With low attendance numbers, can Rays survive? - FOX 13 News

With low attendance numbers, can Rays survive?

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig criticized the Rays' attendance and Tropicana Field, meeting with reporters during the All Star break in New York. Selig plans to engage Rays' principal owner Stu Sternberg in more talks about a new stadium after this season.

Right now, the Rays stand 2 1/2 games behind the AL East leading Red Sox. Tampa Bay made the run they expected heading into the All Star break, and hopes are high for a playoff run the second half of the season.

Bay area fans support the Rays -- but from a distance.

Most Rays fans only attend a few home games a season at the Trop. Rays home attendance ranked last in the league last season.

This season, with the average crowd under 18,000 fans, Rays attendance ranks 2nd to last, 29th overall. Miami attendance ranks last.

Rays fan Cornelius Seay admits he likes to stay home and watch the rays on TV. He'd like to see attendance improve.

"It is disappointing at times and I can only look at me 'cause I'm one of those that like to sit in front of my TV. We should have better fan support," he says.

Retired umpire Jim McKean lives in St. Petersburg. He loves baseball in his hometown, but McKean tells me he does not think the Rays will survive in this market, not even with a new stadium.

"It looks like we might lose this ball club and if we lose, that's gonna hurt me and when you lose it you don't get it back. I just don't think we're a major league area. I mean, all our sports are struggling. So, I'm really not sure, Chris, I wish I could say 'yes' but I honestly don't think it'll work," he says.

One of the Rays' founding fathers, Jack Critchfield, hopes a mid-Pinellas County location for a new Rays stadium and television ratings will translate into more fans in the stands.

"It's been disappointing. When we put the team together, the forecast was that we would average somewhere between 25 and 26 thousand, and the potential is there," Critchfield said. "But I think the geography works against it, and I'm not sure the stadium location has a whole lot to do with it. I think it's a matter of maturity of fans' interest and the economy certainly hasn't helped anything right now. But I'm encouraged that it's going to get better. I really think it will."

With the Rays poised to make a run, attendance should climb in the standings too.

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