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David P. Feaster

Tampa Bay must step up to support the Rays

With the recent signing of closer Rafael Soriano, the Tampa Bay Rays' ownership group has once again demonstrated its commitment to our community and to building a winning Major League Baseball franchise.

Now it's time for the Tampa Bay community to step up to the plate as well. How often have you heard someone say, "I'll go to games when the Rays put a winning team on the field"? Well, they have and Baseball Prospectus has projected the Rays to have the third best won-loss record in the entire major leagues in 2010. The two teams above them have the financial resources to spend two and three times as much on player salaries.

The Rays ownership has stepped to the plate to put a quality, very competitive product on the field while taking significant losses. This indicates that any additional revenue generated will go toward the team on the field and not into their pockets. They also have been selected the "most affordable team" in all of sports. They have stepped up; the community needs to step up to support our team.

The Rays deserve the support of the Tampa Bay community, especially the business community. Support through sponsorships, luxury boxes and season tickets, all of which put baseball fans in the seats. The revenue generated from all of these provides the financial resources for the Rays to remain competitive.

Corporate support and involvement are essential to development of a strong season ticket base. The typical Major League Baseball team sells two-thirds of its season tickets to corporate entities, and one-third to individuals. For the Rays that ratio is reversed. The Tampa Bay market has a collective corporate presence that ranks in the bottom half of all Major League Baseball markets. Because of that, each additional sponsorship means more to the Rays than it would to most other teams.

The Rays are good for business in Tampa Bay in both tangible and intangible ways. Statistics show that during baseball season, tourism grows 10 percent faster than during non-baseball months. Visiting fans are likely to return for family vacations outside the season. In 2008, an estimated 455,000 tickets were sold to visiting fans, roughly 55 percent of whom traveled from out of state, spending an average of $775 per person which resulted in more than $190 million in economic impact to the Tampa Bay area. Those people stayed in our hotels, ate at our restaurants, visited our museums and attended shows at our performing arts venues.

Intangible benefits to our community include the recognition of Tampa Bay as a "big league" market. Businesses and families make the decision to come into the Tampa Bay market based on the lifestyle and amenities available. The Rays and Major League Baseball represent one of the finest of those amenities.

On behalf of the Clutch Hitters, a private group of business leaders dedicated to the support of the Tampa Bay Rays and to the continued presence of Major League Baseball in the Tampa Bay market, we applaud the Rays for their commitment to our community. The community of Tampa Bay now has the opportunity to let them know we appreciate their efforts and the best way to do that is to show Major League Baseball that the Rays are Our Team.

We urge the corporate community to provide the support that Our Team deserves. We challenge everyone in Tampa Bay to attend games and patronize the companies that sponsor Our Team.

Come on Tampa Bay, batter up!

David P. Feaster is chairman of the steering committee for Clutch Hitters, a group of business leaders that supports Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay must step up to support the Rays 03/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 5:48pm]
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