Last night, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price complained about attendance at a home game, tweeting: “Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands….embarrassing.”
Major League Baseball’s franchise in Tampa Bay does have a problem drawing a crowd. The team averages just 23,000 a night – lower than the league average.
But there’s a reason for it. The economy in Tampa Bay is a mess – it’s much worse than the poor economy nationwide.
This year Tampa Bay unemployment reached 13%, well above the national level of ~9%. Just a couple years ago, the national unemployment level was just under 5%.
Tampa Bay is particularly screwed because the only industries down there are real estate, shipping, and tourism.
Pretty much all three of those industries are in the tank right now, but the real estate industry is the worst off. Today we learned from the New York Times that there are 300,000 vacant homes in Florida.
So yes, the Tampa Bay Rays have an attendance problem. But David Price – who, with a brilliant Cy Young-worth season will earn every penny of his $5.6 million signing bonus – also has a problem seeing the economic devastation unfolding around him.
“Not everyone in the Bay Area is drawing million-dollar salaries on multi-year contracts. Florida in general, and the Tampa area in particular, have suffered worse than just about any area of the country, at least among baseball markets. When I bring my family to a game, we’re lucky to get out of there for less than $150. Most families right now just can’t swing that kind of scratch. Even those of us who are lucky to be keeping our heads above water have to pick and choose which games we go to. A Monday night games against the Orioles, where we might clinch the playoffs, or the playoffs themselves? I’m saving my money for the latter—and frankly, I’m a bit worried how much it’s going to cost me to get to a playoff game. But I’m lucky enough that I can do it.”
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