A Facts-Based Examination of the
Tampa Bay Baseball Market
The Tampa Bay area has a long and storied baseball history. For over 100 years, professional baseball teams have either visited, trained, or played in the Tampa Bay area. From the days of Plant Field in Tampa to Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, baseball has long called Tampa Bay “home”.
Today, there are five professional teams playing baseball in Tampa Bay. Four other teams train in the area during spring. Professional baseball starts in February and doesn’t end until the last home game of the Tampa Bay Rays season in late September or early October. On average, over 400 home games are played each year.
Since 2006, total Tampa Bay baseball attendance has been over 2 million each year. In total, over 23 million fans have attended in the last 10 years. This does not include attendees to college baseball, where the University of South Florida Bulls regularly draw attendance similar to an area Minor League game.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the Tampa Bay baseball market. Many in the national media, for example, equate baseball support only to the Tampa Bay Rays attendance. They fail to consider the highly competitive environment in which the Rays operate. While the Rays are the only Major League team in the area, they have more competition for dollars than any other team in Major League Baseball. This in a market that is already stretched thin by the presence on two other major sports franchises (NHL and NFL) and two other minor sports franchises (NASL soccer and arena football).
For many pundits in and out of baseball, Rays attendance is unacceptable. They say the Rays don’t draw. Few even go as far as saying the Rays should be moved. When saying this, they usually cite attendance at other stadiums as comparison.
Here is the big problem with that line of thinking:
That’s the wrong comparison.
Very few fans choose to attend one Major League ballpark over another. This occurs only in metropolitan areas with more than one team (NY, LA, Chicago). So to compare attendance between teams by looking only at total attendance is a foolhardy venture.
Assuming out-of-town attendees are a negligible percentage of total attendance, we must assume most Major League baseball attendees originate from the local metropolitan area. Hence we have to examine the metro area as the primary source of attendance.
Let’s start with the most optimistic of scenarios. If everyone in the area went to every game, the team would obviously have nothing but sell-outs. Most people would not be able to get in as there are far less seats in any stadium than there are people living in any metro area with Major League Baseball.
But that is not the case anywhere, particularly in Tampa Bay.
Every fan, pundit, and media member has a favorite theory on why the percentage of fans attending Rays games is so low.
Pick your favorite:
• Tropicana Field stinks • The location of Tropicana Field stinks • Traffic in St. Petersburg stinks • Traffic in Tampa stinks • The high cost going stinks • The economy stinks • There are other things to do that don’t stink
This site explores these theories and many others. It also looks at the four Minor League teams in the area and Spring Training from the same perspective. While the Clearwater Threshers are among the top leaders in Florida State League attendance, the Bradenton Marauders and Tampa Yankees are not, and Dunedin usually ranks close to the bottom in attendance in all of Minor League Baseball.
We’ll look at all that. It will be fun.
I hope you enjoy it here and feel free to reach me at: