As baseball season returns to the Bay area, many are holding their breath to see what will happen with new owner Stuart Sternberg at the helm of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Since the Devil Rays’ inception, the team has struggled to survive in a particularly tough division and has had problems galvanizing local fans. The same can be said for other local franchises with poor records.
The Tampa Bay Lightning spent years as the bottom-feeders of the National Hockey League. Under new ownership and coaching, Lightning officials were able to turn things around with a Stanley Cup-winning team and a successful public relations campaign. After the Glazers took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, similar results followed.
For the Devil Rays’ new owners, pitching to the locals to get more people in the stands may work in the short term, but getting the support of the youth may be the key to resurrecting the franchise and keeping fan support through the losing streaks that have predominated the Rays’ seasons.
Tropicana Field was sold out for opening day and boasted the second largest attendance since the first Devil Rays game was played in 1998. The management would be wise to appeal to the massive student population that encompasses the four USF campuses. Tropicana Field is a relatively short drive from the Tampa campus and is a stone’s throw away from the St. Petersburg campus.
Under the ownership of Vince Naimoli, the stadium held college nights, during which seats in the beach section were only $3. This attracted a decent amount of students to the field, but not enough public relations and marketing was done in the USF area to appeal to more students. How can students be expected to go if they don’t know about it?
Under new management, it is not certain whether college night will continue, but according to a member at the ticketing office, it is likely. Two-for-two Tuesdays for outfield seats is also a deal priced for students. But where is the marketing? Purchasing ads in local media outlets may be the key to making the Devil Rays a winner. The image the team is trying to portray is one of youth and rebirth. Getting the youth in the stands will reinforce that image.