When Competition in the Market is Questioned

I’ve talked a lot about competition on this website. I absolutely believe every local dollar spent on Spring Training and Minor League Baseball in the Tampa Bay area could be money spent on the Rays. That alternative competition drains the Rays revenue, reduces their front office flexibility, and makes them less competitive in the standings.

While perusing the Interwebs, I found a very interesting 2013 article on the Tampa Bay areas’ two aquariums: the Clearwater Aquarium and the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. Entitled “Two Aquariums in Tampa Bay Would Test Support“, the Tampa Bay Times talked to economists, analysts, and aquarium experts and got their thoughts on whether expansions in the Clearwater Aquarium would eventually cannibalize attendance for the Florida Aquarium, especially in regards to tourists.

“As a tourist, I’m coming down there to do a variety of different things — the beach, the Dalí Museum, Busch Gardens, an aquarium. But I’m not going to spend the money to do two aquariums,” said Robison, a LaSalle University economist who specializes in entertainment venues.

“You end up splitting the business. They’re going to share the market, and that makes it difficult to survive.”

While the Florida Aquarium has maintained a steady growth in attendance, reaching 750,000 in 2014, attendance at the Clearwater Aquarium has soared thanks to the celebrity of Winter, star of the movie Dolphin Tale. Attendance in the Clearwater Aquarium increased from 163,000 in 2010 to 800,000 in 2014.

In total, nearly 1.5 million people – tourists and locals – visited Tampa Bay area aquariums in 2014. On a related note, in 2014, 2.35 million people bought baseball tickets for Tampa Bay area Spring Training, MLB, and Minor League Baseball.

Of those, 432,000 were Spring Training (estimated 50% tourists) and the other 1.9 million were local (Rays and Minor League Baseball).

Where are the articles that ask whether baseball options cannibalize each other?

Where are the articles that ask how much expanding McKechnie Field in 2010 or Steinbrenner Field in the future will cannibalize Rays attendance or other Spring Training events?

Keep in mind, the aquariums also compete with baseball in the spring and summer. People can just as easily spend their money on an aquarium visit as they can a baseball game. While Rays tickets range from roughly $15-$50 dollars a piece, and trip to the Clearwater and Florida Aquarium costs $22 and $25, respectively.

Roughly in the same range.

One final thought: the Rays drew 1.8 million in 2010, the year the Clearwater Aquarium drew 165,000. In 2011, Clearwater Aquarium attendance jumped to 312,000. Also, Bradenton Marauders attendance jumped from 51,000 in 2010 to 102,491 in 2011. Meanwhile, Rays attendance dropped to 1.53 million.

Marauders attendance went up 50,000 in a population south of Tropicana Field and the Clearwater Aquarium attendance increased 150,000 in an area north of Tropicana Field. In the same year, Rays attendance decreased 300,000.

Of course, the Clearwater Aquarium receives a lot of tourists. There is no assumption of what percentage of guests are tourists.

We can’t automatically assume aquariums and baseball can’t co-exist. According to the Tampa Bay Times article, San Francisco also has two aquariums and a baseball team, and the Giants entered 2016 with a sell-out streak of over 400 games.

But the Giants have over 2 million people living within 30 minutes of AT&T Park whereas the Rays have approximately 800,000 within 30 minutes of Tropicana Field.

The bottom line is that the next time local media questions competition in the area, wonder why increased baseball competition gets a free pass. There is a tipping point to how much entertainment an area can support, even with tourist dollars.

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