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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 3, 2014 5 years ago

Tampa takes two of three in affordability

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The Tampa Bay Rays didn't make the Major League baseball playoffs this year, but the team did win a crown in one category: The most affordable baseball team for fans to attend games.

The Tampa Bay Rays didn't make the Major League baseball playoffs this year, but the team did win a crown in one category: The most affordable baseball team for fans to attend games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, across the bridge from the Rays, are likewise champs of affordability in the NHL.

Both top rankings come courtesy of ESPN The Magazine's Ultimate Sports Standings report. The magazine, with assistance from fans and two national research groups, ranked teams in all four North American professional sports in a host of categories, from affordability to fan relations to title track. Other categories include ownership, coaching, players, fan relations and stadium experience. The scores in the categories are weighted and evaluated on importance for a final summary ranking.

The Lightning is the top team in town, the rankings show. The team is ranked sixth overall among all 122 pro sports teams, and is in the top 35 in all eight categories. The team is also trending the right way, moving up from 30th overall last year.

The Rays, at least since 2008, have been known for being affordable, fan-friendly and a team that gets a lot of production out of a smaller payroll. The team beat out several other small-market clubs for first place in affordability, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland A's and Milwaukee Brewers. It's the fourth time in the past eight years the Rays took the No. 1 spot in affordability and the eighth straight year the team made the top three.

Yet being affordable hasn't translated to more ticket sales for the Rays. The team has posted the lowest average home attendance in the Majors for the past three years. Part of that stems from well-known issues the team has with its home stadium, Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg.

The Tampa laggard in ESPN's Ultimate Sports Standings report is the NFL's Buccaneers — the team that traditionally garners the most fan and media attention. The Buccaneers scored an overall ranking of 84. Its lowest scores are in fan relations, bang for the buck and players.

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