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Thursday, March 3, 2011
Even Yankees can't draw crowds in Tampa

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

A frequent topic last year was the attendance problems the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were having.

They didn’t sell out Raymond James Stadium a single time last season and all their home games were blocked out on local television. Attendance really didn’t get much better as the Bucs were putting an exciting young team on the field and going 10-6 after a 3-13 season in 2009.

I’ve cited the economy as a factor in all this many times. There are other factors as well, but, more than ever, I think the economy is the biggest one of all. That was reinforced Wednesday as I took the rare opportunity to go out and watch a sporting event as a fan.

My good friend and ESPN colleague Sal Paolantonio is down here visiting his family and we decided to meet up and swing out to watch the New York Yankees play a spring training game at Legends Field. For the record, they were hosting the Houston Astros and it was a gorgeous day with the temperature right around 80 degrees.

I was more than a little shocked to see that Legends Field was not sold out. Heck, it wasn’t even close to being sold out. The official box score listed attendance at 8,838, at a venue that can hold several thousand more. I’m not questioning the Yankees 'accounting methods, but it seemed like their number might have been a little high because there were a lot of empty seats.

It didn’t used to be this way. Historically, the Yankees have been a tough ticket to get for spring training in Tampa. That’s obviously not the case anymore.

I think the fact the Yankees, one of the marquee franchises in all of sports, can’t draw huge crowds in Tampa says a lot about the Bucs’ situation. Tampa has been hit harder than most places by economic problems.

If the Yankees can’t draw big crowds here, I don’t see things changing quickly for the Bucs.