The Rays and their nagging attendance problem. Will a new stadium solve that?

soxhop411

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The Tampa Bay Rays have finally unveiled their plans for a new stadium and, perhaps more importantly, a new city. Tuesday, the team showed off renderings of a state-of-the art Ybor City ballpark that would allow them to move from St. Petersburg to Tampa – if funding can be secured.

The proposed 30,842-seat stadium has a fixed translucent roof, but sliding glass walls. Melanie Lenz, the Rays' senior vice president of strategy and development, insisted it would fit the character of the historic community.

“This is not a stadium," Lenz offered. "This is a ballpark. This is a neighborhood ballpark.”
AT A GLANCE:
• 28,000+ seats, 30,000+ capacity
• Still smallest in MLB
• Fully enclosed, translucent roof
• Air-conditioned
• Variety of seating types and amenities
• "Dramatic” sliding glass exterior walls that open completely to the outside
• View from home plate: "Away" from downtown Tampa
• 10,000 parking spots within 10-minute walk; 23,000 spaces within a mile
• Total project cost: $892,429,823
Lenz explained that the cost of the proposed stadium was just over $800-million -- with 30-percent of that cost devoted just to the roof -- but additional infrastructure upgrades would push the final total to $892-billion.
http://www.fox13news.com/news/local-news/rays-ybor-city-stadium-plan
http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/rays/2018/07/10/rays-reveal-ybor-city-stadium-details/
Some renderings
 

E5 Yaz

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how would fielders be able to track flyballs against that roof
 

TheYaz67

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Is that meant to be a glass/translucent roof? If so, forget the construction costs, the annual cost of air conditioning a massive glass greenhouse in the summer in Florida is going to be the real back breaker....

If not glass and semi-transparent, the outfielders will indeed run into the same problems that were evident in Houston back in the day....
 

E5 Yaz

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Lenz explained that the cost of the proposed stadium was just over $800-million -- with 30-percent of that cost devoted just to the roof -- but additional infrastructure upgrades would push the final total to $892-billion.
Damn, roads aren't cheap in Florida
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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#Rays Prez Brian Auld says team has no answers on how to pay for $892 million ballpark tab. Says its a "very compelling investment opportunity" for everyone in the room and is open to creative funding.
I hope you guys are around next week when I reveal my stadium plans to house the Boston Red Sox on the moon.

Don't know how I'm going to pay for it, but I'm open to creative funding and I'm sure it will be a fun waste of everyone's time in July.
 

OilCanShotTupac

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That's the most un-Ybor City thing I've ever seen. Ballparks don't need to slavishly follow "old-timey" Camden Yards style (see: Petco), and sure, a moon-unit ballpark might be fun somewhere. But Ybor City is a one-of-a-kind place and this has as much sense of place as... the inside of a coffee can.

Which I guess is very Florida - where planning goes to die.

Just because, song lyrics:



I quit talking to myself

Listening to the radio

Long, long time ago

Damn near strangled by my appetite

Ybor City on a Friday night

Couldn't even stand up right 



So high the street girls wouldn't take my pay

They said come see me on a better day

She just danced away


-Jason Isbell, SoSH favorite
 

ernieshore

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That's the most un-Ybor City thing I've ever seen.
That's exactly what I thought. I've only been to Ybor City once, but I had to double-check to make sure they are talking about the same place I have been. That doesn't seem like a "neighborhood park" to me (concrete skyways, some big setbacks, separation from other uses, etc).
 

RGREELEY33

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I’m comfortable taking the wager that the only expenditure on that ballpark will be the $40k or whatever was paid for the architect to draw it up. That stadium ain’t happening there.
 

Spacemans Bong

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I've also only been to Ybor City once, but a Camden Yards knock-off would be considerably more Ybor City than this building. At least it would get the basics right, lots of brick in tribute to turn-of-the-century brick warehouses.

This stadium seems like a joke. $892 million for a stadium with 28,000 seats? That's a ripoff. You could probably build a perfectly functional ballpark with a roof for half that money.

And I know baseball is probably slowly fading in popularity but I call bullshit on 28,000 being an acceptable number of seats for an MLB park (there's 2,500 SROs, hence their claiming a capacity of over 30,000). To me, that's just a giveaway that Tampa is the weakest market in baseball and the Rays should probably move somewhere else.
 

VORP Speed

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I've also only been to Ybor City once, but a Camden Yards knock-off would be considerably more Ybor City than this building. At least it would get the basics right, lots of brick in tribute to turn-of-the-century brick warehouses.

This stadium seems like a joke. $892 million for a stadium with 28,000 seats? That's a ripoff. You could probably build a perfectly functional ballpark with a roof for half that money.

And I know baseball is probably slowly fading in popularity but I call bullshit on 28,000 being an acceptable number of seats for an MLB park (there's 2,500 SROs, hence their claiming a capacity of over 30,000). To me, that's just a giveaway that Tampa is the weakest market in baseball and the Rays should probably move somewhere else.
Why is 28,000 an unacceptable size for a ballpark? 12 teams are averaging over 30,000 in attendance this year (and a couple of those just barely). What is the incremental value of a few thousand more cheap seats vs the decreased scarcity value if tickets are always readily available? What drives an MLB team’s revenue in 2018 and going forward?

A ballpark is a glorified television studio. A team is interested in selling premium seating and creating a tough ticket perception that drives overall interest and TV ratings. Baseball stadiums are too big across the board. Look at the percentage of capacity numbers for this year. Boston has a historically great team and one of the smaller parks in the league and they can’t consistently sell out. There is no good reason why an MLB team should be playing in a venue twice the size of the NBA/NHL with twice as many games per year. The Lightning sell out every game at 19k, if the Rays did the same in a small stadium, they’d be in great shape. The trend in new ballpark sizes has been consistently downward and it probably should have been even more aggressively so. 28,000 is an incremental move beyond the low 30’s that has been the recent trend, but, if I were Stu Sternberg, I’d have gone even smaller.
 
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Infield Infidel

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$240 million for a roof that doesn't even open, that doesn't make much sense. I recall them saying previously that they wanted to stay in the $600-650m range and a fixed roof would keep costs more manageable. As a former Tampa resident it's frustrating because I'd like the Rays to move to Tampa and stay in the region but this isn't the plan to do it.
 

The Allented Mr Ripley

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Oh that stadium has a roof too (surprisingly I don’t watch a lot of Marlins ball)? Looks like the old stadium only got one in 2006?
What old stadium? Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins, where the Marlins used to play (it was called Sun Life Stadium when they left 2012)? That has an open-air canopy that covers the seats, it was constructed in 2015, well after the Marlins moved out.
 

VORP Speed

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$240 million for a roof that doesn't even open, that doesn't make much sense. I recall them saying previously that they wanted to stay in the $600-650m range and a fixed roof would keep costs more manageable. As a former Tampa resident it's frustrating because I'd like the Rays to move to Tampa and stay in the region but this isn't the plan to do it.
You don’t open a negotiation with your minimally acceptable, most value-engineered proposal. You put something out there that is aspirational and try to put pressure on the local governments to pony up. If they somehow do manage to get this funded, there will be a lot of tough discussions around financing and a more cost-effective proposal will almost certainly emerge. That translucent roof is super sexy, but you probably end up with some sort of modern mini-dome that just has better lighting.
 

Spacemans Bong

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Why is 28,000 an unacceptable size for a ballpark? 12 teams are averaging over 30,000 in attendance this year (and a couple of those just barely). What is the incremental value of a few thousand more cheap seats vs the decreased scarcity value if tickets are always readily available? What drives an MLB team’s revenue in 2018 and going forward?

A ballpark is a glorified television studio. A team is interested in selling premium seating and creating a tough ticket perception that drives overall interest and TV ratings. Baseball stadiums are too big across the board. Look at the percentage of capacity numbers for this year. Boston has a historically great team and one of the smaller parks in the league and they can’t consistently sell out. There is no good reason why an MLB team should be playing in a venue twice the size of the NBA/NHL with twice as many games per year. The Lightning sell out every game at 19k, if the Rays did the same in a small stadium, they’d be in great shape. The trend in new ballpark sizes has been consistently downward and it probably should have been even more aggressively so. 28,000 is an incremental move beyond the low 30’s that has been the recent trend, but, if I were Stu Sternberg, I’d have gone even smaller.
Because if your market actually has fans, you'll comfortably do better than 28,000 on a night to night basis. There's only so much revenue you can squeeze out of a fanbase that is starting at a half million per year disadvantage to the other teams in the division if and when you're contending. Furthermore, is there any sign that having a bandbox drives TV ratings? The Indians struggle attendance-wise, but get the best TV ratings in baseball. The Rays tarp over a bunch of the Trop right now, to the point they only make 31,000 tickets available, and still no one goes to their games.

I agree Tampa shouldn't be building a 50,000 seat stadium, but that they think a little better than half that is appropriate is a sign they aren't really a major league market. The Athletics are looking for something between 34-37,000, and that's a fanbase that is permanently doomed to live within the shadow of the Giants. SunTrust Park in Atlanta has 42,000 seats - a downgrade on Turner, but still enough (and they're starting to fill it, or most of it on a nightly basis now that the team is good).

Furthermore, the richer teams are ahead of the curve on this (perhaps because gate receipts aren't shared revenue). The Red Sox, Cubs, Giants and Yankees all clear over 40% of their revenue from ticket sales. The Dodgers are about the same in raw dollars as those four. The TV bubble won't last forever. It's going to be impossible for the Rays to clear that percentage of revenue with a Triple-A sized park.

I'd also question whether making it extremely expensive for families to attend games is actually going to help the Rays build a fanbase. I don't think you create baseball fans solely via the medium of television like you do for football or basketball.
 

finnVT

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Why is 28,000 an unacceptable size for a ballpark? 12 teams are averaging over 30,000 in attendance this year (and a couple of those just barely). What is the incremental value of a few thousand more cheap seats vs the decreased scarcity value if tickets are always readily available? What drives an MLB team’s revenue in 2018 and going forward?

A ballpark is a glorified television studio. A team is interested in selling premium seating and creating a tough ticket perception that drives overall interest and TV ratings. Baseball stadiums are too big across the board. Look at the percentage of capacity numbers for this year. Boston has a historically great team and one of the smaller parks in the league and they can’t consistently sell out. There is no good reason why an MLB team should be playing in a venue twice the size of the NBA/NHL with twice as many games per year. The Lightning sell out every game at 19k, if the Rays did the same in a small stadium, they’d be in great shape. The trend in new ballpark sizes has been consistently downward and it probably should have been even more aggressively so. 28,000 is an incremental move beyond the low 30’s that has been the recent trend, but, if I were Stu Sternberg, I’d have gone even smaller.
Yeah, but even if you want to average 25k, you probably need a 40k+ capacity. You need to max out attendance in those Yankee/Red Sox/etc games to make up for those mid-week games against Oakland. If you can only squeeze in 28k on the good nights, you're going to have a hard to keeping your average anywhere near competitive.

Granted this is pretty moot for Tampa right now anyway, since they maxed out ~31k last year as is, but presumably you'd at least want to allow for the possibility that people will care again some day. Unless you've given up on that and are just planning to move the team anyway (which is, of course, the most likely explanation).
 

Flunky

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I think its a cool location, kind of links Ybor and downtown...

but the design should be more old-timey.
 

VORP Speed

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Gate receipts as a percentage of revenue league wide has fallen over the last decade from an average of 38% to 29%. By my rough calculation, the Rays are currently at 12-15%. Their attendance sucks but they get very good TV ratings and recently signed a $1B+ 15 year extension of their TV deal. So the gate receipts will only become a smaller percentage going forward. A few thousand extra of the cheapest seats (current avg ticket price is $20) will have no impact whatsoever on their ability to be competitive, even if they were always filled. The way you keep a stadium filled is not be having excess capacity, it’s by having excess demand. You don’t want those Sox and Yankees tix to always be easily available and cheap on a one-off basis. You want to drive higher season ticket sales and sell multigame packages around the best games and have those season ticket buyers feel confident they can always offload tickets on the secondary market. The virtuous cycle the Sox had up until recently in their very small park.

Tampa is never going to be a big time market, the buying power and especially the corporate money just isn’t there. It can be a very solid mid-market franchise with a new stadium, though—even at 28k. The one thing that is never in doubt with this ownership group is whether they have properly done their homework or are employing adequately rigorous quantitative analysis.
 

uncannymanny

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What old stadium? Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins, where the Marlins used to play (it was called Sun Life Stadium when they left 2012)? That has an open-air canopy that covers the seats, it was constructed in 2015, well after the Marlins moved out.
Oops, I missed the line in Wikipedia that said the 2nd/3rd renovation phases happened after they left. So that means they played for almost 20 years without a roof, which is exactly why I brought them up.
 

Infield Infidel

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You don’t open a negotiation with your minimally acceptable, most value-engineered proposal. You put something out there that is aspirational and try to put pressure on the local governments to pony up. If they somehow do manage to get this funded, there will be a lot of tough discussions around financing and a more cost-effective proposal will almost certainly emerge. That translucent roof is super sexy, but you probably end up with some sort of modern mini-dome that just has better lighting.
Starting with a fixed roof isn't aspirational. They should have started with a retractable roof and went away if necessary. The sticker shock for me is the price without a retractable roof. Marlins Park was built for $676m in 2017 dollars and has a roof the opens. $200m above that, with less seating and a fixed roof and fake grass, might just be straight out rejected by locals.
 
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brs3

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The top two renderings remind me of the Marlins ballpark. The fancy roof and missing fishing monument seem like the only differences.
 

LoweTek

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I think a big reason TBR fails to draw is the current location in St. Pete and I believe Ybor improves this only marginally. Ybor is really just immediate North Downtown. A good portion of the local area population is both East and North of the Ybor/Downtown area. Getting from the East or North Tampa side over to what is Southwest St. Pete, is a slow and traffic choked proposition at 6:00-6:30 in the afternoon/evening as it would be to Ybor. The current location also takes Orlando almost completely out of the equation. It's usually 2.5 hours in traffic from all but the Southwestern-most parts of Orlando. Getting out of the Trop is no picnic either. Ybor improves their Orlando proximity only slightly.

I think they should put it even further East than Ybor. Closer to 75 & I-4 or even East of 75 where it gets very rural very quickly. There is a huge swath of land at the Southwest corner of 75 & I-4 where the State Fairgrounds sit unused most of the year. I am sure a co-existence could work out there. Less new infrastructure required is a big bonus. Being right at the 75 & I-4 junction gives them much easier access to a bunch of population located in the I-75 corridor as well as to Orlando.

I had a half-season ticket package for the Lightning's inaugural season when they temporarily played in a converted building at the fairgrounds. It took me 90 minutes or less to get there from my offices well North of Orlando. People will make that drive with far less trepidation than Southwest St. Pete or even Ybor.

A big part of the Rays problem is unlike both the Lightning and Bucs, they have near zero draw from Orlando. They are hardly even mentioned in the local paper beyond the box scores and are treated pretty much like every other MLB team. Most Orlando local TV news is doing a sports segment again and TBR is rarely mentioned. They could use some marketing effort in the Orlando market too. It's been a huge mistake avoiding it, IMO. As soon as the Braves leave the Disney ballpark, TBR should move their Spring Training there immediately for the same reason. A few hours on a Spring Training bus has got to be worth the Orlando exposure they would get as a result.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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If you want to get a little bit light in the heady
It's gonna have to get a little bit heavy
 

Toe Nash

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Maybe the price tag is going towards a new subway line since I don't see any parking lots or facilities in the renderings.

Also, why on Earth would you have table-style seating 4 rows back from home plate? Let's take the best real estate in the park and put about half as many paying customers there as we could by just having regular seating there. I know the renderings will never get built but their weird idiosyncrasies always amuse me.
 

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Maybe the price tag is going towards a new subway line since I don't see any parking lots or facilities in the renderings.

Also, why on Earth would you have table-style seating 4 rows back from home plate? Let's take the best real estate in the park and put about half as many paying customers there as we could by just having regular seating there. I know the renderings will never get built but their weird idiosyncrasies always amuse me.
Parking is one of the few things they don't need to worry about. There are two large parking garages in Ybor, and a number of smaller lots. On the other side of the expressway near the cruise dock there are a bunch more parking lots and small garages. And then further south at Channelside Mall there's another parking garage, and a huge one further south at the Convention Center/Amelie Arena, both of which are 3-4 stops away on the streetcar. The city supposedly plans to extend the streetcar northward but we'll see if that happens.

I had hoped they would build in downtown proper in the current location of the Conagra mill and its surrounding lots, since the mill is an eyesore downtown; it was on the list of considered location.
 

Infield Infidel

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I think a big reason TBR fails to draw is the current location in St. Pete and I believe Ybor improves this only marginally. Ybor is really just immediate North Downtown. A good portion of the local area population is both East and North of the Ybor/Downtown area. Getting from the East or North Tampa side over to what is Southwest St. Pete, is a slow and traffic choked proposition at 6:00-6:30 in the afternoon/evening as it would be to Ybor. The current location also takes Orlando almost completely out of the equation. It's usually 2.5 hours in traffic from all but the Southwestern-most parts of Orlando. Getting out of the Trop is no picnic either. Ybor improves their Orlando proximity only slightly.

I think they should put it even further East than Ybor. Closer to 75 & I-4 or even East of 75 where it gets very rural very quickly. There is a huge swath of land at the Southwest corner of 75 & I-4 where the State Fairgrounds sit unused most of the year. I am sure a co-existence could work out there. Less new infrastructure required is a big bonus. Being right at the 75 & I-4 junction gives them much easier access to a bunch of population located in the I-75 corridor as well as to Orlando.

I had a half-season ticket package for the Lightning's inaugural season when they temporarily played in a converted building at the fairgrounds. It took me 90 minutes or less to get there from my offices well North of Orlando. People will make that drive with far less trepidation than Southwest St. Pete or even Ybor.

A big part of the Rays problem is unlike both the Lightning and Bucs, they have near zero draw from Orlando. They are hardly even mentioned in the local paper beyond the box scores and are treated pretty much like every other MLB team. Most Orlando local TV news is doing a sports segment again and TBR is rarely mentioned. They could use some marketing effort in the Orlando market too. It's been a huge mistake avoiding it, IMO. As soon as the Braves leave the Disney ballpark, TBR should move their Spring Training there immediately for the same reason. A few hours on a Spring Training bus has got to be worth the Orlando exposure they would get as a result.
The problems with east of 75 is there's absolute no foot traffic over there, and the current fans in St. Pete won't go beyond Ybor, and they want to keep as many St. Pete fans as possible. A lot of them already work in downtown Tampa so they won't have to get in a car.

I've also thought the Rays should go to Orlando for spring training. The current lease in Port Charlotte ends in 2029 though, I'm sure they could break it if they wanted to move.
 

Comeback Kid

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I've also thought the Rays should go to Orlando for spring training. The current lease in Port Charlotte ends in 2029 though, I'm sure they could break it if they wanted to move.
This would be great with the Braves leaving Orlando after 2019, but my impression is that the Grapefruit League has been making a coordinated effort to move the northernmost teams south to cut down on overall travel time.
 

DeadlySplitter

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Rays are having a press conference right now, nothing is close and the three-year window for Rays exploring a park in TB is closing.