Field of Schemes
sports stadium news and analysis


This is an archived version of a Field of Schemes article. Comments on this page are closed. To find the current version of the article with updated comments, click here.

September 30, 2010

Who's to blame for Rays' low attendance?

On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Rays stars David Price and Evan Longoria called the team's low attendance in the midst of a pennant race "embarrassing" — the team sold only 12,446 tickets to Monday night's potential playoff clincher — setting off a media frenzy over the team's poor ticket sales.

Mostly, Price and Longoria have been raked over the coals for dissing their own fans: Yahoo! Sports' David Brown called it "stupid" and "ignorant" (and, for good measure, "entitled, spoiled, narrow-minded and short-sighted"). CBS Sports' Ray Ratto wrote that "criticizing the customers for not being more numerous is a big idea that almost never goes well" and "if the fans don't come, it's because the team didn't do enough to convince them to come, not the other way around." And ESPN's Buster Olney compared it to a bagel store owner complaining that his customers aren't buying enough bagels, an analogy that would perhaps go over better if Tampa Bay were known for its bagels.

Ratto, among others, points to the horrible economy (especially horrible in Tampa Bay) as one reason why attendance is low. (Not that it's all that low: Bleacher Report's Jeff Leadbetter notes that ticket sales are down just 0.3% from last year, and with attendance falling across all of baseball, the Rays actually moved up from 11th in the league to 9th this year.) ESPN's Rob Neyer cites the ubiquity of cheap big-screen TVs (Rays TV ratings, he notes, are "way, way up" this year). Another issue, of course, is that "clinching a playoff spot" might just not be the most exciting reason to turn up to a ballgame on a Monday night against the lackluster Baltimore Orioles, especially when it's been clear for a month now that both the Rays and the New York Yankees are going to make the postseason out of the A.L. East. So Longoria and Price might just as well have blamed the wild card for destroying the excitement of pennant races — but then, dissing fans is one thing, calling out the commissioner is another.

Or, it could also be that Rays fans just can't get excited about the playoffs when ownership is asking them to pay $100 to join a Playoff Access Club to get dibs on buying postseason tickets. Mentioning that, though, would really be biting the hand that signs their paychecks.


I agree completely. While most - including many die-hard Rays fans - will agree attendance could be better, it seems as if the Rays are unfairly singled out. Through Sept. 29 the Rays rank 22nd among Major League teams in average home attendance. Division champ Cincinnati (21st) and contender San Diego (18th), both with longer MLB histories than Tampa (especially Cincy), aren't much better.

Posted by Dan O'Brien on September 30, 2010 12:39 PM

I was watching the Series between Tampa and the Yankees from the Trop on Yes, and the reality is they could not sell out the building for the YANKEES (So it is not just the fact they are playing the woeful Orioles). If you look at attendance across MLB in general, it is not good. Right now 10 teams (A full 1/3 of MLB)has attendance below 2,000,000 (The Reds have a shot this weekend of hitting that number).
As for the comments about Rays attendance bt Price and Longoria, they may very well be accurate, but that kind of player sentiment will make it hard for Tampa to keep players there after the six years free agent period (And of course, effectively compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the future). MLB would be better of consolodating the Rays (And A's#, and spreading the talent throughout the rest of baseball #Think the Pirates could use Longoria or Price?).

Posted by David Brown on September 30, 2010 04:16 PM

Of COURSE the Wild Card diminished the excitement! Both the Yankees & the Rays postseason has been inevitable for awhile now - why should fans bother wasting money, when they know much better & exciting games to spend on are coming soon?

The Wild Card didn't do much for the Padres on 09/30 either, whom are also thick in the Wild Card race. Selig can tout all he wants about how more playoff teams means longer excitement into the season, but the reality is it only delays the inevitable a little bit to sell a few more tickets, barely justifiable given the sport's history and destroying real pennant races for the almighty dollar. So teams can sell more tickets on Sept. 9th opposed to Sept. 16th - was it really worth it? And to think that some people want to add 2 more playoff teams & a 1-game playoff every year! More is not always better.

Posted by Mark on October 1, 2010 12:53 PM

Latest News Items