Tampa Bay sports attendance and the Tampa Bay Lightning

I read the op-ed letters to the editor at the St. Pete Tampa Bay Times on a daily basis. It's part of my morning routine, and has been for quite a while.

One of the things about letters to the editor, however, is that opinion is often stated as fact. Sometimes, those perceived facts are just assumptions by the writers, others are subjective truths, while others go so far as painting falsehoods as iron-clad facts; "Truthiness" seems next to Godliness. But I digress.

On Sunday morning, in a letter regarding the Tampa Bay Rays and attendance issues, a letter writer made the broad assertion that attendance was down for all three local pro-sport teams...

...Which is a factual error when speaking of the pro-sports team residing at 401 Channelside Drive. The numbers are out there, clear as day, for the public to see for themselves, on ESPN.com (one of few times I can boast about ESPN and hockey): The Tampa Bay Lightning are averaging 18,631 per game in 2011-12, 97% of arena capacity. That's up from 17,268 last season and 15,497 in 2009-10.

That's a clear upward trend. Much like there was a clear downward trend for the Bolts when OK Hockey took over the team in 2008.

What's more? It's not just more butts in seats at Times Palace. There are more eyes following the Lightning on Sun Sports. Sports Business Daily reported today that TV ratings for Lightning games on Sun Sports are up two-thirds (66.7%) over last season, the 3rd biggest increase in the NHL. All this is for a team that's struggling in the standings.

The Tampa Bay Rays struggle at the gate, and those issues with the team, attendance, Tropicana Field and what not are best discussed over at Draysbay. The Bucs attendance woes are clear, with games routinely being blacked out because of Raymond James Stadium not selling out, and the product on field being inconsistent at best. If you'd like to argue about the Buccaneers and their business woes, head over to Bucs Nation.

But for the sake of saying so, the Tampa Bay Lightning aren't struggling to capture the public's interest again. They're not a good example of how the local economy is limiting fan interest in the local sport teams. While the Rays and Bucs struggle for different reasons, the Lightning are currently thriving.