When the Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined the league in 1998 in a neglected sports complex, sporting a lineup including Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff, and a team logo reminiscent of an old Nintendo cartridge, it all seemed like a hilarious straight-to-DVD movie. Instead, they went straight to last place for several years.
Now called the Rays and with a sharp new logo, the team is consistently competitive and still one of the most affordable park experiences in baseball, with a Fan Cost Index of $139.68 -- fifth lowest.
"The biggest factor is the importance that we place on being a leading source of family entertainment in the Tampa Bay region," says Brian Richeson, vice president, sales and service. "Our fans have become accustomed to seeing a very exciting brand of baseball, and this year is no different."
Richeson cites a significant reliance on fan feedback to improve the park experience, resulting in tickets starting at $9, an all-you-can-drink soda special and a pregame $3 Budweiser Happy Hour. Sundays offer The St. Petersburg Times Family Fun Days, which Richeson says is very popular, providing a lower-level ticket, hot dog, soda and snack for $22.
Despite team performance and attractive pricing, the Rays still struggle with an attendance in the bottom 30 percent of baseball, and The Tampa Tribune reported that the once-strong TV ratings are down by more than 30 percent. With plans for a new stadium stuck in limbo, someone should really call Wade Boggs about that movie script.