Could The Rays Get A New Ballpark?

By David Hill

Ground was broken on the field now known as Tropicana Field back in 1986, as the Tampa-St. Petersburg area attempted to entice a major league baseball team to relocate to the Tampa area. When the field was finished in 1990, a potential move was used as leverage by the Chicago White Sox, the San Francisco Giants, and the Seattle Mariners to receive new stadiums. Finally, after years of failed attempts to attract a team to relocate, and after a failed attempt at an expansion club in 1993, the Tampa-St. Pete area was awarded the then Devil Rays.

Almost immediately after the Rays played their initial game there, Tropicana Field came under heavy criticism. From the catwalks to the drab interior to the unprotected bullpens near the foul lines, the stadium quickly came to be considered one of the worst ballparks in the game. Looking back, it almost seems entertaining that a stadium as widely panned as Tropicana Field was considered blackmail to get new ballparks built for other teams.

Presently, The Trop is the last of the domed stadiums without a retractable roof. It is also the only stadium in baseball with it’s own set of rules used to determine the outcome of a play, as hitting different catwalks cause different results. As a result, the park is seen as being obsolete by many.

Even though the ownership of the Rays would like to get a new ball park, and people such as Bud Selig regard Tropicana Field as not being economically viable for the long-term financial health of the Rays, talks about a new ballpark appeared to have stalled indefinitely. This is partly due to the lease that the Rays are locked into runs through 2027, and that the St. Petersburg city attorney has threatened any other city that contacts the Rays about a new ballpark with a lawsuit.

However, there is a slight glimmer of hope that the theoretical Rays Ballpark, the name given to a new stadium for the Rays, may see the light of day. Officials from Hillsborough County determined that any lease between the Rays and St. Petersburg is not considered binding to their specific locale. As such, officials are interested in meeting with Rays ownership to have an open meeting about the team’s general interests and desires regarding a nwe ballpark, and whether or not they are willing to stay in the Tampa area.

While any new stadium is likely a long way from even being planned, and would likely involve a legal showdown, Rays Ballpark may have just moved a slight bit closer to becoming a reality.