With the newly renamed Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays traditionally ranking near the bottom of Major League Baseball in attendance, the Florida franchises are taking steps to try to lure more fans.
The Marlins, rebranded last week with the city name after 19 years as the Florida Marlins, are making the highest-profile move with the April opening of their new $2.4 billion stadium on the site of the old Orange Bowl in Miami.
The team also hired manager Ozzie Guillen away from the Chicago White Sox and plan on spending big money on free-agent acquisitions in the off-season as they try to attract season-ticket holders to the new ballpark.
Marlins president David Samson told the Miami Herald last week that he expects the team to draw 30,000 to 35,000 per game at the 37,000-seat, air-conditioned, retractable-roof ballpark. Last season, the Marlins were 28th in attendance among the 30 Major League Baseball teams, with18,942 attendees per game.
Individual tickets for the 2012 season won’t go on sale until February, but season tickets are already available with prices ranging from $13 to $81 per seat.
At Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, where the Rays’ success on the field hasn’t been matched at the gate, the team announced it will freeze prices for 90 percent of their 2012 tickets. The team also will lower prices in some sections and make small increases for select marquee games.
Tampa Bay has reached the postseason in three of the past four years, yet is next-to-last in MLB attendance at 18,879 attendees per game. (Only the Oakland Athletics were worse.)
The Rays will stick with their four-tiered system of pricing (Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver games). Upper deck prices for Silver games (weekday, non-Yankees or Red Sox) will drop to $9 each. Lower box and outfield seats will see $1 to $2 increases for a select number of games.
“[O]ur ticket prices have remained among the most affordable in all of professional sports,” team president Matt Silverman said in a statement announcing the changes. “Our ticket options for 2012 will again be aimed at making the ballpark experience affordable for families.”
The Rays had an average ticket price last season of $19.42, the ninth-lowest in MLB. In an effort to attract more fans, the team will change their weeknight start time from 6:40 p.m. to 7:10 p.m., and they will also continue to allow fans to bring food and select drinks into Tropicana Field.
Additionally, team officials decided to continue offering free parking for carpools of four people or more.
Despite a World Series appearance in 2008, an American League East title in 2010 and a historic rally to make the playoffs this past season, attendance continues to be a problem at the Trop.
For example, the Rays have been forced to use tarps to cover empty seats in the upper deck, which has limited capacity to about 36,000. But the tactic still didn’t help the team produce a sell-out for its American League Divisional Series games last month.
The Rays abandoned plans for a $450 million waterfront stadium in St. Petersburg in recent years when the project couldn’t gain enough public support.