The Tampa Bay Rays had yet another successful season this year, winning 99 games, competing for the AL East division crown and #1 seed, and ultimately cruised to the top Wildcard seed in the American League.
The Rays have had plenty of success in recent years as well. They made the World Series back in 2008, in the shortened 2020 season, and, generally speaking, have been well regarded in terms of coaching, management, and analytics. They are a very small market, and have had to face heavy hitters like the Yankees and Red Sox every year, and now the Orioles, and they’re still consistently competitive and in the playoffs almost every year.
Yet, given all this recent success, the fanbase hasn’t reciprocated the support. How bad was the attendance for their Wildcard Series against the Rangers? In Game 1, attendance was recorded at 19,704. That’s the lowest number of attendees for an MLB Postseason game since 1919! The Rays are among the lowest in attendance seemingly every single year. And seemingly every year, there’s a debate as to why a team that has so much success and is a model of consistency can’t attract fans to the stadium. Perhaps Florida is just more of a football and basketball state. No one seems to have an answer, which has led to speculation that the team may move to a major city. Nashville, Tennessee, has been mentioned before. That is a vibrant city and has longed for a baseball team. The Oakland A’s will seemingly be moving to Las Vegas in 2027, which obviously takes them out of contention. Montreal, Canada had a baseball team for decades, until they moved and became the Washington Nationals ahead of the 2005 season. Could Montreal want another team? It should also be noted that last month, the team and the city of St. Petersburg, where the team is currently located, agreed to a deal that will build a new, roofed stadium near where the current stadium is. If all goes according to plan, the stadium will be ready to go by 2027.
This is a complicated story, and one that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The team has certainly had enough success recently to warrant fans going to the stadium. Perhaps a new and improved stadium can solve some of these issues.