Comparing Rays attendance to Yankees Spring Training attendance

I often warn people that it is foolhardy to compare games between markets. There are too many differences to compare attendance. For example, looking at New York and Tampa Bay, there is market size, tradition, mass transit, and many, many other different variables.

(That’s why I usually don’t like when people use MLB overall attendance charts to point out the Rays attendance struggles. Of course New York and Los Angeles are drawing more – they are bigger cities.)

But last night I compared the Rays May 11th attendance in St Petersburg to another game in another city and the comparison not only made sense, but was revealing.

I compared it to the Yankees Spring Training attendance on March 9th versus the Rays in Tampa.

Rays attendance: Monday, May 11th vs Yankees, St. Petersburg, FL: 10,619

Yankees attendance, Monday, March 9th vs Rays, Tampa, FL: 9,821

Difference: 798

There were only 798 more fans at a Major League game on the same day of the week between the same teams in the same market as there was for a Spring Training game.

The only unknown in this comparison is the amount of tourists who attended the Spring Training game. Otherwise, these games draw from the same pool of fans.

We know the Rays fanbase is between 700,000 to 1 million fans. According to the Facebook demographic study, the Yankees local fan base is at least 10% of all local baseball fans. If there are 1.4 million baseball fans in the Tampa Bay area, there are at least 140,000 Yankees fans in the Tampa Bay area.

That means attendance could have come from a pool of at least 1,540,000 possible local fans.

There were no hockey games, no soccer matches, no arena football games, and no Minor League games to compete with. The only other significant event was a Bette Midler concert at the Amalie Arena. Typical Bette Midler fans are not in baseball’s main demographic.

Between 2007-2014, the Rays played 12 home Monday games versus the Yankees. Average attendance for these games was 21,796. Monday’s attendance was 51.3% lower than average.

While the Rays played poorly on the field, they also performed poorly in the stands. After the game, manager Kevin Cash had to explain his team’s performance. Maybe we should ask the front office do the same for attendance.

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