No one seems to want to attend Tampa Bay Buccaneers games

The last time the Bucs won a playoff game, it was their Super Bowl win — back in 2002. That might be correlated with this: in 2013, they were 29th in the NFL in home attendance; in 2012, they were 31st; in 2011, they were 30th; in 2010, they were 31st; and in 2009, they were 27th. Phrased another way, they’ve been in the bottom seven of NFL attendance for the past half-decade. Part of this is on-field performance, of course — and part of it could be the location of the stadium, which is essentially near Tampa Airport:

This post goes into a little more detail on the supposed erosion of the Buccaneer fan base, blaming it on these reasons:

  • The economy
  • Bridges burned by the Glazer family (owners) after the Super Bowl was in Tampa
  • Fair-weather fans
  • The big-screen TV generation

You could broadly probably add “Florida” to that list; the area typically has good fall seasons, and Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa Bay — admittedly, none of those three teams has been very competitive in the last couple of years — tend to all be in the bottom third for attendance. The “economy” argument makes sense in this context too; Florida was one of the worst areas in terms of the 2008 economic downturn, specifically as relates to property. I buy the “big-screen TV generation” thing to an extent, and that is something the NFL will continue to struggle with down the road. The fair-weather fandom is interesting — get this:

Yet, ironically, the Fairweathers aren’t coming either. In 2010, when Bucs posted a 10-6 record, Tampa Bay had its worst drop in attendance – only filling up Raymond James Stadium 75% of capacity per game on the year. Tampa Bay’s attendance actually improved to 86% of capacity in 2011 when the team followed up its winning season by getting off to a 4-2 start, but this season – after the collapse at the end of 2011, many of these fairweathers are taking a wait-and-see approach. Tampa Bay fans have filled the stadium 82% of capacity this season.

You could also argue that part of the problem was the team starting 0-7 in 2013.

Here’s another broader argument the NFL will struggle with going forward:

“The NFL ticket has priced itself out of the middle class,” said Lighthall, “the average ticket is 75 bucks, and you take a family of four for a three- hour event. If I’m going to pay that much I’m going to take them to Disney World, and we’re going to walk till we can’t walk anymore.”

This happens to a lot of sports, but the NFL is a bigger deal than most — and there’s a lot of stuff to do within about a three-hour drive of Tampa in any direction, so it’s a little bit different than maybe Green Bay (also, the culture of the Midwest and Florida are obviously very different as regards generations, passions, etc.)

All this said, the Bucs are about middle-of-the-pack when it comes to NFL team valuations; they’re roughly No. 17 according to Forbes.

Ted Bauer