Will the Attendance Increase with Wins in 2009 ?

 

 

 
 
 
Here we are less than 8 days before pitchers and catchers officially report to the Port Charlotte Training complex for the Tampa Bay Rays. And with that is the anticipation that the crowds will be as big this year following the guys as they work out as in the years when the team practiced in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays in 2008 ended one of the most unique situations in the major leagues when they officially closed out their “hometown” Spring Training tradition to move 70 miles to the south to expand their fan base to their southern neighbors.
 
 

And with their move to Port Charlotte, they also moved their old Vero Beach Florida State League baseball squad across the state to occupy the facilities after Spring Training is over for the Rays. The Ripken Baseball group then came in and formed a partnership with the Rays in running the lower Class-A Charlotte Sand Crabs. But will this move be a short term success or a growing franchise with unlimited potential? With a well respected baseball ownership group like Ripken baseball in charge of your affiliate, you usually can expect great thing to be happening in the 2009 season. The anticipation of the new team playing ball has made the local community excited and motivated to buy 3,000 Spring Season Tickets for their first campaign. The Rays averaged about 300 while they were playing at Progress Energy Field in St. Petersburg.
 
 
 

So if the team can show success in the Spring venue, will that also translate into sales and attendance in Tropicana Field for the Rays?  That question will be answered soon enough. The Rays currently have around 10,000 Season Ticket holders, but have stepped up with an aggressive ad campaign to try and increase that number 50 percent to 15,000 before Opening Day. Could such an increase be possible in the economic climate where almost 10 percent of Pinellas county residents are out of work or experiencing financial hardships? The Port Charlotte experience might be tied closer to the fact that the team is new and the community is bonding together to promote and attract more people to come down from the Tampa Bay are aand make a weekend out of their baseball adventures.
 
 
 


 

 
 
But will the Rays have the same thing to offer in 2009 at their home games. Attendance with 15,000 Season Tickets could put their guaranteed tickets sold attendance at close to 2 million fans. Only in 1998, when the team attracted 2.5 million fans and averaged 30,000 in the stands during that first season. But could this is a warning to the Rays that the first year excitement ebbed and slowly receded until they only had 1.8 million move through the turnstiles in 1999, and their average attendance also fell to around 20,000 a game.  Will the winning season and World Series appearance by the Rays instantly turn into a rush of fans coming back to the Trop., or will the region slowly pull back again and take a wait and see approach to the team.
 
 
 
 
People forget in the Rays front office that this region is fickle when it comes to sports. We have been teased by the NFL Bucs for years and years of just missing the mark, or like in 2008, getting to a secure spot, then losing 4 straight games to doom their playoff hopes. Or you can take the roller coaster ride of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, who have been a great franchise in a warm town, but have struggled at the gate in recent years. Considering they won the highest prize in hockey, the Stanley Cup, their fans have been at a consistent number, but not an upward swing usually associated with winning the Cup.  So, will the masses again flood Tropicana Field, or will the fans stay home, or take over the Trop like the last few months in the excitement of the playoffs.
 
 
 
 
I have to admit, I was in awe of the atmosphere and excitement during Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series at the Trop. the entire place did not seem to calm down the entire game, and the fans were loud and proud the entire night. And that energy stayed pretty constant through the ALDS and the ALCS before coming to a roar during the World Series. But will the Rays be able to count on those crowd starting in April, or will it take a bit of time before people flow back into the Trop. I think a good barometer of this will be coming up on February 14th when the team hold its annual Fan Fest. Over the last 2 seasons, the event has shown increased attendance and the anticipation is for the event to set record numbers in 2009.

 



 


 

 

 

So will this pre-season event be a great indicator of the excitement and the energy that will flow starting in April. I would hope so, because we will not have our team nearby for a change during Spring Training, we will have to show our commitments early to the team before they head south for the month and half of Spring Training. But also, this season the single game tickets will not be up for sale during the Fan Fest. usually the first official day of selling the single game tickets is coordinated with the Fan Fest. Could this keep some fans away who do not want to fight the crowds in the autograph lines, or will they still come out and stand for hours to chat with the players for a few moments.
 

 

 

You would think the signing of Pat Burrell and Joe Nelson would be an indication of the team’s commitment to finishing the job and going back to the World Series. Trading Edwin Jackson for young Matt Joyce should be viewed as the Rays looking both to today and tomorrow by getting a young up and coming outfielder who could be here for a long time patrolling the outfield for the Rays.   But will the team’s increased payroll and fancy commercials be enough to show they want and need the fans in 2009. If the promotional giveaways are any indication, then the Rays are banking that collectors and fans will be seeking the Championship Week items and pushing that entire weeks schedule of games to the sellout point.

 

 


 


 

 

 

But will the true test be in the early parts of 2009 when the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles come in and the stands are not sold out. Will the Trop then again be thrown all over the national news as the true home of the fair weather fans, or will there be cowbells and Rays gear everywhere. I think the month of May will be the time that the fans let the team know if they are behind them. or waiting for a sign. In that month, the team come home to a quick  weekend 3-game series against Boston before bringing in the Baltimore Orioles for two games. Through the month, the Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Oakland A’s and Minnesota Twins will come in and play the team a total of 13 games. These 13 games might hold the key to the teams attendance in 2009. Traditionally, the Oakland series is a low attendance series, the Indians and Orioles are predicted to have aggressive teams, but might not feature that competitive bite yet to bring out legions of Rays fans. And the Minnesota series in 2008 was during the last home stand of the year, which is always a huge attendance draw because of the end of the yea events for the fans.  
 

 

 

I am hoping for 2 million fans in the Trop this year. That would be a great indicator to the Rays front office that we finally have turned the corner and believe in this team. But we also do not have the concentrated population of New York and Boston to pull from during the year. And we also do not have a winning tradition to make people scramble for the tickets. But 2009 will be a great year for the Rays faithful. The only question will be if you have someone right next to you to high five after the game, or you have to move a few seats to get that satisfaction……………….I am betting on 360 degrees of hand slapping fun in 2009, what do you think?



Photo credits for today go to: Tampabay.rays.mlb.com, and to Mike Stoller and Caviler92 of Flicker.com


 

8 Comments

I think the unemployment rate in the Tampa area will be a huge factor in whether people will be buying tickets to the Rays games. The economic downturn could also cut down on the number of fans from other teams who will vacation in Florida when their team is playing in the Trop. I also think the Rays management is making a big mistake in not selling single game tickets at Fan Fest. As you suggested, it could be a factor in fewer people attending the Fest but I think it will also have an impact on ticket sales going forward; they will be losing out on the “impulse” buy that is so critical in retailing. It will be interesting to compare how many tickets are normally sold at Fan Fest vs the number sold the first day they do go on sale. Have a great time at Fan Fest when you go. I look forward to seeing you photos of the event.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

I know for myself, my Season Ticket come before anything else. I was laid off last June and I have been out searching since then, but still went to the games and paid for my playoff tickets.

I will do anything to go to games, but that is just the commitment I made to the team and not a statement of the economy. It is my personal priority one, but it will not be the same for everyone. I have had to make major adjustments, but I was lucky enough to have a 401K for the last 10 years and it has kept me in my house and with my essential expenses.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Hi, Rays Renegade …

“Congratulations” on being ranked #11 on the new mlblogs Fan “Leader’s List” !!! … Also, thanks for your recent visit to my mlblog … You made some great comments about my favorite “Baseball Movies” and “Documentaries” [list] of all-time, including, mentioning the movie, “Strategic Air Command” starring Jimmy Stewart [I have never seen this baseball movie, so I look forward to checking it out, and watching the movie at some point in the future] … Another
“excellent” post, above, talking about the Rays potential attendance in 2009 !!! … I think, the Rays will have another great year in ’09, and as long as they keep winning will def draw over 2 Million fans this year !!! … It will be fun watching the “race for first place” in the AL East this year between the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox; and, I’m sure the “Tropicana Dome” will be rocking in Tampa this year !!! … Take care, and enjoy the Rays Fan Fest !!! … Jimmy [27NYY], “BY&L” http://baseballtheyankeesandlife.mlblogs.com/

I love going to Fan Fest and seeing another class get inducted into the Rays/Pepsi Wall of Fame. This year one of the members will be a guy who is always on TV clanking his cowbell from the Upper Deck.

It is also a great time to see and talk with people you normally do not see on a regular basis who work with the team. As usual, we will have a speak in the Budweiser Brewhouse, this year it is Buck Martinez, who should have the placed packs for his Q and A session.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I went to Florida in Sept for a weekend. I was in Orlando and wanted to take a ride to Tamp to see a Rays game. I just couldn’t get everyone else to want to do the samething. lol As you can tell I was the only baseball fan. Im sure more fans will go next year knowing they will have a good team.

~King of Cali
http://kingofcali.mlblogs.com/

The stadium is actually a better place than the national media makes it out to be, but it is also the only thing we have right now.

I think the Rays stadium issue will be on the table until after we get some sort of economic balance, then we might see some movement. If not, Portland and Las Vegas would kill for a team.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I remember how jazzed the bandwagoners were in Colorado after ’07 and how many season tickets they sold in the offseason. I knew about mid way through there were going to be some who bought tickets but were regretting it and I laughed because it was great the organization had their money to keep some key players, but they bought on impulse and would not be able to enjoy those tickets if the Rockies weren’t in the Series again. I imagine the Rays will have a percentage of the same with brand new hats and high hopes they can brag about their tickets. That’s great you were able to keep yours.
tom
http://rockymountainway.mlblogs.com

A few years ago, the Rays took my section out of the Outfield pricing grid and inserted it in the Baseline Box seat pricing. That increases the ticket over 125 percent over what I paid the year before for my seat, but I did not bat an eyelash at the time.

This year it increased about 10 percent, but I also understand that to increase payroll, the money has to come from somewhere. It might be a burden more this year since I am not working, but I also did not get the team’s seat invoice until December 2008 because of a mix-up in my address with the team.

But I am on schedule to again sit on the rail and open the gate for the people in the Bullpen Cafe. And I will again wave at the ball as it careen past me inside the foul lines near the right field foul pole and get the occasional foul ball in the air ( 5 last year).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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