It had been a stalemate for seemingly years. The Tampa Bay Rays have had troubles drawing fans, partly due to the location of Tropicana Field and perhaps because of the stadium itself. Yet, despite Bud Selig referring to the Rays stadium situation as ‘unsustainable,’ St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster had refused to negotiate with the Rays, and was seemingly intent on holding them to their thirty year lease at that Trop.
Now, less than a month after Selig hinted at the possibility of the Rays having to relocate, it seems as though Foster may have changed his mind. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Monday, Foster stated that he may be open to the idea of the Rays moving to Tampa.
“If your goal is keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa Bay until 2050, you have to let them look in Tampa,” Foster said.
Foster being open to the idea of letting the Rays move to Tampa, or at least explore the possibility, is certainly a shift in thinking. Perhaps this, as the article suggested, signals that the Rays and Major League Baseball have come to some sort of settlement with Foster and St. Pete to allow the Rays to move if need be. Or, perhaps Foster realized that allowing the Rays to potentially have a new stadium in the area, that the entire region would benefit. Jobs could be created, businesses may see increased profits as more people would be able to get to a stadium that is easier to access, and, potentially, increased revenue for the cities involved.
For much of this process, it seemed as though Foster was concerned more with maximizing St. Petersburg’s return on their investment, which is certainly his right as mayor. However, by allowing the Rays to look around for a spot to build a new stadium, that could allow the entire region to benefit, including St. Pete.
It may be a small step, but allowing the Rays to explore other possible locations for a stadium in the Tampa area is likely the first step to ensuring that baseball remains in the Tampa-St. Pete region for the foreseeable future.