While Marc Tompkin was filling the Tampa Bay Times sports pages with news of Rays players, the main sections were loaded with articles concerning the Rays stadium dilemma. Here’s a recap of what was said.
St. Petersburg’s mayor-elect, Rick Kriseman, met with out-going mayor Bill Foster to discuss the transition of power. High on the list of subjects discussed was a new Rays stadium. After the meeting, Kriseman said that he might have changed his views on how Foster handled the stadium issue. Foster, as we know, was adamant that the Rays not leave St. Petersburg. Kriseman then sat down for a friendly chit chat with Stuart Sternberg. Nothing came out of this meeting except a lot of smiles and posturing. Both parties, though, did agree that the Rays were “a regional issue.” The translation of this: The Rays may be a regional issue, but Rick Kriseman had better not have on his resume that he let the Rays go across the bridge to Tampa without a fight.
Next up was a piece by John Romano discussing the Atlanta Braves’ potential move from downtown Atlanta and Turner Field to nearby Cobb County. The Braves lease at Turner Field, originally built for the Atlanta Olympics, is up in in 2017 and they want out. The mayor of Atlanta says that it is OK with him and he would rather demolish the stadium and turn the land into new development than build a stadium for a greedy baseball owner. Meanwhile, the potential new stadium in Cobb County is set at over $600 million with Cobb County on the hook for about $450 million in stadium costs and infrastructure. Nobody has a clue as to how the money will be raised. Translation: the mayor of Atlanta is the latest to say he doesn’t believe baseball stadiums are economic drivers and if the Braves think the Cobb County tax payers are going to pony up $450 million in new taxes for a stadium, they are not in touch with reality. That ship sailed with the Miami Marlin’s stadium fiasco. Before we overreact, there is likely more private funding happening here–how else could this make any sense?
What would be a controversy without Scott Boras? The evil agent held court at the Orlando MLB meetings and made fun of the Mets, Astros, Cubs and Rays. They just weren’t spending enough money on his overpriced clients. According to Boras, the first three teams were just stupid and the Rays were strangled by the lack of a new stadium. He indicated that maybe New Jersey would like a team that performs as well as the Rays. The spin: Boras is, as usual, just making a lot of noise. It is moderately interesting that New Jersey came up again as a potential Rays destination…but Boras lacks the power to do anything in this regard.
Bud Selig was the next to grab the mike and told everyone that he was not going to get involved in the Rays stadium negotiations. Earlier, Selig had threatened to bring the power of major league baseball down on Tampa Bay if the issue was not solved. The translation of this: Selig knows that his name is toxic to anyone except the 30 league owners and nothing good can come from him getting involved.
And lastly, the city of St. Petersburg announced that it was going to spend $1.3 million to do renovations Tropicana Field. This is city money coming from a from an escrow account. It’s not a major redo, but it will open up the outfield portion of the stadium and allow all fans to have a view of the field even if they are not in their seats. Other less obvious upgrades and repairs will be accomplished. Translation: St. Petersburg wants to make the Trop look as good as possible at the moment and continue to make nice to the Rays.
In conclusion, we are in the first few innings of what will likely be an extra inning game as the Rays stadium saga drag on. St. Petersburg is not going away easily. Tampa keeps dreaming that the team will move across the bridge. No one has a clue as to how the money for a new stadium will be raised. And lastly, we don’t know whether a new stadium is even the answer to the Rays’ attendance problems. Stay tuned for more analysis as the news comes in.