Despite the fact that it had nothing to do with the All-Star Game, Bud Selig couldn’t resist bringing up the subject of a new Rays stadium.
“It’s obvious they need a new stadium”, Selig said a his annual All-Star media session, “It’s no secret. All you have to do is look at the attendance figures to date this year, and you know what they need.”
Well, maybe and maybe not. Every team would like a fancy new stadium. Every owner would like the taxpayers to make him even richer. Mr. Selig would like to make one more rich owner even richer before he retires. However, is a stadium the answer to attendance woes? Here’s one recent example where the answer is no.
The new Miami Marlins ballpark opened in time for the 2012 season. It replaced the decrepit Orange Bowl and the new stadium was seen as state of the art. The cost of erecting this baseball shrine was $634 million. They built it, but now would the fans come? In the last year of the Florida Marlins at the Orange Bowl, they drew 1,520,000 fans for an average 19,000 a game. In 2013, the second year of the new stadium, they drew 2,219,000 fans for an average of 21,500 a game. This year the Marlins are averaging to date 21,528 a game. That means the increase over 2011 was 200,000 fans a year, or roughly what the LA Dodgers draw for a four game weekend series. Is that worth $634 million?
Of course, blame for the lack of attendance in Miami now shifts to other factors. The stadium is wonderful, but the team is lousy and the owner is a cheap jerk. Those are just excuses. The owner of the Boston Red Sox is a jerk and his team is in last place but the Red Sox still draw 36,000 a game in a falling apart, out of date, firetrap called Fenway Park.
The problem in both Miami and Tampa Bay may well be the markets. Issues with the Florida market have been presented many times.
*Lack of corporations
*Low-paying service economy
*Poor public transportation
*Loyalty of residents to other teams
*All games are televised
Mr. Selig says he and Stuart Sternberg believe in the demographics of the market, but demographics aren’t everything. If they aren’t everything, though, they are awfully close.
I worked for a number of years as a marketing executive in New York City and, attended numerous New York Yankees games. I could hop on the subway after work, se the game, get the subway back to Grand Central, take a commuter train to Connecticut, and be in bed by midnight. That will never happen in Tampa Bay with or without a new Rays stadium.
And so, the dance will continue. Conversations will go on between politicians and Sternberg. Major league baseball will threaten to move the team to places like Montréal. Arguments will take place over whether St. Petersburg or Tampa is the right location. Then, there will be angry blasts from local groups that they will never use taxpayer money to make another greedy owner richer. Where will it all end? My guess is that some sports crazed billionaire will make Sternberg an offer he can’t refuse, move the team to the city of his choice, and start the dance all over again.