I was waiting a day or so to give any thoughts surrounding the results of the survey. Now that a day has come to pass, there’s no time like the present to break things down a bit. Danger McKlintock did an excellent job, in his last post, of touching on some of the talking points that I wanted to touch on. Thanks duder, you made my job way easier!!!
We’ve become embroiled in micro and macro battles for our small market team. Locally, there’s a not so tacit war of words extending from both sides of the Howard Franklin. Driven largely by local news and media sources, fans on both sides of the bay have expressed their opinions of where the Rays would be more successful, and why. On a larger level there’s a similar war of words finding many a baseball analyst doing away with the Rays all together.
In all of the hyperbolic opinions expressed by the very loud, very vocal talking heads, something is missing: acknowledgement of the fact that regardless of when and where a new stadium is built, the Rays are still going to be in the Trop for the next four or so years. With that said, something has got to be done in order to improve things in the short-term, if the Rays are to remain a viable entity and (in Stu’s words) not vaporized by MLB.
Touched on in Danger McKlintock’s last article, is the idea that the perspective of comparison’s need to be shifted. When compared to the Boston’s and New York’s, of course the Rays look like an economic failure of monumental proportions. However, when compared to other smaller markets like Milwaukee and Oakland, the Rays are seated somewhere in the middle of the pack. According to USF economics professor Phillip Porter in a recent WUSF interview, when compared with other small markets, the Tampa Bay area ranks eighth per capita. This isn’t to say that these numbers will stay consistent in the 2012 season, nor is it an acknowledgement that everything is A-OK. But when the narrative is changed, things don’t look so bleak.
It is undeniable that the attendance numbers are down. Even though Sternberg comes off sounding like a petulant brat, what needs to be remembered is that he wants what’s best for his and our team. At the end of the day, the Rays are a business and in order to successfully stay afloat, they need to make money. Certainly implicating the fans as the raison d’etre for the attendance woes seems a bit extreme, but he of all people knows what is necessary to keep the Rays afloat. And that’s to put fannies in the stands. When we detach our emotions a bit, and view things from a business perspective, what becomes evident is that Stu isn’t calling us horrible fans. In his own way, like it or not, he’s compelling us to do our part.
I don’t agree with everything in the WUSF interview, especially the assertion that the poor economy has little effect on the ticket sales. Our survey definitely did nothing to support the above mentioned idea. If anything, a lack of financial resources seemed to be a recurring theme. Not being in the front office, I couldn’t tell you whether or not the economic demographic data is taken into consideration by the Rays brass. Yet, what did seem very odd, and only a few people touched on this in the survey, is the lack of support by the bay area business community.
I must admit, I have put in requests from a variety of sources, for information surrounding the Rays and their corporate sponsors. I’ve unfortunately come up empty-handed thus far. Nevertheless, I’ve been more so trying to find out where the Rays stand in comparison to the teams with the highest and lowest amount of corporate sponsors. As of now, the Rays have between only 15-17 corporate sponsors, and I’m sure that you can look around the Trop on any given night to see who they are.
In my opinion, the Rays need to do a better job catering to the bay area business community. Create and foster those relationships in hopes that they’ll be maintained if, and when, a new stadium is built. That certainly seems like a short-term piece of the puzzle that can, assuredly, become a long-term piece as well. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a great example of an organization that is reaching out to the business community in hopes of gathering more corporate sponsors, while maintaining relationships with the companies that are already in the fold.
If anything, I think it’s naive to assume the promise of a new stadium is going to change anything in the short-term. Blame what you will on the attendance woes, but don’t forget that it takes time to build a stadium, and we’ve currently got a team on the field (duh, not literally at the moment) that needs to be supported. Anyway, the Rays probably wouldn’t be able to get out of the Trop until 2016 when the Big Top is finally paid off. But I digress…
We fans can only do so much, the organization can only do so much, and the city can only do so much. Separately, nothing is accomplished. That is unless you count getting frustrated as some sort of accomplishment. I’m not denying that we the fans need to step it up. However, I’m also not willing to accept the lot share of the responsibility in this blame game. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and all of us (the business community, fans, Rays organization, and city) need to be compelled to do something to get at least 24,000 bodies in the stands on a daily/nightly basis.
Lower ticket prices? Great! Offer better ticket deals? Superb! Hope that more current corporate sponsors could pick up the slack similar to Hess with their summer concert series, and Brighthouse with their two tickets, hot-dog, and drink vouchers offer? outstanding! I could go on and on. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain all of us have got to do our part.