Despite winning consistently and investing more than $20 million into Tropicana Field stadium, Rays executives say the games continue to lag behind in attendance.
"We've been winning consistently, but attendance has been trending downward," said Michael Kalt, the team's senior vice president of development and business affairs in a presentation before the Hillsbrough County Commission last week. "We've gone from 26th overall [in attendance] down to last in 2012, with an average of slightly over 19,000 people coming to games and that's with the extraordinary roll we've had on the field."
Kalt was joined by other upper echelon members of the Rays organization, including the team's principal owner Stuart Sternberg and team president Matt Silverman.
Commissioner Ken Hagan led the discussion and said the presentation was an attempt to open up the lines of communication and start coming up with ways the Rays can become successful and remain in Tampa Bay.
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"We wanted to engage the region to solve this problem, figure out where it is the best place for a ball park to reestablish this franchise," Kalt said. "We don’t have the luxury of getting this wrong. At the end of the day, the baseball game is a retail business. We need to locate in a place where your customers can get to you quickly easily and efficiently and we are fundamentally not in that place right now."
The Rays remain in a contentious situation with the City of St. Petersburg, where Mayor Bill Foster has threatened to sue anyone who tries to lure the team away from Tropicana Field, where it has a contract to play through 2027.
This week, Hagan continued his attempts to discuss the Rays' future by announcing he'd be setting up a meeting with regional government and business forces about the team, according to this Tampa Tribune article.
The meeting could take place as soon as two weeks from now and would include government leaders on both sides of the Bay, business organizations such as local chambers of commerce and the Tampa Bay Partnership.
So Brandon, what do you think the Rays need to be successful? A new stadium, renovation to the Tropicana Field, or something else? Do you make the drive across the Bay now to see games? Would you go if a stadium were closer? Tell us in the comment box below.