How many fans are still driving to Tropicana Field? There’s a large fan base there, but at the same time you have a lot of parking issues that I’m sure are aggravating. You do save quite a bit of money by parking at Tropicana Field and I will do a separate story about how to save money on parking at Tropicana Field. But, if you head to the stadium you should check out the Tampa Bay Rays parking page because they have lots of good tips on how you can save money on parking.
The Poor Attendance Elephant in the Room
I wrote a blog post about why the attendance is low at Tropicana Field. The primary reason is the location, but there are secondary factors too. Regardless of what the issues are, Stuart Sternberg, owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, let his frustration be known recently. The Rays have the second worst attendance record in the game in 2019 with a team that is at the top of the American League East.
If you ever wondered why Tropicana Field had a reputation for being a ghost field, this is part of the reason why. The Trop is a difficult place to work on games. It is not only the location. There is not a place to put the bullpen or batting cage. The team’s minor league complex is in the same neighborhood and many of the players do not even have to take a bus to and from this complex.
For the first home game of the season, the Rays placed a large sign over the entire lower deck. The poster was in Spanish and said “Inaugural” or “Inauguration.” The first home game at Tropicana Field has been dubbed the “Inaugural” game since the ballpark was built in 1998.
Why Can’t the Rays Leave Now?
If the Rays leave the state after 2027, the team would have to leave Tampa Bay.
That means that the team would have to leave their current team and stadium, and head to Charlotte, Baltimore, Toronto, Boston, or any other city in the United States.
The team would be a charter member of the American League East.
In the event that the Rays leave Tampa Bay after 2027, the team would be classified as a “new” franchise and would have to take either the AL East or AL Central divisions.
The Rays were asked about moving to Ybor City, but those ideas were considered a long, long time ago. There have been plans to build a new stadium in Ybor City for over 50 years, but it has been nothing more than rumors. The City of St. Petersburg is very protective about the 30-year deal they have signed with the Rays, and they won’t let the Rays leave without good reason.
Where will they Go?
If MLB wants to move the Rays to Portland, the Rays will be the only MLB team in the city. If MLB wants to move the Rays away from home and into a market that has the potential to support another MLB team, MLB will have to negotiate with those cities to get their blessing.
In order to move teams away from their home markets, MLB would need to build a new stadium in the targeted market. MLB would only be able to move one team to a new market, so the team with the highest revenue would make the most sense.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been given the green light to construct a stadium in the state of Wisconsin. With the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers being in the same market the only thing that would prevent the Milwaukee Brewers from getting a new stadium is the Milwaukee Brewers not agreeing to move.
Should The Rays Stay in Florida?
Outside of Florida, we were told that the Florida sports teams don’t work because too many transplants (older adults) attend their games. There’s no way that the Marlins or Rays attendance are down if they’re not in Florida but I can see Florida sports struggling if they were like the Marlins and Rays that only drew a few people.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had the sixth best attendance in the league last year. That’s right, the Lightning had the sixth best attendance in the league. When they play at home, that is an attendance number that is not to be ignored.
Here is the Debate
The stadium has been a problem for the Rays not only because they are in the wrong state, but that the venue itself has a terrible seating capacity. It can hold less than 40,000 people but that’s still far too large for a stadium in a smaller town. Tampa also doesn’t have any major sports teams other than the NFL’s Buccaneers that will be bringing people to the stadium. That also helps the Rays.
A better location will draw more fans, but it is hard to pinpoint a specific location that will make it better. Anywhere in Florida they can fit is probably a good location.
The Lightning’s first choice of location was San Antonio.
It would not surprise me to see the Rays move out of St. Petersburg. They have a very loyal and vocal fan base, and as long as they have been in St. Petersburg, the Rays have been able to sell out the Trop for decades. The question is whether or not there is a market in Tampa for a new stadium. It might be best that the Rays relocate. Maybe the Rays will be able to convince the city to fund a new ballpark, but even that might be risky. Tampa has a lot of debt, and the city is still recovering from the financial crisis of the late 90’s. The Rays might find it harder to sell tickets to fans in a city that is in economic trouble.