Not many teams win a division and finish in the bottom five in attendance in the same season. Tampa Bay is on pace to do that – and they should be ecstatic with the numbers. Rome was not built in a day – Rays fans can attest to that. Using average per game attendance and percent capacity as indicators, Tampa is up over 25% per game from last season, approximately a 10% capacity increase. Those numbers deserve applause, both for the teams improvement and the fans for coming out.
The last time Tampa didn’t finish last in percent capacity, the Expos still existed. Standing 26 out of 30 doesn’t sound like an accomplishment until its compared to finished a distant 30th each season.
Last week star pitcher Scott Kazmir criticized fans for not turning out for a first place team embroiled in a pennant race. Critics argued Tampa-St. Pete does not deserve a professional team because they don’t support it. Timeout, hold the bus. The Rays were a disaster since their inception, never finished above .500, and only topped 70 wins once. Ownership didn’t spend smart, the stadium stinks, the franchise was a laughingstock. Meanwhile, its expansion-mate Arizona paraded to a World Series and subsequent playoff appearances and down state the Marlins won a title. Rays fans got the middle-finger for the first ten years of the franchise.
It takes more than 5 months to undo ten years of damage. Players, management, and critics need to remain patient. The team should – and observing how their new management operates, they will – view this as a stepping stone to catapult attendance next season and going forward. Come playoff time, fans will sell out The Trop, more than some other teams can boast (ahem, Atlanta).
They will finish with by far the biggest year over year attendance increase. Instead of spewing negativity, commend fans for not throwing the towel in on the franchise. Commend fans for showing up at a god awful stadium that has no right housing a professional team, or any team for that matter. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is a brand or a franchise. Ten years of damage take more than a few months to overcome. Hold judgement until playoff time and next years season ticket sales. Things are heading up in Tampa.