The Tampa Bay Rays should be supported far more than they currently are by fans in Tampa. And before 3 people in South Tampa point that the stadium is actually not located in Tampa. I will say, St. Petersburg is part of Tampa Bay. You can act like you don’t know “those people”, or that you’re somehow better for living on the east side of the Howard Frankland. You do know “those people”, because most of them are your babies’ fathers (did I just say what?).
People in Tampa Bay have every excuse for not attending the games. The main excuse is that the stadium is too far. However the stadium is only a bridge away if you live if you live in Tampa and its right around the corner if you live in St. Pete. As a matter of fact you may be able to walk to the stadium. Now I don’t encourage you to walk home after the game, because you probably won’t make it home without being violated in some way, and who wants to be violated while holding an Evan Longoria bobble head. Another excuse is that rush hour traffic is unbearable, especially on the bridge, and that’s why people don’t go. To that I would retort that baseball games start at the same time in every market. So if fans across the nation can find a way to fight traffic, why can’t Tampa? Maybe they just don’t care!
It’s my assertion that the state of Florida does not care about professional sports. And when I say the state of Florida, I’m talking about the entire state. I’m not talking about that one dude in Temple Terrace using rabbit ears to get games on his tube television. I’m talking about the entire state of Florida. I’m talking about the state with 9 professional sports teams, 7 of which rank in the bottom 15 in attendance. The Florida Panthers rank 22nd, Jacksonville Jaguars rank 20th, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank 31st, Miami Dolphins rank 29th, and Miami Marlins rank 29th in their respective leagues. The only franchises that don’t fit into this category are the Miami heat and the Orlando Magic (and a mystery team to be named later. I would name it now, but it would ruin my argument). That means if you can, A. Capitalize on fans that have to lock in their season tickets before knowing the best player will leave town or B. Get 3 of the best players in the league to collude, you too can have a thriving sports franchise in Florida.
If you’re wondering The Tampa Bay Rays rank 30th in baseball attendance. That’s good enough for dead last in MLB attendance. That’s right a team that plays in the best division in baseball (AL East: Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays), has made the playoffs 3 of the last 5 years, went to the World Series in 2008, and will probably make the playoffs this year. Ranks last in attendance. I think everyone would agree that that’s ridiculous. Even people in Florida would support that claim (especially that dude in Temple Terrace that I called out earlier). And because of that it is inevitable that the Rays will be relocating. Now it would be great for the fans in Tampa Bay, if the Rays could relocate somewhere in Tampa. A close location would make it easier to commute to the games, and the fans in St. Pete wouldn’t be completely disenfranchised. However, who’s to say that would make people want to come to games? I’m inclined to think that it wouldn’t matter given the attendance numbers of the other Florida franchises. I think the Rays should consider moving out of the state of Florida, and I have the perfect location. Atlanta, Georgia
You may be thinking, “How could another baseball franchise survive in Atlanta? They already have the Braves, which is one of the biggest franchises in the league. There is no way a new baseball team could establish a foothold in Atlanta.” All those claims are true, but there’s no need to compete with the Braves. The Rays wouldn’t need to establish a foothold to be successful in Atlanta. They would just have to draw more fans than they do in Tampa. In addition, the idea that they would compete with the Braves is a little bit of a kneejerk reaction. Consider the fact that there are 5 cities that have multiple teams in the same sport (Washington D.C.-Baltimore, New York, San Francisco – Oakland, Los Angeles, and Chicago), and neither team is at a loss for fans. You also have to consider that the Rays and Braves don’t play in the same league, so there’s no need to abandon your allegiance to root for both teams.
At the end of the day, if you’re the owner of the Rays you only have one goal. You have to find a place where people will support your team, and Atlanta is a perfect location. It is a thriving metropolis, with the 8th largest television market in the nation. They have the ability to support another team, and I believe they would embrace a team like the Rays. The experiment with central Florida was nice, but it’s time to pull the plug. Unless…the can duplicate the only outlier in Florida.
(Insert here the franchise that could ruin my argument) The Tampa Bay Lightning
First off, allow me to say that I don’t know why people in Florida go to hockey games. It’s not like Florida has this rich hockey tradition. I grew up in Tampa, and I never saw a line of people waiting to get next on a field hockey game. So I’m not sure where the passion for the Lightning comes from, but they are 8th in NHL attendance. The Lightning average 19 thousand people a game which is 99% to capacity. While the Rays average 18 thousand people, which is 54% of their capacity. So why is there such a disparity (and before someone points out that the Rays play in a larger stadium. You have to consider that I’m comparing them to hockey…that’s right, hockey)? Both franchises have had great success, they are perennial playoff contenders with smart front offices, and neither is steeped in Florida tradition. The difference is one plays in downtown Tampa, and the other has a stadium in a sketchy part of St. Petersburg. So maybe the difference between the Rays being last in attendance, and a highly profitable franchise is a better location in Tampa?
Personally I don’t think it will matter. I think people in Florida could care less about professional sports, especially baseball. At the same time, if you would have asked me how hockey was doing in Tampa. I would have said “terrible”, and I would have been wrong. So maybe I would be wrong about the bump in attendance the Rays would get if they moved.
I am sure of one thing. If the Rays move to Tampa, and attendance doesn’t increase. People in Florida will develop a new excuse.
Editor-in-Chief of Comedic Prose
Follow Kortney Williams on Twitter @kortneyshane