Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rays spring attendance up 30%, rest of Florida down 20%

St. Pete Times, 4/1/09: "Attendance at the Tampa Bay Rays' spring training games climbed 30 percent this year.
  • Across the rest of Florida, it's down 20 percent.

The Rays wrap up their first spring training outside St. Petersburg in front of another large crowd this afternoon against the Minnesota Twins. Rays officials say today's crowd will push attendance beyond 100,000 this spring, well past the previous record of 79,000....

The Rays, who annually have been among the easiest tickets in all of spring training, have sold out eight games this spring, including four in a row.

"We're accomplishing what we set out to do," Kalt said. "One, we wanted to give our players a first class facility. And two, we wanted to establish a foothold for the team in this area all the way down to Fort Myers. We're doing that."

  • The new park — which underwent a $27.2 million renovation — might also be playing a role. Two other teams opened new facilities in 2009, the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers, who moved from Florida to Arizona this year, have seen attendance increase almost 40 percent, and average more than 9,500 fans a game. The Indians, who also moved to Arizona from Florida, have seen a slight decrease in attendance.

  • Maddon said the experiment of moving the Rays south for spring training has exceeded expectations....

The Rays hope the momentum translates north to St. Petersburg once the team returns to Tropicana Field April 13.

While team officials won't specifically discuss the number of tickets sold for this upcoming season, they say sales are up, but not enough.

  • Kalt says ticket sales should be up from 2008, but that the team would still rank near the bottom in terms of overall attendance. Season ticket sales are also up, Kalt said,
  • but the team still will rank last or next-to-last when compared to other MLB ball clubs....

This spring in Port Charlotte, they hope, is a template for success." Sharockman, 'Fans Flock to Rays new Digs, Attendance up 30%'

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