Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 vs 2014 Tampa Bay Rays Attendance Comparison

Today I am going to do something I have never done before, but probably should have. I am going to compare year-to-year attendance. As I mentioned in my previous post, Rays attendance dropped nearly 14% from 2014 to 2015. This post will look at the second level: where did it drop?

Finding out where attendance dropped could give insight into reasons why. Of course there are overarching reasons such as reduced interest in baseball regionally, cost, or transportation. But before we come to that conclusion we should try to identify the most and least times attendance decreased and see what the tea leaves show us.

Then after we pinpoint the biggest problems the next step to theorize "why?" followed by "what should the Rays do about it?".

2014 vs 2015 attendance by Month:

We see here that during the summer months of June and July, Rays attendance in 2015 wasn't far off of 2014. But in the early and later months of the season, attendance was far worse in 2015. This variance might require us to consider different reasons for the 2015 attendance decrease.

The most accepted theory for the early part of the season is the popularity of the Tampa Bay Lightning during their Stanley Cup Playoff run. We have explored the Lightning effect on the Rays quite a few times. The important thing to realize is that the Lightning didn't only affect the Rays on the exact day of their games. They affected interest in the Rays for the entire time the Lightning were in the playoffs. And then when the Lightning season ended, the Rays had to wait for people to have expendable funds again.

Once the area sports fans had expendable funds again, they sought out the Rays. When looking at the slight decreases over June and July, we have to consider other factors. Among the most popular:
  • Lack of identifiable players
  • Loss of marketable and recognizable players
  • Team performance
  • Interest in opponents
  • Bad stadium experience
  • Increased security
  • Increased ticket costs
  • Stadium political situation

Some of these may have affected people. Some of them may not have had any affect at all. Some may have been affected by mix of all the factors. Without polling everyone who did not go to a game, there is no way to tell.

The decreases in August and September are little tougher to estimate about. They probably have a lot to do with the aforementioned reasons, but with more emphasis on team performance. As we have proven before, being in the playoff hunt does positively affect attendance. If a team muddles around .500, as the Rays did this year, fans lose interest and attendance in August and September is closer to May than July.

2014 vs 2015 Rays attendance by day

There is a lot of negative here. No day was spared in the Rays 2015 attendance decrease. While Monday and Wednesday look a little less depressing, we have to remember the Opening Day sellout was on a Monday and Wednesday featured several "Parks and Recreation Day" promotions where summer camps full of kids filled the stadium. Without those promotions, Monday and Wednesday would probably be similar to Tuesday or Thursday.

The day that took the biggest hit was Friday. As I have often written, Friday is an interesting day for baseball. Whereas fans still have to fight rush hour traffic to get to the park, those who work the typical Mon-Fri work week are not pressured to leave early due to the work the next day. Friday night games should be the best time to unwind after a stressful week. Unfortunately for the Rays, fans opted to do something else to unwind.

While popular consensus is that Tropicana Field is difficult to get to on the weekdays, weekend attendance shouldn't face the same time and traffic obstacles.

Here is a breakdown of the Weekends and Weekdays from 2014 to 2015:

What is interesting here is that as bad as weekdays were (8 games under 10,000 tickets sold), weekends had the bigger drop from 2014 to 2015. Nearly double as many fans didn't buy tickets to Tropicana Field on the weekends than on weekdays in 2015.

Fixing weekend attendance should be the Rays marketing department's number one priority in 2016.

2014 vs 2015 Month/Day cross-analysis

Now let's take the months and days and put them together. We'll segment the days into Weekends and Weekdays so we don't run into too small of a sample size.

This chart shows exactly where the Rays saw their worst decline in attendance in 2015.
  • Weekends in May: - 36%
  • Weekdays in Sept: -27%
  • Weekends in April: -26%
  • Weekdays in August: -23%

If we continue with the Tampa Bay Lightning effect on the Rays early season attendance decline, we see that only 9 of the Lightning's 20 playoff games in April and May were on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday - home or away. But again, the Lightning effect on the Rays needs to be considered for the entire series. If a fan spends $200 on Lightning playoff tickets on a Monday, they are probably not going to spend more money on a Rays game on Friday, even if tickets are 90% cheaper.

Now for the good news from the above chart. Weekends in August in 2015 were nearly identical to weekends in August in 2014 and the follow day/month slots actually increased in attendance from 2014 to 2015:
  • Weekends in June: +13%
  • Weekdays in July: +11%
  • Weekdays in April: +4%

Weekends in June had a well-attended series against the Red Sox and a Lee Brice post-game concert to help with attendance. June weekends in 2014 only had one postgame concert with Weezer.

Weekdays in July in 2015 had the benefit of two Parks and Recs Days whereas July 2014 only had one parks and recs day on the docket.

Finally, the most probable explanation for April's weekday increase has to do with more weekday games in 2014. Both years benefited by having Opening Day on weekdays but in 2014 the Rays played 8 weekday games in April, in 2015 they only played 6.

If we don't count Opening Day, the Rays average weekday attendance in April 2015 was 13,670. In April 2014, the Rays average weekday attendance was 13,790. A difference of only 120 less fans on average.

This concludes our latest deep-dive into the Rays attendance. I'm going to try and create the same charts for all the Minor League teams in the Tampa Bay area. I'm curious where the Minor League decreases are biggest and whether or not they match the Rays trends.