ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Bay Rays held an end-of-season news conference on Monday after being swept by the Texas Rangers in the postseason.
The Rays had a hot start to the season with a 13-0 record, however their World Series hopes ended in the Wild Card round.
“We went through a lot this year,” President of Baseball Operations Erik Neander said. “We’re feeling it right now. It was a long year. It was a challenging year. To win 99 games with everything that went down over the course of the season, there’s a lot there to be proud of.”
The end to the season was also disappointing in the stands. During the Wild Card series, Tropicana Field had record-low attendance — raising concerns about fan enthusiasm, especially with a new stadium being built.
Game 1 at the Trop had the lowest attendance for a postseason game in 104 years.
“It’s pivotal,” one fan said. “As an MLB fan, my whole life, it’s pivotal. You need people there.”
Fan attendance has been a topic of conversation for years, leaving some to wonder how the team would fill up a new stadium.
“Attendance was up 30% over the regular season,” Neander said. “We had, I believe, the best home record in baseball. There’s a relationship there. We talk a lot about the course of the regular season being much more of a measuring stick than two games. I think we’re going to stick to that kind of mentality.”
Neander said the plan is to spend the offseason building up the team with hopes that more wins will continue to bring in more fans.
Fans believe the timing of those daytime playoff games didn’t help, and are optimistic that a new stadium will draw in a bigger crowd.
“I think this is a big step forward, a nice new venue,” another fan, Jim Murphy, said. “They’ve been winning and in the whole development is going to be really cool.”
The Rays will continue playing at the Trop until their lease ends in 2027, with hopes the new stadium will be completed in time for the 2028 season.