Pride Night at Tropicana Field sets attendance record

By : Greg Stemm
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Tampa – Pride Night at the Trop held on June 12 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg set a new attendance record for the event with over 700 tickets sold, three times the number that the event has attracted in the past.

“I’m pretty sure we started this event the first year of Pride,” said Brian Longstreth, founder and prime sponsor of the annual affair. “it’s always been a good strong Pride event, but this year we forged some new relationships with organizations like Equality Florida, the Metro Center and Tampa Pride and we got our promotions out early this year which really helped boost our ticket sales.” He thinks the event has been held every year since St. Pete Pride began in 2003 with the exception of perhaps one year at the peak of the recession in 2008.

Longstreth said the $90 seats, which included both food and refreshments at the game sold out quickly and first. Several other sections with lower priced tickets in the $20-30 range also sold out. Some received a free Rays ball cap at that price and everyone attending received a free tote bag sponsored by Brighthouse Networks. Longstreth noted that Pride was able to secure sponsors for the food provided meaning that virtually the entire price of the ticket went to Pride.

Longstreth said his company, Your Neighborhood Realty, has been the prime sponsor of Pride Night since its inception. He said they normally purchase at least 50 higher priced tickets for donation. “One of our major contributions to Pride is that we buy a large block of tickets to the game and then donate them to Pride to resell as a fundraiser,” said Longstreth. “Pride can then decide what they want to do with the money. Some of it benefits the Pride organization itself and some is used in grants to other organizations.”

Pride organizers are quoted online as saying that organizations benefiting include Tampa Pride, Manatee Pride, Metro Wellness & Community Centers, and Equality Florida.

The first two pitches were from St. Pete President Scion Provenzano and Nadine Smith, director of Equality Florida.

Longstreth said that Pride approached the Rays initially right after the change in management in the early 2000s. “We figured that the group coming in was from New York and would be a little more open to diversity and what it can mean to the success of a ball club,” said Longsteth. “There was some enthusiasm from the start from the Rays, but it’s interesting how things have turned out. Matt Silverman was probably the one person most supportive then and now he’s been promoted to the decision maker so we have a pretty strong ally there.”

So is Pride making a statement by having an event like this at a baseball game that is so strongly associated with male dominated hetero-centric sports?

“Well, we really want to have an event that is first fun for those attending it, but yes, having this event demonstrates to the Rays that they have a strong LGBT fan base, particularly among lesbians,” said Longstreth. “Plus St. Pete Pride is held literally on the front steps of Tropicana Field. We are all part of the same community and it shows that diversity is good for all of us in St. Petersburg.”

Longstreth is quick to point out that the Rays have demonstrated a commitment to the LGBT community in other ways too. “For instance they were the first major league baseball team to sign on to a marriage equality brief delivered to the courts,” said Longstreth.

To top off the event, the Rays won the contest with the White Sox with a score of 7-5.

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