more “intimate” atmosphere, including the creation of the Left Field Ledge in the lower level featuring premium seating for small groups, and the elimination of the upper-deck 300 level.

The capacity at the Trop previously was 31,042.

The notion that closing off sections that nobody wants to sit in anyway creates more “intimacy” is, of course, kind of disingenuous: If done right it can make the dearth of fans a bit less obvious, but it’s not like it moves the remaining seats any closer to the action. (Notwithstanding that the Tampa Bay Times, no doubt parroting the Rays’ press release, says this move will “bring fans closer to the action.”) Mostly, what it does is create at least a little bit of ticket scarcity, encouraging fans to buy tickets to big series in advance, rather than thinking, enh, I’ll wait and see who’s pitching and what else I have going on then, there’ll always be seats available — which isn’t better for fans in any way (they have to take on the risk that the Rays will be out of contention when the games they’ve bought come around), but clearly can be better for team coffers. Plus, for any really popular games you can raise prices, and that helps make up for the extra 6,000 seats you can no longer offer for sale.

To see what happens when a team closes its top deck, we can look to the example of the Oakland A’s, who tarped off the top level of the Oakland Coliseum from 2006 through 2016. Here’s what their attendance did:

That’s … not so good. What about their operating revenue?

That’s less bad, but still falls more into the category of “didn’t hurt” than “dramatically helped.”

In short, closing off sections is a stopgap measure that isn’t all that significant to anyone, but at least shows an eagerness to do something, even if that something is only to acknowledge that it’s hard to get people to go to your games even when you’re winning. That’s not exactly the best thing to advertise in order to attract new fans, but then, now that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has spent well over a decade telling Tampa Bay residents that their home ballpark is an inaccessible dump, it’s a little late to change course now.

14 comments on “Rays to Tampa Bay: If you don’t wanna buy tickets, maybe we just won’t offer you as many seats

  1. This is putting ” Lipstick On A Pig.” Why? Basically the Rays are a “Dead Man Walking” at “The Trop” and eventuañly they will move, because their attendance is either worst or next to worst every year ( despite bringing the Yankees and Red Sox in 18 times a year).

    • The attendance is terrible. But that does not necessarily mean they move. Like the Marlins, they are making money. Unless and until MLB does something about teams that just farm the subsidy from the fans of higher revenue teams, there’s no real reason for Sternberg to change.

      And if he can be a blight on the MLB landscape long enough to make some future commissioner consider prevailing upon the Yankees and Mets to let him into the metro NY area at a reasonable price, well….

      I don’t think he has any legitimate chance of making that happen (as with the A’s and San Jose), but it costs him little or nothing to keep trying. Let’s not forget how Tampa got into the MLB business in the first place….

        • Not in an alternate reality sports world where every fan base is the best in all of sports.

          Think of it like quantum physics for high school dropouts.

  2. Great move boneheads. Stick it to the remaining fans by increasing their ticket prices. Whoever thought this up should be fired.

    • Did you miss last season? They won 90 games, but just had the misfortune to be in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox.

  3. All this means to me is going to 2-3 games this year instead of 10. Basically I value an evening of baseball at about $15 per seat.

    With the way the Rays are treating their market, no one should be convinced that a new stadium would fix their issues. So since they are clearly going to move in 2027, and they don’t want to contribute one real dollar to an alternative stadium, why should I put any investment into fandom for the Rays?

    • Remember the days when promoters/owners of entertainment options used to be responsible for pricing their product at a point where people actually felt it was decent value? I don’t think there was anything wrong with that…

      Professional sports used to be the entertainment of the masses. Now it is an elite entertainment option for the club seat holders and upper middle class.

      There are very few professional sports leagues that haven’t priced me out… and I’d pay considerably more than $15/seat.

      • “Professional sports used to be the entertainment of the masses.”

        Used to be? Apparently you missed the invention of this thing called television.

        • Not at all. Advertising supported (IE: no fee) professional sports broadcasting on FTA television is very much a thing of the past however.

          You seem to be forgetting about the development of premium tier cable, satellite and online channels/platforms that require a significant amount of technology be purchased and a relatively high monthly fee be paid just to have the sports content piped into our own homes onto the equipment we were forced to buy/rent.

          About 40% of my monthly direct broadcast (sat) bill goes to pay for sports channels. Much of the live sports on those channels has disappeared over the last 3 years and a high percentage of the rest of it will go to other platforms (DAZN and any of it’s successors should it go bankrupty etc) over the next two years. If we want to go back a decade or two, there were no such things as “out of market” blackouts for any major sports league on my service provider. Now, out of ten channels with five different baseball, hockey or basketball games on on any given night, I’ll be lucky to be allowed to watch ONE (and I don’t get any choice over which one, obviously).

          The solution? In addition to the premium sports tier at $20/mo per RSN, I can pay $5-700 annually for the league provided all inclusive package (that’s $5-700 per sport, of course) and get every game played by every team (for most leagues, there is no lesser package that allows you to pick x number of games a week or follow only your favourite team etc).

          $1000-1200 annually to watch one professional sport in my living room on hardware I purchased myself? Yes, that is out of reach for the majority of sports fans, Keith.

  4. Florida easily has the worst owners in the MLB. This makes a lot of financial sense but it’s so typical of the way Sternberg has treated Rays fans. I hope if they do relocate that the league forces him to sell somehow.

    • We are the joke??? Sternberg had treated us like his ex girlfriend who he doesnt need anymore pretty much since they day he bought the team! He does the absolute bear minimum to build this market and make people proud to be Rays fans