Apparently the Paper of Record isn’t what it used to be: It took two days after Tampa Bay Devil Rays owner Stuart Sternberg told the New York Times that Tropicana Field “wasn’t built to last 30 to 40 years” and “has a shelf life of five years” before it blew up into a media frenzy back in Tampa Bay. One local columnist is predicting a new stadium by 2014; Sternberg, meanwhile, backed away slightly from his implied timetable, noting that he’s put about $17 million in improvements into the Trop since buying the team last winter:
“A lot of it was necessary to be there for five to 10 years. If I thought we would be leaving in four or five years we wouldn’t have done it. We’ve been told it’s going to really get expensive to maintain this place as years go by. The facility has to last at least five years, and it certainly will but not until, say, 2020 to pick a year.”
A more relevant year to pick might by 2027, which is the year the Rays’ lease runs through – and if you recall the contraction debates of a few years back, you’ll remember that the Rays have an especially iron-clad contract, not to mention a state that’s historically quick to litigate if it thinks it’s being threatened with loss of a team. (That’s how the D-Rays came into existence in the first place, after MLB blocked the San Francisco Giants from moving to Tampa Bay, and Florida threatened an antitrust lawsuit.) Without a viable move threat, Sternberg is going to need to come up with other arguments if he wants taxpayer money for any new digs – it’s probably only a matter of time before the phone starts ringing at the ERA offices.