Years ago, a core group of St pete folks thought a MLB team would do well in St Pete, so they built a domed stadium and pleaded with MLB to add an expansion team. MLB, looking to grow at the time, granted them a franchise.
The stadium is not located in a "bad" part of town. South St Pete would have been worse, but this is pretty centrally located near the downtown area.
Personally, I think the group of local supporters just plain oversold the area as a baseball town. We do have several teams that come to the area every year for spring training - Yankees, Phillies & Blue Jays. Those games are well attended (small venues), but a lot by the "snowbirds" who are down for the winter from the home cities of the 3 teams. Spring training attendance just didn't turn out to mean a "home team" would get the same kind of attendance. Heck, even in 2008, the year they went to the World Series against the Phillies, they had trouble filling the stands. Very few games were sold out that year.
The Buccaneers, with their NFL stadium in Tampa couldn't sell out a single home game last season so all home games were blacked out on local TV. That was mostly due to the bad economy, but the economy has also hurt the Rays, so It's been a double wammy for them.
Last year the Rays even moved their spring training from St Pete, south to Port Charlotte.
What does that tell you?
Tampa/St Pete is a "small" market for all professional sports teams.
- Buccaneers (NFL)
- Rays (MLB)
- Storm (AFL)
- Lightning (NHL)
- FC Tampa Bay (NASL)
They were already struggling before the economy went sour. It's just worse now. I don't see the Rays staying in St Pete. Tampa is interested, but is trying to stay low profile so it doesn't end up being a fight between 2 cities across the bay from each other.
Time will tell.