It would be safe to say that yesterday’s meeting between the Rays, the St. Petersburg City Council, and the Pinellas County Commission, though less gloomy than expected, left a sour taste in many people’s mouths. In all fairness, the stadium saga is a subject that promises to do as much. I was particularly interested in some of the finer details to have come out of the meeting; details that may have flown beneath the radar. I’m going do my best to speak to those.
The Rays revealed for the first time that only 300 of their 81-game season-ticket accounts come from St. Petersburg. Many have suggested that 300 ticket accounts equates to only 300 tickets, when in actuality that number is just under 1,000 season tickets. Furthermore, those numbers do not include partial season-ticket packages. They also chose not to disclose their single ticket statistics.
When you consider that those 1,000 season tickets compose roughly 33% of the Trop’s total number of open seats, while also taking into consideration the statistics surrounding partial season ticket packages, and single ticket purchases, the narrative begins to change. I’m not implying that the Rays are lying about their facts and figures. Rather, the numbers they chose to focus on may not tell the whole story. Their motive in focusing solely on full season ticket holders is unclear. According to Noah Pransky, WTSP asked the Rays for more information on the season-ticket base, but was told the team didn’t want to give out any more specifics.
Pransky also noted that,
In 2008, the team told the ABC Coalition that 25.4% of single-game ticket-buyers came from Pinellas County while 25.0% came from Hillsborough County. Pasco County accounted for 8.6% of single-game ticket sales, Manatee County accounted for 6.8%, and all other counties and states accounted for 34% of single-game tickets. The Rays told Hillsborough Commissioners last week of great growth potential across the bay, since 33% of their total fan base comes from Hillsborough County, compared to just 25% from Pinellas County.”
Without any additional information, it’s going to be hard to see how the demographics may have changed between 2008 and now. We only have conjecture lean on in this case. It would be reasonable to assume that the numbers have gone down across the board (not just in Pinellas) especially following the recent downturn in the economy.
That certainly doesn’t mean that we should be taken off the hook. The citizens on this side of the bay need to show that we, in deed and not just word, support the Rays. I still feel that even roughly 1,000 season tickets is an embarrassing number. We can do better than that. However, if the Rays organization is going to expect a new facility on either side of the bay, they are going to need to be more forthcoming with their pertinent demographic information, not just the information that frames their argument.
Another common argument that I hear from the pro-Channelside community, Mayor Bill Foster is an impediment between stalemate and progress; a claim that I am partially confounded by. Partially being the operative word. Mayor Foster certainly isn’t infallible. That he has stood in the way of real progress is a fact that that is not up for debate in my eyes. If we here at X-Rays Spex have stood for anything, it’s that both sides of the argument should be approached objectively. That is to say, Stu Sternberg has also been an impediment toward real progress as well.
Sternberg has repeatedly blown off Mayor Foster and City Council’s invitations to discuss things, including yet another invitation to survey the Carrilon site. I am surprised that a fair number of people, journalists and fans alike, have not picked up on this. I’m also shocked that those that have haven’t really taken Sternberg’s roadblock into account. Pransky also noted,
Mayor Foster sent a message to Rays brass that his calendar was open this Thursday morning from 7 a.m. to noon and he’d invite Sternberg to meet with him again. When asked if he’d accept, Sternberg said, “Maybe, I’ll have to check my calendar.” When asked how long he was in town, Sternberg remained coy, simply saying, “A few days.” Sternberg again reiterated his tired mantra; he wouldn’t consider any sites until he can consider all sites, including Hillsborough County sites.
Another idiosyncrasy surrounded Sternberg’s initial assertion that the team can’t sustain its success without a new stadium, due to dwindling revenues. However Sternberg negated that argument when he mentioned that the team also couldn’t sustain its success with a new stadium, either. The question begs, how much better of a shot will the Rays have with the new revenues from a new building? Pransky asked Sternberg to clarify things following the meeting.
(How much success) would depend on how much the team would take in from new revenues. How much new revenue would a stadium create for the Rays? Sternberg told me after the meeting he hadn’t looked into it yet.
It’s a baffling response, considering Sternberg had just told the Pinellas Commission that “we like to plan out…based on future revenues…so when we sign Evan Longoria to a contract that’s going to run past 2020, we’ve got to make decisions based on some of the facts we know.”
It would be inaccurate to paint the meeting as wholly awkward, combative, or unproductive. From all accounts it was quite the opposite. The Rays brass acknowledged that they would be more than happy to consider sites within Pinellas County and St. Petersburg, a fact that has eluded many. And that’s just it. It’s next to impossible to hear the whole story. It’s next to impossible for any of us to properly form an opinion on this matter when small, yet integral, bits and pieces of the story are intentionally being ignored by those framing the argument. The willingness, of a number of larger news outlets, to frame the stadium saga instead of objectively report on it poses a huge hurdle for the public at large.
Links For Finks:
- Pranksy wrote in a recent piece, “What proof to elected boards? The Rays presented selected attendance stats, but when asked for proper context for those stats, they refused. The Rays have been asked about revenues and how much they’d put toward a new stadium and they refused. The Rays haven’t yet opened their books, as the Tampa Bay Times has repeatedly suggested, so how do we know drawing 19,000 fans a game is really a problem when the current MLB system is designed to help those teams compete, survive, and profit (as the Rays have)?”
- WMNF posted two interesting pieces on their site; Callers Aren’t Sold on Need For New Rays Stadium and Pinellas Commissioners More Receptive to A Rays Move Than St. Pete. Both are linked.