The Tampa Bay Rays are an exciting ballclub. From having one of the top prospects in baseball with Wil Myers to the energy of Yunel Escobar and Chris Archer to the superstars in Evan Longoria and David Price, the Rays have all the makings of a team that most markets would have to watch. Being a perennial contender should certainly help to draw the crowds as well. Yet, in the case of the Rays, that just has not happened.
Certainly, there have been problems for the Rays, almost from their start. Tropicana Field was outdated before it even opened it’s doors for the first Rays game, and is located in an area that is fairly inconvenient. It seems quite evident that the Rays have needed a new stadium for some time, yet the city of St. Petersburg has refused to budge, forcing the Rays to oblige by their 30 year lease that will not run out until 2027. Given the potential impact that having a team with a lot more payroll flexibility could bring to the region as fans may travel to the area and spend money there, it would seemingly make sense. However, that has yet to happen.
Now, Bud Selig, whose patience was already frayed by the stalemate, has seemingly been pushed to the edge. He even made what appears to be a thinly veiled threat that the Rays may need to relocate if something is not done – and done quickly.
“It is beyond disappointing,” Selig said Tuesday afternoon. “You can not ask a franchise to continue, when they have been so competitive and really, really done a marvelous job, in a situation that is economically not tolerable.”
Selig further stated that the Rays lack of attendance is “very disappointing and very worrisome” and that their attendance figures “…may have been okay in 1956, but it’s not okay today.” The most frustrating part of this is that Selig is very likely correct. Eventually, the Rays will probably need the cash infusion that a new stadium, located in a more accessible region, would provide.
Naturally, the people of Florida may be a bit gun shy about financing another new stadium, after the debacle that was the Miami Marlins cash grab in 2012. Yet, all that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria seeming have in common is that they both own baseball teams in Florida. Sternberg wants to build a winner, while Loria seems as though he wants nothing more in life than to swim around in a giant vault of money Scrooge McDuck style.
The Rays stadium issue may be about to come to a critical point. Hopefully the Rays will be able to remain in Tampa, but based off what Selig has said, he almost seems resigned to the idea that the Rays will end up having to move locations.