Monday, May 11, 2015

Yankees vs Rays Attendance Review 2007-2014

Before the first game the Rays play against an opponent in 2015, I will provide an overview of Rays home attendance trends since 2007 in games versus that opponent.

Think of it as a game capsule or series preview, but for the business-minded.

(I did not do this before the first Yankees series, so this does not cover any 2015 games.)

Tonight, the Rays play the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field for the second time in 2015. Attendance trends for Yankees games are interesting, as the assumption is that the Yankees fanbase "fills the Trop" whenever the team visits the Rays. Adding to this perception has been comments by former Rays manager Joe Maddon that fans should root for the home team. These comments are only made when the Yankees visit.

According to my demographic study last year, there are approximately 1,560,000 New Yorkers in Florida. Using polling data to assume 50% are baseball fans and assuming 80% of New Yorkers are Yankees fans, there should be only an estimated 780,000 Yankees fans in Florida. However, due to a myriad of circumstances, there are at least 1,560,000 additional Yankees fans in Florida who were not born in New York.

In my demographics article, I gave my three theories why some many non-New York natives in Florida root for the Yankees. (For details, please click the article.)
  • Tradition
  • Spring Training
  • Non-US state resident fans (Puerto Rican, etc)

The Yankees have the second largest fanbase in Florida, trailing only the combined Rays/Marlins.

The following chart shows the Rays home record vs the Yankees, average attendance at Tropicana Field when the Yankees visit, the annual annual average, and the percentage difference between attendance versus the Yankees and the average attendance.

Since 2007, games versus the Yankees have drawn 31% more than the average game at Tropicana Field.

The following graph depicts the previous chart.

Let's now look at when the Yankees have a bigger effect: weekdays or weekends. The Rays usually have significant weekday/weekend attendance splits. Could the Yankees have a bigger effect on weekends when more fans come to the ballpark, or could they have a bigger effect on weekdays due to out-of-market Yankees fans traveling to St Petersburg?

(Note: I define "weekdays" as Monday through Thursday, or days where the average fan is restricted in time on both sides of the game, whether by work, traffic, or a need to sleep. Weekends are defined as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - games where fans can stay as late as possible.)

Weekdays (Mon-Thurs)

The following chart depicts how many weekday games were played as well as the average Rays attendance in games versus the Yankees on weekdays. The far right column is the percentage difference between average attendance in Yankees games and average attendance for the season.

Here we can see why 2008 was such an anomaly in the Overall Average graph. In 2008, the weekday overall average was 21,262. The vast amount of Yankees versus Rays games that year and the notion that as the Rays made a run for the playoffs every game became high profile possibly depleted the pool of fans. There is also a theory that Yankees fans might have stopped going as Tropicana Field was no longer "as friendly", although there are very few ways to prove that.

The following graph depicts the previous chart.

This graph depicts a steep drop from 2009 to 2013. 2009 is somewhat misleading however, as that includes Opening Day, the pennant raising ceremony, and a well-attended second game. Looking from 2010 to 2013, we still see a steep drop. Attendance at the average weekday Yankees vs Rays game dropped 39% between 2010 and 2013. Compare this to the overall 2010-2013 weekday drop of 20%.


The following chart shows how many games were played and, more importantly, Rays attendance on weekend games versus the Yankees since 2007. Like the weekday chart, the far right column shows the percentage difference between attendance at Yankees games and attendance for all games at Tropicana Field.

The Yankees had a bigger effect on attendance on weekday games than on weekends every season. While weekend attendance did in fact grow, the overall average was higher hence the "Yankees effect" was less strong. That makes sense, as for the 3 or 6 times a year, visiting fans consider the Yankees versus Rays series "an event" and "must-go", whereas Rays fans have 78 or 75 other games in which to attend. Rays fans have less incentive when there are more choices to attend.

The following graph depicts the previous chart.


The season, the Rays play ten games versus the Yankees. Their three game weekend series recently passed, leaving the seven weekday games remaining. This week will be an interesting test as the Tampa Bay Lightning remain the playoffs and we have well-documented their effect on Rays attendance. (The last three May Lightning playoff games, for example, have caused a 37% decrease in coinciding Rays attendance.)

Other competition on Tuesday includes the always popular $1 Tuesday promotion at the Clearwater Threshers' Bright House Field.

Will the Yankees local and state-wide support boost Rays attendance this week? Will other sports options capsize Rays attendance yet again? Or will these variables cancel each other out and the Rays draw near their weekday average?