Over the last several years, home games of the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s have been the least attended in all of Major League Baseball. The Rays have been ranked dead last in MLB attendance in each of the least four seasons while the A’s have been ranked in the bottom-five franchises for total and average attendance in each of the last nine seasons, and have twice finished dead last (2009, 2011).
Along with the issue of attendance, both the A’s and the Rays play in very inadequate stadiums in extremely small markets. The A’s are primarily dominated by their cross-town National League rivals the San Francisco Giants, who have won three World Series titles in the past six seasons and play in beautiful ATT Park in downtown San Fran. With the Giants dominating the baseball world in recent years and playing in a state of the art facility in a major city, it is tough for the A’s to compete with their old stadium (O.Co Coliseum) in an extremely small market on the other side of the bay.
Tampa, meanwhile, has its problems as well with being on the wrong side of a bay, as the Rays play in the city of St. Petersburg, about a 20-25 minute ride across the bay from downtown Tampa. The Rays have pushed the city of Tampa and St. Petersburg to allow the construction of a new facility in or near downtown Tampa on the other side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. However, the city of Tampa, St. Pete, and the Rays have not been able to come to any type of agreement, resulting in the Rays staying put in St. Pete for the last several seasons. The dreadful attendance numbers of the Rays can be blamed on several factors: rush hour traffic going across the bridge, the team being unable to make the playoffs in three of the last four years, and the inadequate facility. However, the main reason for the Rays being unable to succeed in terms of attendance is that the market the team is in is not sufficient enough.
With both the A’s and Rays pushing for a new stadium to be constructed in their current markets, it may not be a bad decision to try and explore other options if the city of Tampa is unwilling to assist and the city of Oakland is unable to provide assets and funds. Here are a few alternatives:
Where Would The A’s Go?
* San Jose, CA
Maybe the best option for the Oakland A’s would be to try and move just south of the Bay Area to the city of San Jose. For years, the A’s have tried to push for the city of Oakland to permit and help construct a new facility. With nothing being done to this point, it may not be a bad idea to consider other local options, with the most intriguing being the city of San Jose.
The Sharks, of the NHL, have been able to make it work playing out of HP Pavillion in San Jose for more than two decades, so adding another team would only help strengthen the interest in local sports just south of the Bay, as the city also has San Jose State University football. Having the A’s, the Sharks, and the Spartans could help make San Jose a legitimate three-team sports town.
By moving to San Jose, the A’s would basically cut off their fans in Oakland from being able to get to a game, much like the Nets (NBA) did when they moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn, New York. San Jose is about an hour ride from San Francisco and about a two-hour ride from Oakland depending on traffic. It may not be fair to the current fans the A’s have in Oakland, but San Jose is a lot better of an option than moving the A’s out of state, as CSN Bay-Area and 95.7 FM would still be well in range to broadcast games to fans all across Northern-California if a move to San Jose were to occur.
If the city of Tampa keeps being stubborn with its negotiations with the Rays, it may not be a bad move for the Rays to consider one of two options:
* Jacksonville, FL
People in today’s sports world highly underestimate the market of Jacksonville, Florida. While Jacksonville certainly does not have the TV ratings and attendance to that of the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, etc, the city’s Jaguars have been able to succeed to some degree while playing at EverBank Field, which has hosted a Super Bowl. If the NFL can make it work in Jacksonville, there is no reason Major League Baseball wouldn’t be able to.
Putting a new facility in Jacksonville for the Rays would be tough, but if the city was ever able to construct a plan to build a facility for the Rays at or near EverBank field it could be a monopoly idea. Having two teams playing in Jacksonville would allow more money to flow into the city, and if the two teams were to have neighboring stadiums similar to Philadelphia (Wells Fargo Center, Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park) or Detroit (Ford Field, Comerica Park, Red Wings’ unnamed new arena (2017)), it could help create a booming area of bars, restaurants, and other businesses that would thrive on game days.
There really are not all too many cons to consider here. The Rays fan base has never been strong, and even after a trip to the World Series (2008) and multiple other postseason appearances, the team has been unable to generate a great interest from fans. A move to Northern-Florida would certainly break a couple of hearts as it would be a 4-5 hour drive for any Tampa/St. Pete-area Rays fans to get to a game, but it would allow the Rays to play in a new facility in a city that is dying to have another professional sports team, and is still in the same state as their current home.
* The Carolinas
If the Rays were looking to completely start over and move out of state, a popular choice may be somewhere in the Carolinas, preferably the Charlotte-area.
Charlotte has been home to the NBA’s Hornets (1988-2003, 2014-present) and the Bobcats (2004-2014). Meanwhile, the city has also been home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, who have started to flourish in recent years with the emergence of quarterback Cam Newton. The addition of a baseball team to Charlotte would make the city a three-team, legitimized sports town.
Moving out of state is tough, especially to a market that is not known for its interest in the game of baseball. It would likely take years to develop a fan base in the Carolinas, but then again, it has taken years for the Rays to become the least bit relevant in Major League Baseball, and their fans and the city of Tampa have not done much to help the cause.