Why Was Attendance so Low at the Rays Wildcard Games?

Game 1 of the AL Wildcard Series between the visiting Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays drew a crowd of 19,704 - the lowest in a postseason MLB game since 1919. Game 2 of the series was not much better, drawing 20,198. The Rays fell short in both games and have been eliminated from the 2023 postseason.

If you want to hear a breakdown of the series and why sports aren't all bad in Tampa, check out the podcast below. Brandon had his weekly Tampa report with Zac Blobner - host of the Jay and Z show on 95.3 WDAE in Tampa.

Let's cut to the chase. Even after a historic season where Tampa Bay won 99 games, why was the attendance for these postseason contest so low?

1) The Rays ranked close to the bottom in the MLB for average attendance per game this regular season.

A small crowd at Tropicana field shouldn't come as a surprise based on the regular season. The Rays averaged 17,781 fans per home game this season, ranking 27th of 30 teams.

2) The Trop, home of the "Tampa Bay Rays" is located in St. Petersburg, FL

This is a well known fact by now. Sports fans in Tampa have complained about this issue for years on end now. Not only is the Tropicana Field the only ballpark in the league with a fixed dome roof, but it also isn't located in the city it is promoted. Fans took to social media to complain about the location of the stadium throughout the series.

Regardless, reports emerged weeks ago that the Rays would begin to build a new ballpark for the Rays right there in St. Pete, opposed to moving across the W. Howard Franklin Williams bridge to Tampa.

3) 3 p.m. first pitch on a Tuesday and a Wednesday

I am genuinely confused, why are the MLB Playoffs so rushed? At least the wildcard round. Four wildcard games were played throughout the day on Tuesday and Wednesday. I understand, TV Networks don't want to avoid stacking numerous playoff games being played at the same time. Makes total sense. But, why does that mean that the team in the eastern time zone gets stuck with a start time in the middle of a workday? Why can't the wildcard round stretch over a period of 4-6 days, instead of 2-3? These are all questions I have that I don't know if we will ever get an answer to. On the contrary, the Minnesota Twins showed that a ballpark can be packed for a ballgame during the Monday through Friday workday. The Twins hosted the Toronto Blue Jays for the same wildcard series resulting in a 2-0 Twins sweep. The games began at 3:30 central time, and Target Field was filled with a near sold out crowd close to 40,000 both games.

The MLB is doing the league a disservice by having playoff games played any time between 9-5 on a Monday through Friday. Less fans, less viewers, less advertising, etc.

Fans can point to all of these reasons, along with others, to explain why the crowd was minimal this week at the Trop. Likewise, the lack of fans may correlate to the Rays scoring just one run in two home playoff games and losing the series. For full thoughts and analysis, take a listen to the podcast below where Brandon and I break it down.

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