Crisis brewing in the Tampa Bay Tidepool

 


1 out of 8 citizens within Tampa Bay region currently do not have the luxury of report to a job on a daily basis. And it is this impending economic pickle that might finally sour the Rays Front Office to this region effectively corralling the numbers needed to support the team in the next 5 or 6 seasons. With the team basically coming “out front” and telling their fan base they have collectively “borrowed” money for payroll from future Rays squads, this might be a sign of leaner times for the Rays until the entire economic system rebounds and again begins a healthy upswing.

 
 

But this is also a National crisis, but the media and blogs posted in the past month or so questioning this region’s passion and love for the game are ridiculous. These same postings do not address solutions within the region, but point to outer posts or locales where a “healthy” revenue stream can be obtained with minimal effort by the men who guard the coffers. And with their statements, they do not even surface emphasize or firmly grasp this region’s struggles to simply tread water right now because they are not down in the Rays trenches on a first hand basis, and seeing the growing fan base increasing potential and the beaming pride from the ground level of both young and old fans in the stands.
 
 

They point to the black-and-white facts of the Rays lacking great local Corporate support and ticket sales, or even the abysmal Season Ticket holder numbers which in comparison would look firmly out of context numbers when stood next to the Corporate support shown within the large capital cities of industry like New York, Philadelphia or Boston, which have over 100 years of baseball support systems in place to form a solid fan foundation compared to the less than 20 years of total Tampa Bay’s Major League Baseball existence.
 
 
 
I have seen recent postings by the people throwing stones at this region for not showing “undying” gratitude or support to the Rays after their tremendous 2008 Playoff run, but what they fail to show is the honest fact that even in these increasingly financial tough times, the Rays have raised their overall attendance marks for three seasons in a row. They want to throw out the simple factoids that the Rays are ranked 23rd out of 30 teams in overall attendance figures, and base their streams of logic towards figures that the Tampa Bay region can not fully support, or even stand behind their Rays squads with any large community voice or presence.
 

And some of these same authors’ have been bold and brazen enough to label this community a “Spring Training town” and not able to muster the needed revenues or support to even keep a Florida State League team in our abandoned waterfront stadium. But these same voices forget to tell you of City of St. Petersburg legislation to secure baseball events like the ACC Baseball Tourney and other yearly baseball tournaments for the currently vacant Progress Energy Park.

 
 
 
But some of these same fears distributed by writers might become true very soon because of the unemployment epidemic that has plagued this entire country, not just this region of Florida. The increasing unemployment situation will give a more solid foundation to their points and counterpoint suggestions that the Tampa Bay area is just treading water in an ever expanding sea with up to 12.5 percent of the region’s prospective ticket buyers (Pinellas County), and a majority of the people in this area maybe turning away from the Rays situation for a spell to support their families, or even securing their home ownership dreams by fighting off the foreclosure hounds that have ravished this area.
 
 

The basic instinct of prioritizing their family finances, and cutting out such past luxuries as attending countless Rays games could dramatically effect Rays game attendance figures throughout 2010. I know this region is just a small puddle within the larger pond of increasing frustrations felt by citizens throughout the United States by this growing epidemic, and it might hit hard on MLB teams in other cities like Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and the list can go on and on….until we are again on a solid footing. But even that first hint of a ripple, that first stone dropping into the water can change the outcome and appearance of the entire scenario in a matter of seconds. This time is that important right now here in Tampa Bay.
 
 

As of December 2009, there are over 15 million people just like myself, fighting to find even a part-time gig to support their sole existence, not just their MLB yearly habit. And it might be someone like myself, or even you who ultimately adds one more failure to the Rays board by not being able to attend games, or showing a physical presence at the ballpark every night. But I also know I will do everything short of becoming another street dweller to raise the bar and show my pride physically as well as fiscally in my love of the game and my hometown Rays, as long as I financially can… But there are many who will not be able to make that financial commitment or even take these types of chances in 2010 with their incomes, or even attend as many games because of fiscal woes and their decreasing disposable income limitations.
 
 

And that will fuel the non-support flames even higher towards the Rays bonfires again, not the reality that this service-oriented, transient populated Tampa Bay community lives and breathes off the tourism dollar and the seasonal ventures by out-of-town fans that come here for weekends or weekdays following their teams road trip schedules during the MLB season. And even the most dedicated Rays fan might have noticed the economic effect in the stands during the 2009 season when Boston and New York came to town the Rays could bank on being sold-out in advance, even during the mid-week.
 
 

RRCollections

But in 2009, there was an increasing ocean of empty blue-colored seats poking out towards television cameras to viewers in the other reaches of the United States. And to them, those empty seats transferred quickly to lack of support, or even a visual reminder of just how hard this region is struggling with itself to fill those same empty seats on the usually slow Thursday night games. My tickets for 81 games come in at $ 1,799 for the season for my little seat right next to the Rightfield foul pole at Tropicana Field. That breaks down to around $ 20.21 per game. And I will be honest, some nights that $ 20 could be better spent, but it is my personal commitment to this team that I give it to the Rays without a single moment of hesitation or concern right now.
 
 
I know I am not bringing up anything surprisingly new to the extent or the possible damage this could do short-term to Rays attendance figures, or even the Rays Front Office’s future plans to further invest in this community long-term, or instead begin ways behind-the-scenes for the Rays to look towards their next revenue options or hidden agendas, maybe even into moving to another locale. And to some reading this, that same commitment by me to securing my Rays Season Tickets might seems as a form of fiscal suicide, or even a hint of insanity, but it is my personal part to stand up nightly and try and keep this team here by showing the Rays Front Office that some of the fan base within the Tampa Bay community will do anything short of being homeless to show their team spirit for this franchise.
 
 
 
The entire MLB community will experience up and down movements in 2010 in their team’s game attendance marks. But right now, it is critical within the Tampa Bay area to put as many fannies in the seats as possible to squash suggestions and opinions from outside the region as to that ,” what is best for us” propaganda from afar. It is a moral imperative that this community does something to deafen the attendance volleys from these same writers that are heard high and clear within the confines of the Third Floor offices of the Rays. But there is a breaking point to every relationship, even a community bond such as the Rays and Tampa Bay.
 


Mark O’Meara/AP 
 
 
Even with the ABC Coalition report findings showing mixed results for the area, this region will show signs of internal splintering and sub sequential re-cementing its focal points over the stadium issue and location for the next few years. Misunderstandings and unsubstantiated rumors and biased opinions will rule the day until forced out of people’s minds by the stark reality of the truth unfolding in front of them. But a community, which inter-locks its arms together can push back a stronger show of force and strife than a community that stands divided as the opinions and slander flows through the cracks like the ebb of the tide.
 
 

For our much maligned region of Florida to survive the attacks and the volleys from outside our walls we have to join and remain strong in our bonds and commitments to baseball in our community. I remember another city back in 1984 that also thought they were on solid ground and enthusiastic towards their opinions that ” things would work out” for its city and its NFL team coming to a harmonious agreement. And the citizens believed in this team and community meshing until the Mayflower moving vans formed outside Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and their team relocated in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, Indiana.
 
 
Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. If it was, we might not have to even consider this post or the possible existence of baseball ever leaving Tampa Bay. So within this 2010 season the Tampa Bay community will be given time to show their commitment to baseball. And if we fail, we have no one to blame but ourselves from the Goodbye waves to the moving vans again from Tropicana Field.
 
 
 
 

8 Comments

Hope you guys can get some fans out to the ballpark. I don’t see why not, you guys have a fantastic young team!
http://adriangonzalez23.mlblogs.com

cool blog rays hope the rays get more fans
tmas805

Gonz,
I guess I wrote it in a way that missed the point.
This region of Florida has been hit by the worst of the Florida unemployment situation.
And because of that, people like myself, who have been without a job for almost three years are about out of 401K and possessions to sell or pawn to live.
But then again, the sport locally will just show 10,000 fans during the weekday games, and hopefully 25,000 plus on the weekends.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Tmas,
During the 2009 season, and this off season the Rays Front Office has stressed that they have gone above their comfort levels in maintaining their team payroll.
And with that, they have voiced this loud and clear to the Rays Republic that we need to attend more games to balance out that extra expenditure.
With the economic barometer still heading down, that is not a reality right now in this region, and it might have some severe consequences.
I guess we will see soon enough if it is smoke, or if there is real need for concern behind the emerald green curtain.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Great entry. It sounds like they’ve spent too much in the Rays Front Office, but the fans shouldn’t have to suffer because of it. I hope they keep the Rays in Tampa Bay and notice that their attendance problem may just be a result of the economy and not a lack of fans. By the way, I may be coming down to the Madeira Beach area this March and was wondering if you could give me any useful info on Spring Training in the Tampa Area. Thanks.
Mike
http://mikebarryu.mlblogs.com/

The Rays will have a great season. It seems that season ticket sales are down everywhere.
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Mike,
They definitely maybe borrowed a bit from the 2011 payroll to fit some guys into the mix for 2010.
And even if B J Upton’s Arbitration goes to $ 3.5 million, that is one they might already have figured into the mix.
Sure, I will email you in the nexy ot two and see where you might want to go and she what I can do for you in regards to Spring Training.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cat,
I agree with you that they are probably down allover MLB.
It just concerns me after the team has stressed they paid it forward to get a “winner” now, that we might get shortchanged in the next few years.
I guess it could be worse and they move……………or is that their next ploy?

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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