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Ghost Town

The first-place, AL pennant-holding Tampa Bay Rays set a new low attendance record on Monday

August 17, 2021

On Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays took to the Trop with a three-and-a-half-game lead in the AL East. It was the team’s first home game since August 4th and would end up being their 72 win of the season, but unfortunately no one was there to see it. Don’t take our word for it, though. Here was the scene during the fourth inning of the late-season divisional showdown on Monday:

That might look bad, but trust us, the actual numbers are even worse. Franchise record-setting, in fact.

This wasn’t a day game or the second seven-inning tilt of a doubleheader. It was a typical 7:10 p.m. first pitch with no weather issues because, you know, THE RAYS PLAY IN A DOME. There were no COVID restrictions either because, you know, THE RAYS PLAY IN FLORIDA. And still, with the team in contention for the second straight season—a rarity given the Rays’ sell-at-peak model—they could only fill around 12% of Tropicana Field’s 42,735 seats.

Obviously COVID does play a role. Case loads aren’t exactly great in Florida right now, and some may decide that one of 162 regular-season baseball games (especially one against the Orioles) isn’t worth the risk. You could also make a case for it being overall sports fatigue—Tampa Bay has won two Stanley Cups and a Super Bowl in the past 12 months—but you would think that success would have a galvanizing effect. Whatever the reason, this is not an aberration for the Rays. In 2020, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg roasted his own fanbase, saying they don’t have to worry about social distancing because no one comes to the games. Rumors of a timeshare with Montreal have swirled for years. This is just business as usual in Tampa … for however long it lasts.