Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Business

Romano: Do fans know the Rays haven’t moved to Ybor City yet?

Everyone, it seems, is doing their part in the Rays stadium quest.

The business leaders? They’re committing millions of dollars in sponsorships and season ticket packages for a potential ballpark in Ybor City.

The ballplayers? They’re providing a glimpse of a future that could be filled with personality and pennants if the past two months are to be trusted.

The fans? They’re avoiding Tropicana Field with such regularity that everyone should finally recognize why ownership wants to escape downtown St. Petersburg.

This, my friends, is how new stadiums get built.

Oh sure, the Ybor City vision is still a long way from completion. The odds remain high and financing options remain scarce. More to the point, the Tampa Bay region still needs to decide how much it is willing to invest to retain membership in the relatively exclusive club known as Major League Baseball.

And, to be honest, attendance in 2018 doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

But, goodness, the empty seats at Tropicana are more glaring than ever.

The Rays have already finished last in the American League in attendance for six consecutive seasons — which is a feat unto itself — but their numbers are somehow getting worse.

At the rate they’re going, the Rays will finish with their lowest attendance since their first baseman was in fourth grade. Lower than the recession years. Lower than the 101-loss season in 2006.

How is that possible? I mean, besides all the usual explanations of demographics, ticket prices, player departures and the Illuminati?

There is an entire generation of fans who have grown up with the Rays on TV, so it’s not a lack of familiarity. The stadium may be poorly placed, but the community around it has grown remarkably.

And Evan Longoria, Logan Morrison and Alex Cobb may have left during the winter, but this team is on pace to win 89 games. Eighty-nine! Do you know how many teams have won 89 or more games and still finished last in the American League in attendance during the last half-century?

Let’s see, there was the 2013 Rays. And the 2012 Rays.

And potentially this team. That’s it.

In other words, this is historic stuff. Teams do not win this much, and still attract so few fans. And you can’t call it an aberration when you consider it’s the third time in seven seasons.

Now, just to be clear, this isn’t fan shaming.

As I’ve said, over and over, residents have no obligation to support a baseball team, a restaurant or a museum. How anyone spends their discretionary dollars is entirely up to them.

The point I’m making is larger.

The success, or in this case the struggles, of a pro sports team is more emblematic of a region’s vitality. Markets that lose MLB or NFL teams invariably overspend while trying to get back into the game for that reason.

That doesn’t mean Tampa Bay will wither if the Ybor City deal falls through. And it doesn’t mean that taxpayers should hand over their wallets if it comes to that.

But there has been a lot of chatter about the need for a new stadium, and the motivation of Rays owner Stu Sternberg. Twenty-one years of attendance data later, that no longer seems debatable.

The Rays have outperformed their crowds.

Say whatever you want about trades and payrolls but the Rays have a better record than the Braves, the Giants, the Mets and the Orioles since 2012. They have a better record than 18 other teams.

And yet they have the worst attendance in baseball for those seven seasons.

Comments
Pinellas County strikes bed tax deal with VRBO, HomeAway and other AirBnb competitors

Pinellas County strikes bed tax deal with VRBO, HomeAway and other AirBnb competitors

The Pinellas County Tax Collector’s Office will start collecting bed tax dollars from a slew of home rental apps that operate similarly to AirBnb starting Oct. 1.Prior to the new partnerships with TripAdvisor and Expedia, only AirBnb had set up to pa...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Study: Tampa International Airport ranks fourth best for satisfying travelers

Study: Tampa International Airport ranks fourth best for satisfying travelers

Times Staff WriterTampa International Airport was named the fourth-best large airport in the U.S. at keeping travelers satisfied, according to a study by J.D. Power released Wednesday.Meanwhile, the study ranked Orlando International as the country’s...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Valet parking? A concierge? Midtown Tampa outlines plans for an amenity-rich office building

Valet parking? A concierge? Midtown Tampa outlines plans for an amenity-rich office building

TAMPA — A sudden boomlet in premium office space is getting boomier as developers detail their plans for the first of three office buildings planned at Midtown Tampa, a $500 million mixed-use development near Interstate 275 and N Dale Mabry Highway.M...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Home refinancings up dramatically in the Tampa Bay area

Home refinancings up dramatically in the Tampa Bay area

Counter to the national trend, refinancings in the Tampa Bay area increased in the second quarter of this year. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, lenders originated 41 percent more refinancing loans in April, May and June than they did in the same p...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Tapping home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses like groceries and utilities is a recipe for financial peril. It can work for a while, especially if home prices are rising. Eventually the spigot runs dry, bills pile up and your home can be lost to...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
‘Something fishy’ about sale of a golf-course villa in Seminole

‘Something fishy’ about sale of a golf-course villa in Seminole

SEMINOLE — There were so many unusual aspects to the sale of a certain Seminole villa that it’s hard to know where to begin. Is it with the fact the villa sold for $100,000 despite a cash offer of $128,700? Is it that the buyer was a Realtor in the s...
Updated: 9 hours ago
New restaurants: Olivia from Chris Ponte, Crabby Bill’s Off the Hook

New restaurants: Olivia from Chris Ponte, Crabby Bill’s Off the Hook

COMING SOON: OLIVIAChris Ponte, right, has been a steady and notable culinary leader in our area for more than a decade with his flagship restaurant Cafe Ponte in Clearwater. A couple of years ago he mixed things up a bit by debuting On Swann in Hyde...
Updated: 9 hours ago
AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson steps down after 20 years in driver’s seat

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson steps down after 20 years in driver’s seat

Associated PressFORT LAUDERDALE — Mike Jackson is stepping down after almost two decades leading AutoNation, the nation’s largest dealership chain. Jackson, 69, steered AutoNation through the economic crisis and shares have increased fourfold since h...
Updated: 10 hours ago
‘Imminent’ bankruptcy filing for law firm of suspended St . Pete lawyer Mark Stopa

‘Imminent’ bankruptcy filing for law firm of suspended St . Pete lawyer Mark Stopa

The law firm of suspended St. Petersburg attorney Mark Stopa is in such chaos that much of its staff has quit — some after suffering stress-related breakdowns — and a liquidation bankruptcy filing is imminent.In an emergency motion filed this week in...
Published: 09/19/18