The Tampa Bay Rays have eliminated at least one excuse fans give for not attending games at Tropicana Field.
According to ESPN the Magazine’s Ultimate Standings, the Rays rank first among 122 professional teams in ticket price affordability.
The Rays are also ranked second in affordability among each professional team and fifth in ESPN’s "Bang for the Buck" category (first among all 30 major league baseball teams).
"We’ve worked really hard to make sure it’s not only affordable, but when you get here, you have a great experience," Rays Senior Vice President Mark Fernandez said.
It marks the fifth consecutive year the Rays have ranked in the top three of ESPN’s affordable category.
The Rays have tried to attract fans through their concert series, T-shirt giveaways and Family Fun Days, a special Sunday package which features tickets, voucher for a hot dog, snack, and soft drink. Fans are also allowed on the field after games on certain promotional nights.
Despite having 39 home games throughout the week with ticket prices starting at $9, getting fans to attend Rays games remains a problem.
The Rays are ranked 29th (second to last) in baseball attendance this season and struggle each year to have fans attend games. The Rays had 26,761 fans in attendance for their series finale against the Florida Marlins on Sunday, but Tampa Bay’s average attendance is 18,484. The Rays had 15,708 fans last Friday against Florida.
"You kind of become immune to all that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You don’t really react to it like maybe you did right after the World Series. In 2009, it bothered us a lot to see an empty ballpark. I think now we’re used to it.
"It doesn’t surprise us when you play the Red Sox now and it’s not sold out, or the Yankees and it’s not sold out. We just go out and play our game and not worry about it."
Fernandez said his marketing department is not discouraged by low fan attendance and the Rays still plan to have several promotions this year, including The Wiggles in concert July 3, to attract more spectators.
"If we had among the higher prices, it would make all the sense in the world that we’re not getting people to the ballpark," Maddon said. "The fact we’re pricing it right and they’re still not showing up, it indicates we’re doing everything we possibly can to get them to the ballpark."
The Tampa Bay Lighting are ranked second overall in ESPN’s measurement of how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to the fans in exchange for the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them. The Lightning are ranked behind the Green Bay Packers, which jumped from No. 9 to No. 1 on this year’s list.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ranked 59th overall on the Ultimate Standings list, but ranked 104th out of 122 teams in the "fan relations" category.