Rays Attendance Woes Stem from Location, Location, Location. Illustrated for True Perspective.

Tropicana Field, where the Rays attendance is far lower than it should be.
(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Rays Attendance Woes Come from Location. We’ve Included Maps for True Perspective.

Much has been said of the Tampa Bay Rays attendance woes. The problem was exposed by their two Wild Card Series games against the Texas Rangers, the first of which had the lowest paid attendance for any postseason game since the 1919 World Series. Playing the games on weekday afternoons didn’t help matters. But the time of day wasn’t the chief problem. The chief problem stems from the three most important factors in real estate — location, location, location.

No, not the Tampa Bay market. The market is fine, and it has produced dozens of major league players. We’re talking about the wrong location within the metro area. The Tampa-St. Petersburg area is huge. Its vast area is difficult to fathom while solely using a map, given that the scale must be so small simply to fit it on the page. One must visit the area to fully grasp it. Downtown St. Petersburg is, as the crow flies, 17 miles southwest of downtown Tampa, but due to Tampa Bay itself (the body of water), there is no direct route between the two. One must take one of three bridges to the west and then drive south.

To put it in another perspective, the Tampa airport is six miles west of downtown Tampa. Tropicana Field is a 25-to-30-minute drive from the airport, and that’s if traffic cooperates.

An Illustrated Look

So exactly how far is Tropicana Field from downtown Tampa, which is fairly central to the area’s population? We’ll show you! First, the Tampa Bay area. Tropicana Field is marked by the orangish pin. And for those wondering about the yellow stars, they are the four spring training sites in the area. The one near downtown Tampa is where the Yankees train, and the tan blob immediately west is Tampa International Airport. (Mobile users, tap the maps and zoom in for best results.)

That’s far from most of the area, with 2/3 of the population having to take a bridge. Residents of Apollo Beach have an especially difficult drive, since they have to drive far to the north or south to even reach a bridge.

But this doesn’t give the full perspective. Here are maps of some other major league metro areas, along with two proposed candidates for expansion. These proposed candidates, by the way, have also been mentioned as places to potentially move the Rays. We’ve superimposed a black-and-white version of the earlier map of the Tampa Bay area, centering downtown Tampa over the center of each of these core cities. The orange pin, once again, represents Tropicana Field. The four bridges are traced in blue.

Metros with a Large Land Area

First, this author’s home, metro Phoenix, which is one of the most sprawling urban areas in the country.

Tropicana Field would be on the Gila River Reservation, in the Sierra Estrella mountains. Fans living in the southeastern suburbs of Phoenix, like those in Apollo Beach, would have to detour far to the north or farther to the south to even reach a bridge.

Here’s Houston, another metro area with a large, spread-out population.

Who in their right mind would build a stadium for the Houston Astros out in Sugar Land, especially if most of the western suburbs were, instead, transformed into a bay?

Here’s the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. For this one, we laid downtown Tampa over Arlington, where the Rangers play. It’s not quite centered on Globe Life Field but rather on Six Flags over Texas, which is very close.

Show this to a group of people who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and watch as they laugh.

Here’s Denver.

Tropicana Field would be in the Front Range.

More Compact Areas

Now some more extreme examples. First, St. Louis, which would put Tropicana Field in the bustling suburb of Arnold, Missouri.

Or Philadelphia. The dotted line is a state border.

This is in New Jersey, close to the point where the borders of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania meet. It’s closer to Wilmington, Delaware than central Philadelphia.

How about Cincinnati?

This puts the stadium in Kentucky. That thick, wiggly blue line west of the orange pin is the Ohio River. On the other side is Indiana. Yes, this stadium would be closer to Indiana than it is to downtown Cincinnati.

This author read a fan comment somewhere suggesting that Nashville would support the team better. We doubt they would if the stadium were built under the orange pin…

Another suggested Portland, Oregon.

Guarantee you their attendance would also be dreadfully low if the stadium were on the northeast outskirts of Newberg.

Take a Page from the Buccaneers and Lightning

The NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning do not have the attendance problems the Rays do. But their location is better. The Buccaneers are right by the airport, and the Lightning play in downtown Tampa. They’re centrally located to the population base. For the Rays to solve their attendance problems, that is where their new stadium should be. The new stadium proposal went public recently, but it will have the same problem as the current site — a dreadfully inconvenient location. They need to put it near downtown Tampa. Otherwise, the Rays attendance problem will never be solved.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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