Is a New Stadium the Answer?

By David Egbert

The mayor of St. Petersburg has decided that it is OK for the Rays to look at Hillsborough County as a location for a new stadium. Stu Sternberg, Bud Selig and the mayor of Tampa are thrilled. But is a new stadium the answer to the Rays attendance problems? Maybe not. There are other factors that could be accounting for so many empty blue seats. Let’s take a look at some of those factors.

There is a lack of disposable income in the Tampa Bay area. We aren’t talking about Warren Buffett kind of wealth but we are talking about the kind of disposable income that allows an individual to buy multiple season tickets or even plunk down a $100.00 or more for a family of four to see the Royals play on Monday night. It takes a good paying job to make that happen. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay is a service economy and that means people sitting in a cubicle answering phone for $10.00 an hour.

Most all of the Rays games are televised. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it costs a lot less than that $100.00 to watch that Rays/Royals game on a 50″ screen in your living room.

Sadly, there is also a lack of large corporations in the Tampa Bay area. Major corporations buy blocks of blocks of tickets or luxury suites and usually hand out the tickets as perks to workers or customers. Take of survey of the fans at Yankee Stadium on any given day and you’ll find that a large portion didn’t pay for their ticket.

And finally, there is a serious lack of public transportation in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. One of the biggest reasons people say they don’t go to games is the hassle of driving and parking. Want to go to a ball game in San Francisco? No Problem. Just hop on any of many forms of public transportation and you will be at the ball park without any of the hassles traffic or the cost of parking. Try to get to the Trop by public transportation. Unless you live in downtown St. Petersburg, it won’t happen.

Last Sunday, a sellout crowd of 34,000 somehow decided that St. Petersburg and the Trop was an ok place to watch a ball game and, if you were a kid, get a backpack. So, why doesn’t that happen for 81 games? Maybe the problem is something other than the stadium.