Mitch Perry Report for 5.29.15 — Rays stadium situation in St. Pete needs to change soon


The St. Peteresburg City Council huddled for more than hours Thursday to settle … absolutely nothing regarding the impasse with the Tampa Bay Rays and the stadium situation. For a blow-by-blow account, check out my colleague Janelle Irwin’s account.

While the Rays and the Council battle against each other, I’m going to take a look at one of the real culprits in this saga: baseball fans in the Tampa Bay area, or the lack of them.

Depending on what happens tonight in Madison Square Garden, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season may be over by Saturday, or extended for another couple of weeks. If they do defeat the New York Rangers in the Eastern Finals in the NHL Playoffs, apologists for local baseball fans will have another flimsy excuse to use about why the Rays home attendance continues to be the embarrassment of Major League Baseball.

In the past week, articles in both local dailies referenced the Lightning’s deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring as (yet another) factor in why the Rays desultory attendance is even lower this season than last year, when they again placed at the bottom of the 30 teams playing in MLB.

I would say with all due respect, arguing why the Rays are drawing only about 15,000 vs. 18,000 a game is somewhat of an exercise in futility.

It is true that the intensity of the NHL (and NBA) playoffs is more compelling to watch in late May than the day-to-day ups and down of the regular baseball season schedule. That’s an indictment of the game itself, which definitely has issues of its own (attendance notwithstanding). I mean, when one of the mandates that the new commissioner is intent on pursuing this year is the length of the games themselves, you’ve got some problems in terms of competing for people’s attention spans in comparison to the other major sports in this country.

I was at Tropicana Field last Friday night to watch the Rays host the Oakland A’s. It was a very intimate crowd, announced at a little more than 12,000. An excuse I heard that evening was that it was a holiday weekend, and thus a lot of people were out of town.


In most cities in America, a holiday weekend is a reason why ballparks fill up, not slim down. Let’s be honest: The baseball fans in town just aren’t very good. As a recent letter to the editor at The Tampa Tribune from a St. Pete resident wrote last week, people do come far and wide in the Tampa Bay area to go to the beach, Taste of Pinellas, Ribfest and the St. Pete Grand Prix. “They just won’t do it for baseball,” Tim Smith wrote. He went on to write that he had recently been in Atlanta and heard fans made the drive from Alabama, the Carolinas, North Florida and Tennessee to attend Braves games there. I believe that.

The Rays are averaging 14,650.

There are a lot of other problems going on here, but it’s starting to feel like we’ve got a lame-duck situation that’s going to last another 12 years, which is untenable. No, things may not be extremely urgent, but attendance is getting worse in St. Petersburg. Why would anything, short of a serious run at the World Series, change this narrative?

In other news …

A new national poll shows that although Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are part of a five-man tie in the early goings of the GOP presidential field, a closer look reveals Rubio is in a better situation than Jeb in the late spring of 2015.

• • •

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had a tough time in 2013-14 trying to figure out a way to elect a Democrat in Pinellas County’s CD13 seat. An initial attack on David Jolly earlier on Thursday ended up backfiring later in the day.

• • •

And who says that the investor-owned utilities in Florida aren’t offering solar power to their customers?

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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