With Tampa Bay Rays ownership’s search for a solution in the news, we take a look at what is wrong with Tropicana Field and why a sister-city proposal is a viable option.
The Tampa Bay Rays are on an island when it comes to dollars-paid-per-win. Their front office executives are being poached by big-market teams around the league. You could make an argument that the Rays are the smartest team in baseball. They consistently put forth a competitive team in one of the most difficult divisions in the league. Despite being a contender, and doing well with television ratings, the fans just aren’t showing up to the ballpark.
Why won’t the fans come out to the ballpark? There are plenty of excuses, but one definitely has to do with the location of the stadium. While they may be on an island when it comes to analytics and front-office acumen, their stadium might as well be located on an island.
Here’s what Matt Trueblood of Bleacher Report had to say about Tropicana Field back in January of 2012.
Unfortunately, the Rays have the worst home park in MLB to which to draw those folks. It’s an absolute dump. It’s horribly located, poorly lit, utterly lacking in both charm and intelligent design.
In April of 2016, USA Today ran a piece ranking every stadium in Major League Baseball. Tropicana Field earned the 30th spot on the list. In a story titled, Tropicana Field: All Dome and Gloom, Joe Mock points out that despite budgetary constraints, the Rays are able to put forth a winning ballclub in the AL East, and yet…they have the worst attendance in the league. Where are the fans? Is this not America? Do we not show up for baseball, let alone a competitive baseball team?
The article discusses what many fans reading this already know, the stadium is in a terrible location. First of all, it’s about 20 miles away from the most populated segment of the Tampa Bay area. Three bridges separate Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and it’s asking a lot for the bulk of the fans to make the trek on a weekday. It can easily equate to two hours (or more) of round-trip travel time to see a three-hour baseball game.
Like other densely populated cities, traffic can be bad. It can take a while to navigate whether you are in Houston, Atlanta, New York City, or (insert name of city). What makes St. Pete different? There is no mass transit infrastructure and the population is separated by water and bridges.
In June of 2011, John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times reported at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission’s inaugural Sneaker Soiree, Rays’ owner, Stu Sternberg was asked to discuss something he learned that he was unaware of when he purchased the franchise.
“Water is a big divide.”