ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WWSB) – Another Major League Baseball season is underway at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and some fans wonder how many seasons will be left for the Tampa Bay Rays in Pinellas County.
There have been reports about the Rays moving to Ybor City near downtown Tampa, and whispers about the team relocating to Montreal.
The team averaged 30,000 fans per game in the first year in 1998, but the past three seasons have been about 15,000–among the worst in the league.
Team President Matt Silverman hopes Suncoast fans can fill more seats.
"We are a regional team and Sarasota/Manatee is so close. In fact, many parts of it are closer than Tampa. When we look at our fan base, we look at the entire Tampa Bay region, including Sarasota/Manatee, and we think if we can draw crowds from all around we’re going to be more successful," Silverman said.
Silverman also mentioned the Suncoast being in the middle of the Rays fan base, in light of the team’s move to Charlotte County for Spring Training ten years ago.
"When we moved to Port Charlotte, we felt it expanded our boundary and it made Sarasota/Manatee closer because you see that the boundary is so far down the south, it really encapsulates that part of the coast. And so we look at the whole west coast of Florida as our fan base, and we’re going to sit there and cultivate it, and make sure it’s going to be Rays Nation for a long time," he said.
Among the changes this year–an enhanced food court, and an outdoor recreation area beyond the outfield pavilion.