For years now, the Rays attendance and the location of Tropicana Field have been debated ad nauseum in Tampa Bay and nationally. If the Rays played in Tampa, attendance concerns would go away, they say.
In a roundabout way, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel suggests that this theory wouldn’t necessarily be true. This morning, Bianchi has a column pretty much lambasting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their fans. He argues that it should be the Bucs, and not the Jacksonville Jaguars, who should be discussed as the team to move to Los Angeles.
A couple of the more notable nuggets from his column are these:
The Tampa-St. Petersburg megalopolis is the 14th-biggest market in the country, but does not support two of the most solid franchises in professional sports. The Tampa Bay Rays have proven over the last few years that they are one of the most well-run franchises in Major League Baseball yet the fan base continues to be among the sport’s worst.
The fan apathy toward the Bucs is even more baffling because Tampa has always fancied itself as a football town. But I would argue Jacksonville is much more passionate about its perennially mediocre Jags than the Bucs are about one of the hottest young teams in the NFL.
At the end of the day, the situation the Bucs are in is very similar to the situation the Rays are in. The Bucs are clearly using the Andrew Friedman model of building a young, solid team. They were 10-6 last season and are clearly heading in the right direction. But, they are failing to lure fans.
For everything that Stuart Sternberg dreams of, which is a new stadium located somewhere on the Tampa side of the Bay, the Bucs already have. The Bucs put a team on the field for eight regular season games a year. And they played all games last season with a boatload of empty seats. What makes Rays ownership think they could fill a new stadium for 81 games?