What are we going to recall about the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays? We have to hope that the answer is “very little.” Just like 2009 was a blip on the radar as the Rays won 90 games each other season from 2009 to 2013, the Rays have to believe that we will be laughing about their aberrant 2014 struggles as they get back to winning. There is a possibility, however, that 2014 will possess a special significance when the history of the Rays is long enough to write down. The way that could happen is the progress in regards to a new Rays stadium.
John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times wrote wrote earlier this week that a rational discussion is going on between the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg the likes of which never occurred during Bill Foster’s tenure as St. Pete mayor. The Rays and the City are creating a framework to look at potential sites for a new stadium that will not begin and end with St. Pete’s strict adherence to the Tropicana Field lease that we heard about so many different times. That seems like such a minor thing–and it would be in a thousand other stadium discussions–but with that lease having been a sticking point for so long, getting past it is a major breakthrough.
The mistake of the past was then-Rays owner Vincent Naimoli agreeing with the City of St. Petersburg on a 30-year lease in a stadium that wasn’t new, wasn’t nice, and was terribly located. It is not as though Tropicana Field is a complete albatross. Tampa Bay never may have gotten baseball without it, and the Rays have done what they can to make the best of the situation. But instead of worrying about the fine print of a deal that was quickly proven to make little sense, the best thing to do is to find a solution that actually works out well for everyone. Romano mentions several stadium sites in addition to the possibility that the current Tropicana Field site could be the new home of Jabil Circuit, one of the largest businesses in the area. There does not have to be a party that loses out when the Rays move to a new location.
Nothing is certain now, but at least we can see a future where this Rays stadium issue is sorted out and all of the drama finally ends. Maybe this is another false start, the onset of another pointless effort, but suddenly there’s a chance of something better and it may be the best chance this stadium saga has seen since 2008. Maybe in a few years, we will be able to look back and say that 2014 was the turning point. If that indeed proves to be the case, that would be considerably more significant than the Rays’ down season this year.