I hear all the time that the Tampa Bay Rays
have the ideal small-market baseball model. Stu Sternberg has called the fan support "untenable." I'd like to place the vast majority of the blame on Tropicana Field.
I live and work in downtown Tampa and have to leave my house (or work) by 5:00 to make a 7:00 first pitch on a weekday. There's no good way to get to the stadium unless you're already in St. Pete, making it very difficult to make plans to go on a weekday. There's somewhere between very little and nothing to do in the area besides the game (a few bars like Ferg's, but nothing particularly exciting). Parking was free a few years ago, but it's not bad (like $15, I think) if you don't have a pass. Tailgating just came back this year.
They've really put a lot of effort into making it a better place to watch a ballgame, but a combination of the dome (weird to watch a game indoors, but I understand the necessessity since it rains every day) and the age of the venue make it below average for an MLB stadium. There are a few restaurants there and the team shop is very well put-together (and not really as insanely priced as team shops usually are), but nothing unique enough to help justify a trip to the ballpark. Tickets aren't bad: $5-6 for a normal game general admission, twice that for "premium" games (Yankees
, Red Sox
, interleague). Better seats are pretty reasonable and in line with other small-market franchises, but you can usually snag better prices from season ticketholders on StubHub or at the gate (many people get season tickets for Yankees and Red Sox and just scalp everything else cheaply). The lack of attendance is financially helpful: you can buy GA and walk down to sections 118-119 before they start checking your tickets.
There are a plethora of reasons that people don't support the Rays much down here: the declining popularity of baseball in general, a largely transplanted population already devoted to other teams, the oppressive heat making all of us lazy. The only excuse that fans here can no longer use is "the team stinks." How does all of this relate to Pirates
baseball? Pittsburgh has a breathtaking stadium: my girlfriend will go to games with me if she knows someone else going or if I feed her hot dogs and beers, but she came to a game in Pittsburgh with me and actually enjoyed PNC Park. The fanbase has shown that they will support a winner in a very small sample size this summer. If Bargain Bob ever puts a consistent winner on the field, I have no doubt that Pittsburgh will support them properly.
NOTE: I LOVE baseball and occaisonally, on my way out the door, stop by the Little League field next to my office and watch a few innings (which, admittedly, is a little creepy). I go to single-A Tampa Yankees games and as much spring training as I possibly can. I'll never stop loving the game, but I've always lived in areas of baseball indifference (Pittsburgh post-1992; college in Dayton, OH; as a grown-up in Tampa).
This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.