Still more news in the brewing battle over the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, which is looking increasingly like a standoff between ownership and the team’s municipal landlords:
- St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster backed away ever so slightly from his insistence on the Rays remaining in his city, writing to the team yesterday that he’d consider “any potential stadium site in St. Petersburg or the Gateway,”, which would seem to be a backhanded endorsement of the Toytown site just north of St. Pete.
- At the same time, Foster is putting together a legal team to block any Rays move, saying, “The moment they sit down with anyone else, any other party in any other city, that is a violation” of the team’s lease on Tropicana Field, which runs through 2027.
- The Tampa Tribune runs down the list of non-Tampa-Bay relocation targets, and find that there isn’t much going on there, stadium-wise. (I did a similar list for Baseball Prospectus the other day.) Best quote comes from Bexar County, Texas official Michael Sculley, who says of his city having chosen to issue bonds for a performing arts center and 13 amateur sports facilities instead of an MLB stadium: “We really achieved more with 21 projects than providing an (baseball) owner with a new facility.” Which may or may not be true, but it certainly is a good explication of opportunity cost.
- Tampa Tribune columnist Martin Fennelly writes that the Rays don’t deserve public money unless they trade for more pitching.
- Rays fans mostly say they’d go to more games if the team plays closer to where they live, and fewer if it plays farther, which is a dog bites man story if there ever was one.
- WFTS-TV’s website reports that “Rays fans say they want organization and cooperation” among the region’s cities and counties to cut a stadium deal. Only “fans” cited: The director of the Tampa Sports Authority, and the co-founder of BuildItDowntownTampa.org. Hmmmm.
In any case, the only ones whose positions matter much here are the Rays and Foster (and the St. Petersburg city council), since that stadium lease needs to be resolved in one way or another before anyone can start talking about new stadium — or how to pay for them, an even stickier question that so far hasn’t been broached at all. TV reporter and stadium blogger Noah Pransky sums up the current media battle nicely:
A NY millionaire flies down and says, “I know you’re paying tens of millions of dollars a year for the right to host my (for-profit) business, and I know you still have many more millions to pay…and even though I agreed to stay for 17 more years….I decided it’s only going to be 5-10…and I expect you to start paying a lot more money after that.”
And somehow we think the bad guy is the Mayor of St Pete, looking out for his taxpayers’ investment?