With the end of the 2016-2017 Tampa Bay Lightning season, it’s time to take another look at days both the Lightning and the Tampa Bay Rays played home games. This season, the Lightning did not make the NHL playoffs, although they made a challenge with a late season push. Given the Lightning exclusion from the playoffs, 2017 saw the least amount of coinciding games since 2013.
The following chart depicts all 29 dates since 2007 that the Rays have played on the same day as the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Highlighted boxes = Lightning playoff games.
D/N = Day or Night game.
“Rays Avg Annual Attendance/Day” is the Rays average attendance on that day during that year (for example: 19,452 is the Friday average attendance during 2007).
“% Difference” is the percentage difference between the Rays attendance during that particular game and the Rays average attendance on that day for the year.
In 2017, the Rays and Lightning played on the same day twice – both Sundays. The first coinciding date was the Rays Opening Day on April 2nd. Since the Rays have sold out 12 consecutive Opening Days, there is no reason to think Lightning attendance had any effect on Rays ticket demand. The second coinciding date was April 9th, when the Lightning had their final home game in the evening and the Rays played their 7th game of the season during the day.
Although we don’t have Rays daily averages yet, we can compared the Rays April 9th attendance to their 2016 Sunday average. In 2016, the Rays averaged 18,996 to Sunday games. Of their 13 Sunday games in 2016, an attendance of 15,341 would have ranked near the bottom.
Another interesting stat from this chart is that the Lightning have sold out the last 3 non-playoff games played on the same day as Rays games. Of course, we would expect them to sell-out playoff games, but selling out non-playoff games is an indication of high ticket demand and an excited and robust fanbase.
In 2017, Rays Opening Day also coincided with a Lightning game for the first time since 2010. This also happened in 2007. 2017 was first time both teams sold out.
To the Rays advantage this year, local fans won’t be spending their money or time on the Lightning for the remainder of the 2017 baseball season. The last time the Lightning failed to make the playoffs was the 2012-2013 season. In 2013, the Rays drew 1.5 million fans. Since the Lightning began their most recent playoff streak, Rays average attendance has been 1.2 million.
Can we attribute the Rays 300,000 fans per year decrease on the Lightning making the playoffs? Probably not. But it may be a factor. A factor that the Rays will not face this season.
As I wrote last year,
Some people will always choose the Rays over the Lightning, just as some people will always choose the Lightning over the Rays. Some will stay home and watch both. Some people don’t care about either. But we have to consider the Tampa Bay population as the majority of the potential attendance for both events. Hearts, minds, and dollars are trying to be won by both teams.
For the Rays the opportunity now exists to get casual fans to spend their money and time in both ticket sales and TV ratings on Major League Baseball where they might have spent either or both on the NHL playoffs.
Here are a few ideas the Rays could do to capitalize on Lightning fandom this spring:
- get Lightning players to throw out the first pitch.
- give Lightning season ticket holders a discount on Rays tickets until June
- recognize Lightning parking passes at Tropicana Field until the NHL playoffs end.
- organize events in downtown Tampa with Raymond and the Lightning mascot to push tickets to people working in Tampa
- rent a bus to go from Amalie Arena to Tropicana Field before a weekend game
Lightning fans have money in their pockets they would be spending on the NHL playoffs had the Lightning made it. This money is now the Rays to win.