Low Rays attendance has ‘ramifications,’ principal owner Stuart Sternberg says

With decision on St. Petersburg stadium coming soon, he says the organization is doing all it can to boost attendance.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is seen in the rotunda just prior to the doors opening for the team's home opener against the Astros on March 28, 2019, in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD  |   Times]
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is seen in the rotunda just prior to the doors opening for the team's home opener against the Astros on March 28, 2019, in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published May 17

NEW YORK — Principal owner Stuart Sternberg is pleased with just about everything his Rays have done thus far, running through a list of positives and pleasant surprises as the team went into play Friday atop the AL East.

But then the A-word was brought up: attendance.

And he had an obvious, though potentially ominous, answer:

“There are ramifications.’’

Even with back-to-back sellouts last weekend against the Yankees (albeit at the reduced Trop capacity of 25,025), the winning hasn’t helped at the gate, as the Rays rank 29th in the majors with an average of 14,450. That includes nine crowds under 10,000 for the 15 games not on opening day or against the Yankees and Red Sox.

And as team officials are “working on” analyzing the potential of building a new stadium in St. Petersburg (their only current legal option) and are expected to let Mayor Rick Kriseman know in a few months if they think it could work.

With the Trop use agreement running through 2027, the Rays say they need to know within the next few years where they will be headed.

“I’m genuinely enjoying this and trying to put us in the best position we can to win and provide an amazing experience for anybody who follows this team or chooses to show up at a ball game,’’ Sternberg said. “In the background we’re working to do what we can to ensure that baseball remains (in the bay area) for generations. That’s been my mantra, and it’s been no different.

“But certainly what has gone on and what goes on is going to have an effect on it. And it’s not purely in my hands to have that happen.’’

Sternberg said the Rays are “doing everything we can and are incredibly focused” on increasing attendance, citing free tickets for military on Mondays and the $7.11 tickets on Fridays. He said they are “thrilled to entertain” those who show up, watch and read about what he said is “without a doubt the most interesting and exciting team in baseball again; fun and successful.’’

But, he added, “There’s a reason there’s a phrase, ‘Let the chips fall where they may.’ So let the chips fall where they may.’’

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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