I put up a small post about why none of us should freak out about the attendance so far this season because the Rays are actually doing better than last year in the limited sample size we have so far. Unfortunately, that did not stop most of the print and electronic media from spending today focusing on the Rays’ attendance totals so far rather than the 16-5 record the club has compiled to date which is sad. As a player, I think I would be more annoyed to see stories like that than I would not to see fans in the seats. The talk sparked quite a spirited fanpost by a frequent poster at DRaysBay that highlighted a story by John Romano which was one of the many attendance-related stories today. What most of the stories today did not discuss was how to fix the problem as most assumed things like college finals being over, K-12 schools ending soon, or the unemployment rate coming down would cure the problem over the summer. Let’s assume that the number of students doesn’t bounce back over the summer and the unemployment rate stays constant – what can the Rays do to help boost numbers through promotions and such because I refuse to believe the club wants numbers to stay like this to help fuel the fire for a new ballpark. Let’s be honest – that park is not coming any time soon in this economy unless a significant amount of private dollars show up from somewhere. Here are some ideas that could be put into place now to help boost the numbers in the seats:
- Bus service from remote locations. Escot Bus Lines announced today that they will be doing this from a few locations in the Tampa Bay area which I think is terrific. I would like to see this service expanded to other markets on the weekend, even out here to Orlando. Years ago, when Heath Shuler was still “playing” quarterback for the Redskins, Hooters organized a bus trip for Redskins fans from Casselberry to Tampa for the Bucs/Redskins games. $50 got us a game ticket, breakfast at Hooters, and free beer on the bus ride over and back until the kegs ran dry. I’d settle for $20 if the bus was dry and it picked the fans up near Disney and brought us back.
- Ticket Promotions. The Astros do this extremely well! The have Double Play Tuesdays where fans can bring 2 labels from Powerade bottles and buy outfield seats for just $2. They have Coca Cola Value nights which offer 4 hats, 4 300 level tickets, 4 hot dogs, and 4 sodas for just $65. They have price matter days that gets a 300 level seat, hot dog, soda, and chips for just $10. I got an email today where the Astros are selling 10 outfield seats for $20 – wow! it is a 10 game package where you can buy a ticket in the outfield section of the 300 level to 10 select games throughout the season for just $2 a game. That is a price point that encourages a fan to buy more than just one ticket and increases the chance someone spends on concession and/or merchandise – a loss/leader if you will. The Astros do not nearly have the product on the field the Rays have but they are certainly working hard with ticket deals to entice fans into a very nice stadium that is conveniently located downtown. I am looking forward to attending two of the games the Rays play there in May.
- Camping on the field. Over the summer, offer nights where parents can bring their kids to a game and stay after to sleep on the outfield surface. Put up a movie on the scoreboard to entertain folks after the game (works best for nights after getaway games). The surface would be affected by people setting up dome tents or even just rolling out a sleeping bag on the surface.
- Take advantage of social media. The club could send out time-limited discount codes on Twitter or Facebook to purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or to print out a coupon to bring with them to the box office. The club has an email subscription list and a way to sign up for text alerts; two other avenues that could be utilized for those not on Twitter or Facebook.
- End the same day penalty. Currently, tickets bought at the booth on gameday are more than the same tickets bought in advance. I understand the need to be able to plan ahead for staffing and concessions, but there is enough historical average to where the club should be able to forecast attendance accurately enough. If the attendance is overestimated one night, offer $1 hotdogs the next night to get rid of the overstock.
Those are just five ideas I have to address the situation rather than bitch about it. I’d be happy to sit down and talk to anyone in the front office that wants to tap into my three years of marketing experience if they’ll have me over to Tropicana Field for the discussion!