Monday, October 19, 2015

Tampa Bay Baseball Attendance Year in Review: 2015

As noted here and in several other places, Major League Baseball attendance dropped significantly in the Tampa Bay area in 2015. But as we all know, the Rays are not the only game in town. The Rays share the region with four spring training complexes and four Minor League Baseball teams.

There is more baseball in the Tampa Bay region than there is any other sport. More teams, more games, and more options. So looking at how baseball did in the region overall is a good way to start our offseason attendance analysis.

First, the good news, total baseball attendance in Tampa Bay was over 2 million for the 10th year in a row. (Click to embiggen.)

(Chart does not include the 39,386 tickets sold to see the relocated Baltimore Orioles games.)

Breakdown of Tampa Bay baseball in 2015, including the relocated Baltimore games:
  • Total amount of games: 408
  • Attendance to 261 Minor League games: 423,996
  • Attendance to 81 Rays games: 1,247,668
  • Attendance to 62 Spring Training games: 474,578
  • Attendance to 3 relocated games with Baltimore: 39,386
  • Attendance to 1 Minor League playoff game: 1,345
  • Total attendance: 2,185,628

Now the bad news. While over 2 million fans is impressive, total baseball attendance in Tampa Bay dropped nearly 9% in 2015. Not only did the Rays attendance drop, but so too did regional Minor League Baseball attendance. Regional Minor League attendance decreased for the first time in six years.

The following chart depicts attendance for Spring Training, Minor League Baseball, and the Rays since 2005. It also shows the percentage of change and the Rays percentage of the total attendance. Again, click to make bigger.

Led by the Rays' decreases, total Tampa Bay baseball attendance has decreased every year since 2012. In 2015, Spring Training attendance returned to its 2011-2013 levels. Regional Minor League attendance decreased to its lowest level since 2010. The Rays also decreased by a double digit percentage, their biggest percentage drop since 2011 and their lowest attendance since 2005.

Another way to look at regional attendance is by the average amount of attendees per day from the first game to the last. In 2015, Tampa Bay area baseball averaged 10,166 fans per day. That means every day there was baseball, from the first Spring Training game to the end of the Rays season, that was the average amount of tickets sold per day.

The following chart depicts the average amount of baseball tickets sold per day in Tampa Bay since 2007.

We can also examine these numbers in graph form:

Games and Days with Baseball:

Average per day baseball attendance during baseball season in Tampa Bay:

Not surprisingly, 2008 had the highest total attendance and total days of baseball in the Tampa Bay area. That year, the Rays extended their schedule into late October by making it to the World Series. World Series games also averaged above 40,000 fans per game.

The year with the most games played was 2011, another Rays playoff year, but also a year that includes the Bradenton Marauders' regular season schedule, which beginning in 2010, added an additional 70 local Minor League games to the ledger.

The following chart shows daily progression of baseball attendance in Tampa Bay in 2015.

The high point for daily baseball attendance in Tampa Bay occurred on August 8th, when 34,049 people saw baseball in Tampa Bay. While the Rays sold out their game versus the Mets, 2,247 tickets were sold to the Tampa Yankees, and 760 tickets were sold to the Dunedin Blue Jays.

Points of interest:
  • The Rays only accounted for 58% of total baseball tickets sold in Tampa Bay.
  • There were 10 days during which the Florida State League and the Rays schedule overlapped and there was no baseball played.
  • On May 27th, Minor League Baseball in Tampa Bay outdrew the Rays 13,719 to 10,365.
  • As usual, the Rays were not scheduled to be home on July 4th weekend. Minor League Baseball in Tampa Bay drew 20,966 fans on July 3rd for their fireworks promotions.

The following charts depict daily attendance for the Rays and Minor League Baseball.

Rays total attendance:

Tampa Bay Minor League baseball attendance:

Points of interest:
  • On July 3rd, the Clearwater Threshers set a franchise daily attendance record with 9,966 tickets sold.
  • July 3rd was also the season high for the Bradenton Marauders (5,812) and Dunedin Blue Jays (5,188).
  • On August 11th, the Tampa Yankees sold 548 tickets, their lowest in at least 8 years.


There are many theories why Rays attendance decreased. We will talk about them in time. Analyzing Rays attendance is sexy and popular. But few people will look at the big picture in regards to Tampa Bay baseball attendance. Over the next few weeks, I'll look at where the Minor League teams took the biggest hit. If attendance decreased the most early in the season, we might consider the effect of the Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run. If attendance decreased the most late in the season, we might place blame on the 30-plus days of continuous rain that poured on the area.

This post showed the facts and the big picture. The "so what?" and "what now?" will come at a later date. Stay tuned.