Welcome to another edition of the RCG Mailbag. Today’s inquiry comes from Landon Howell via the Fancred app, who wondered whether or not a new stadium would make a difference in the Rays attendance issues. Remember that if you have any questions that you would like to have answered in a future mailbag, you can send them to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, via twitter at @rayscologlasses, or feel free to ask in the comment section. You can also provide your questions at our Facebook page.
"There’s so much talk about poor attendance, but if a new stadium was built (built on the other end of the bridge) would it matter?"
Thank you for the question Landon. Historically, teams receive a nice bump in attendance when opening a new stadium. According to an article by Forbes.com, six teams eclipsed the three million fan mark when opening new ballparks recently. Of those six, only the Yankees and Mets did not see a large spike in attendance with the construction of a new ballpark.
While it would appear as though building a new ballpark would help the Rays in the short term at least, there is another statistic that may prove otherwise. The Miami Marlins, despite playing in the eight largest market in the United States, drew just over 2.2million fans to their new ballpark, but that number is actually the worst mark for any team since the ‘modern ballparks’ began opening in 1990. The Marlins attendance then dropped to it’s usual levels this season, after the fire sale that gutted the team of virtually any player making a salary.
In fact, the Marlins, and specifically owner Jeffrey Loria’s, antics may be one of the biggest reasons as to why a new stadium may not be in the cards for the Rays. Perhaps more than St. Petersburg’s mayor Bill Foster‘s reluctance to let the Rays out of their lease for the Trop, would be the reluctance of the tax payers to agree to fund another stadium. Although the Rays focus is on winning ballgames, as opposed to Loria’s focus on lining his pockets, the fact that the Rays tend to trade their players once they become expensive may factor into the voters mindset.
A new stadium, located in a more easily accessible area in the region, may certainly help the Rays in the short term. However, there is no guarantee that a new stadium will help attract fans beyond that first season. If the rays recent run of success, and having a player such as Evan Longoria signed long term as the face of the franchise cannot help, will a new stadium make that much of a difference? If so, then that could allow Tampa Bay to keep other top notch players, instead of having trade rumors swirling around whenever a player gets within a couple of years to free agency.
In the end, that is the multi million dollar question. Interest in the Rays is there based off television ratings; it just has not manifested itself in attendance. A new stadium may be a start, but there are many hurdles to overcome before it can become a reality.