TAMPA — Rays owner Stuart Sternberg insinuated Thursday night that baseball fans in Hillsborough County are reluctant to drive to St. Petersburg to watch the Rays play.
During an owners roundtable discussion at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission's inaugural Sneaker Soiree, Sternberg was asked by moderator Rock Riley what he has learned about Tampa Bay that he did not know when he bought the team.
Sternberg paused briefly before answering: "Water is a big divide."
After 16 seconds of laughter and applause, Sternberg added a deadpan kicker: "The rest of it, I got cold."
Sternberg went on to say the community has been wonderful since he bought the team, but his answer eventually returned to the issue of fans making the trek to St. Petersburg.
"You know, we've learned really lots about what — I would say — (are) the driving habits of people,'' Sternberg said. "And their … ability to sort of navigate bridges.''
The defending AL East champs are last in the American League in attendance with an average of 17,954 a game.
Only three teams have won more games than Tampa Bay since 2008, yet the Rays have never finished in the top 20 in MLB attendance in any season.
The Rays have data on how many season tickets are purchased in various counties in the bay area but have never released that information.