A day game went down between the Colorado Rockies and the Tampa Bay Rays today, resulting in an extra-innings win for the Rockies, their first ever at Tropicana Field. Chris Iannetta's solo shot in the 11th saved the Rockies from getting swept against Tampa Bay (despite only scoring two runs the entire series). Only 11,093 saw the game, which is a tragedy. Still, it's nothing new for the Rays, who've had attendance problems for the longest time possible.
The only year where the Rays even touched two million fans in a season was its inaugural season, when 2,506,293 fans went to Rays games (back then, they were known as the Devil Rays). Ever since their inaugural season, they've ranked no higher than ninth in the American League in attendance. Not even the years of Andrew Friedman in the front office, Joe Maddon as the manager, and David Price and Evan Longoria as the star players could bring in people. So what has been the problem with the Rays regarding attendance? What is the solution to their woes?
One way you can look at things is the location. Tropicana Field is 20 miles from downtown Tampa, which means long drives down to the game. Who would want to waste that much gas just to go to one game, especially during rush hour traffic? The Rays organization have released some renderings of the new ballpark being planned, but common complaints have compared the new Ybor City stadium to Marlins Park, a publicly funded nightmare that fleeced taxpayers in the Miami area.
Does the Rays becoming the first sports organization to go cashless have anything to do with the attendance woes? Not really, and with a couple reasons. One, the Rays attendance woes have persisted since the genesis of the organization. Two, it isn't the main problem with the Rays being a mediocre draw. It's the lack of a prime location for Rays fans to go to along with another factor: the lack of competitiveness from the franchise. The Rays have only made the playoffs four times in their history, with their appearances coming between the years 2008 and 2013 (they missed the playoffs in 2009 and 2012). Ten seasons of last place mediocrity before their first playoff appearance doesn't help matters for the Rays and their attendance. Then there's the bigger issue of fans not going to baseball games altogether because of the rising price of... well, everything.
The sad thing about Tampa Bay is that they actually have a good team this year. Their young rotation looks promising and they look like defensive studs on the field. However, if ownership wants to see fans come to see the Rays, finding a locale that doesn't look like a large Costco warehouse will help matters. It's a good thing they're trying to alleviate the situation.
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