Hillsborough official: Screw the lease, I’m gonna talk to Rays

Any talk of a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium outside of St. Petersburg has so far been stymied by that little clause in the team’s lease that prohibits them from, you know, talking to any cities outside of St. Petersburg, plus St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster’s commitment to enforcing the lease to the letter. Enter Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who yesterday declared that he would damn the lease clause, full speed ahead on stadium-war rhetoric:

“I’m willing to be the boyfriend that causes the divorce,” he told the Tampa Bay Times…

“I’m just beyond frustrated at the lack of progress regarding the Rays’ long-term future in the Tampa Bay region,” Hagan said. “For me, just sitting by idly and hoping issues will work themselves out is counterproductive.”

In coming weeks, Hagan said he will ask county attorneys to opine on whether Hillsborough can engage in direct talks with the Rays about their future in the region despite the team’s lease at Tropicana Field. If he gets a favorable response, he said he will reach out to the team to figure out what the Rays want and how local government can help.

Foster responded with a characteristically snippy statement (“We’ll just chalk it up to Mr. Hagan having a bad day”), and even St. Petersburg city council chair Leslie Curran, who backs opening up Rays stadium talks, called Hagan’s statement “kind of crazy.” Barring county attorneys finding some out clause in the lease that the Rays’ lawyers haven’t been able to, this looks like an attempt by Hagan to position himself as the white knight willing to throw money at the Rays when nobody has to provide a solution to the Rays’ stadium problem, while keeping alive talk of a stadium in Hillsborough County. Cue the bloggers in three, two…


10 comments on “Hillsborough official: Screw the lease, I’m gonna talk to Rays

  1. I think Tampa Bay really does deserve a new stadium. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about Tropicana that I think are believable. The Rays need to foot most of the bill though, if not all. Quit making communities pay. Either pay your players less, or build a stadium you can afford.

    This isn’t as ridiculous as the Billion Dollar Dome in Minnesota though. That crap needs to be stopped.

  2. Deserve? They only ‘Deserve’ a stadium in the same way that i ‘deserve’ a new car: if I go out and spend my own money on it and take responsibility for the payments.

    Vapid, blue-collar douchebags like Hagan are only stoking the flames of a non-existent fire.

    So we shovel all even MORE cash (dont forget the existing debt/taxes and prior renovation costs) on a brand new stadium and….what then? They maybe win a World Series? Big deal – that is worthless to the citizens of this city and state. All it truly does is drive up the value of the team when Sternberg decides to sell it for a fat profit. And there’s no guarantee even of a championship team – witness the lousy stewardship of the Bucs.

    You baseball fans who want a new stadium, then you should get to pay the huge ticket prices. Stop robbing the rest of us.

  3. It never used to cost more than $200 million to get a new ballpark. Then, as soon as the dummies started eagerly giving tax money to the teams to build these arenas, the costs skyrocketed.

    Tampa Bay should have a better ballpark. This actually isn’t a frivolous project. However, it needs to get done with THEIR money. This time, and this time only, I wouldn’t mind if the state gave a reasonable amount of money to the team to get it done, but the cost of the stadium shouldn’t be ridiculous.

  4. There are a few times here and there where I don’t think publicly subsidized venues are evil. In 99.9% the cases they’re arenas that can be used for more than half the year. Even then I think the teams that use them should foot a good portion of the bill.

    This isn’t one. The Trop sucks, but the Rays knew that back in 96 when they had taxpayers spend 100 mil to refurbish a 6 year old ball park.

    Unless the Rays are paying the majority of the cost, they can forget it.

  5. “It never used to cost more than $200 million to get a new ballpark. Then, as soon as the dummies started eagerly giving tax money to the teams to build these arenas, the costs skyrocketed.”

    In a world where the “dummies” are too often too eager to give you whatever you want if you’re a sports team owner, no reason why you shouldn’t keep asking for more. It’s also an unfortunate part of private vs public. The football stadiums in Baltimore and DC were built about the same time. If I remember correctly, the cost for Baltimore’s (public) was in the neighborhood of $100 million more than Washington’s (mostly private).

  6. Keith:

    FedEx Field (DC) opened in 1997 and cost $363 million in 2012 dollars ($250.5 million in 1997).

    MT&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore) opened in 1998 and cost $314 in 2012 dollars ($220 million in 1998).

    It’s a crappy comparison though, since FedEx Field opened with 91,700 seats, while MT&T Bank Stadium only held 68,400 when opened.

  7. Son of a gun, I thought the Redskins were still playing in RFK!!! I didn’t realize that they got a new stadium in 97! Crazy.

  8. Nope. No one but DC United is still playing in RFK (and they want out badly). I had the “pleasure” of visiting RFK last week for the first time and I’m glad I did. It’s the first stadium that’s ever made Candlestick Park and the Oakland Coliseum feel like luxuries. RFK is in BAD shape. Beyond its inherent design deficiencies, it has not been well cared for or updated in the slightest. I mean the seats are still made of wood, the pipes look like they leak more water than they transport, and dirty doesn’t begin to describe it.

  9. Hmmm. Could’ve sworn that costs for FedEx vs WhateverThey’reCallingItThisYear were significantly different. Must’ve been thinking of the cost to the public. All of $220M vs $70M for FedEx.

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