Welcome to 2016. There are no flying cars and the Cubs didn’t win the World Series last year. And contrary to what Dickie V said, the Trop is not the ballpark of the 21st century, baby. The baseball future ain’t what we thought it would be.
Instead we’ve been given a very complex situation. A nearly perfect storm of stadium quagmires, political impasses, transit trouble, and divided demographics.
So being that Tampa Bay will not get a new baseball stadium this year, nor will the region have its transportation problems fixed anytime soon, I’ve made a wish list of realistic things that might better the business of baseball in Tampa Bay in 2016.
- Tropicana Field on social media – The Trop is one of the only facilities in sports without a social media account. Most stadiums have an active twitter or instagram account, not only to discuss the games, but to raise awareness of other events happening in the facility.
- Stu Sternberg moving to Tampa Bay – Notice all the visibility Jeff Vinik gives to the Tampa Bay Lightning? Whether to be in front of the county commissioners, to be seen leading a charitable effort, seeing the Rays owner more often would help the fanbase feel more included in the Rays efforts. And it might reduce the feelings that Sternberg is an absentee owner whose fan loyalty is with another team.
- One Hispanic star – I’ve talked about this often. With a large Hispanic population in Florida, the Rays would be a perfect location for a Hispanic star. The Marlins have Jose Fernandez and had Livan Hernandez. Yes, the Devil Rays had Jose Canseco, but he was past his prime. There hasn’t been a Spanish-speaking star on the Rays since Carlos Pena’s first tour at the Trop.
- The return of $1 hot dog day at the Trop – The Rays used to have $1 hot dog Friday. It was a cheap promotion, but it was popular. Friday attendance could use a bump, and what better than to cut the cost on ballpark fare?
- Cheaper parking at the Trop – Parking should not cost more than a ticket to the game. No more $20 parking, unless it includes a chauffeur.
- Open negotiations between the Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin – While every step in the Rays stadium saga makes front page news, the Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin have requested that their stadium negotiations be done in secret. If taxpayer dollars will be involved, both should be open.
- The opening of the Tampa Baseball Museum – Hopefully this year the Tampa Baseball Museum will open. Located in Ybor City, the museum will tell baseball’s long history in Tampa Bay, from the days of Plant Field to the present day. Once open, there is potential to work with the teams in the area to spread the history of the game. Ideally, it would replace the Ted Williams Museum, which has absolutely no connection to Tampa Bay.
- Reduction of Rays vs Red Sox game ticket costs – Attendance at Rays vs Red Sox games ain’t what it used to be. It has dropped nearly 10,000 fans per game since its peak in 2008. These games should no longer be priced as upper tier games. Demand isn’t what it used to be. Time for these tickets to cost what non-upper tier games cost.
- Get rid of variable pricing at the Trop – This is the worst. Walk-up fans have to pay more for tickets within 3 hours of the game, even if only 10,000 tickets are sold. That is not adjusting to demand, that is exploitation.
- ESPN.com to get rid of “visiting” attendance – Visiting attendance only matters when a team has a national fanbase. Most teams are not the Yankees. Visiting attendance is irrelevant, yet uninformed fans use it to belittle fanbases with attendance problems. A much better stat would be Weekend/Weekday attendance. That would provide much more insight into what is happening at stadiums.
- Someone in the mainstream sports media to realize that professional baseball in Tampa Bay has drawn over 2 million fans 10 years in a row