ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are looking
for ways to broaden fan support, including the possibility of
shifting a three-game series against the Texas Rangers from
Tropicana Field to Disney World next season.
The perennial last-place team ranked 29th among 30 teams in
attendance last season, and one of principal owner Stuart
Sternberg's priorities since taking control of the team last winter
has been increasing the club's exposure in Florida.
Discussions are under way to move the May 15-17 series against
the Rangers from St. Petersburg to Kissimmee, where the Atlanta
Braves conduct spring training at Disney's Wide World of Sports
"It's part of our effort to make the team a regional
franchise," Devil Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said, declining
The plan has received approval from the commissioner's office,
the player's association, the umpire's union and the Rangers, who
traditionally have not drawn well on visits to Tropicana Field.
Permission is still pending from the Florida State League and
the Class A Lakeland Flying Tigers minor league club.
Texas spokesman Gregg Elkin confirmed the Devil Rays approached
the Rangers about the prospect of playing the May series at Disney.
"We are supportive of anything that puts more baseball fans in
seats and spreads the popularity of the game," Elkin said.
The Devil Rays drew 1,371,920 for 81 home games in 2006, up
about 18 percent from the previous season. Six home dates against
the Rangers attracted 49,445, an average of 8,241 per game, with
crowds ranging from 7,147 to 9,701.
The stadium at Disney, which also hosted first-round games in
the inaugural World Baseball Classic last March, seats about 9,500.
Outfield berm seating boosts capacity to more than 11,000.
Shifting the May games to Disney is just part of the team's
effort to expand its fan base. The club also plans to move its
spring training home from St. Petersburg to Port Charlotte in 2009.