NYTimes: Intractable St. Pete mayor keeps harping on Rays “lease” like it’s some kind of binding contract

I was halfway through this New York Times piece on the plight of the poor Tampa Bay Rays owners, stuck in “an unattractive venue” with a mayor “so intent on keeping the team in St. Petersburg” that he’s actually enforcing the lease that says they’ll stay there, and boggling at how closely it hews to ownership’s contention that only a move across the bay to Tampa can save them now, when I thought to look at the byline. Of course: Belson!!!

Belson does talk to a couple of people who are skeptical about a new stadium being a panacea (including economist Philip Porter, who I’ve cited here in the past). But then there are sentence like this one: “Moving the team to Tampa would put the Rays in a downtown hub that could lead to a blossoming of restaurants and shops, an upgrade compared with Tropicana Field, which is surrounded by parking lots, highways and undistinguished neighborhoods.” Or, you know, it could not.

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8 comments on “NYTimes: Intractable St. Pete mayor keeps harping on Rays “lease” like it’s some kind of binding contract

  1. “Having the team on the east side of Tampa Bay might also draw fans from as far as Orlando.”

    So people in Tampa won’t drive to St Pete but people in Orlando will drive to Tampa? Crazy

  2. Looks like the Rayz owners are taking the same tack that the A’z are – using media outlets as mouthpieces for what they want. Obviously Belson ignored the nearby Central Ave. resturant district, he can be easily steered to ignore obvious facts (read – it could not that’s mentioned above).
    The Rayz (close to a daze, like the A’z are) customers east of St. Pete would rather stay at home and watch on tv than make the “extraordinary” effort to get in their cars and go. They are so used to driving no furthur west than Dale Mabry Blvd. for sports that going to little old St. Pete is just too much for them to do.
    There are other places where the journey to a mallpark is much more difficult and expensive than what they have to deal with.
    Since the product on the field has improved, they are using the dome as another excuse for not going.
    Since both Florida franchises started after the emergence of cable tv sports coverage there isn’t a “hard core” customer base that that attended games in the pre-tv era. It’s too easy to just stay home, Tampa/Miami mallparks won’t change that.

  3. Has anyone written an article asking why Florida fans are so crappy? They have atrocious attendance for all their local sports teams.

    They’ve never supported the Marlins (unless they happen to be playing in the World Series) and today, with a brand new stadium, they rank 15th out of 30 teams in attendance. I’m sure there are a dozen excuses as to why its so low.

    They obviously don’t love their Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

    Fans only want to support the Lightning and the Panthers if they make the playoffs and even then a long playoff run might be necessary. And even then they’ll probably have to comp or discount some tickets.

    For basketball the Heat have won a Championship in the last 10 years and been a competent team at worst during that time yet if they don’t have the best players in the league nobody wants to see them. I guess they support the Magic but let’s hold off on calling a decision on this fight until their new arena hits 5 years old and the Dwight Howard saga sorts itself out.

    Their three NFL teams have all hovered in the bottom ten of attendance (% wise) each of the last three seasons with at least one of those teams finishing in the bottom two.

    I get that with such great weather it’s easier and more enjoyable to not go to events. I live somewhere that the only game in town is a pro-sporting event and the weather sucks so maybe my view would change if I lived in Miami.

    But if those are the reasons why would anyone think that new stadia will change that? They’ve had new stadia in football, hockey, basketball and now baseball over the last 15 years and NOTHING has changed. And I’m hard pressed to believe it ever will.

  4. as stated before – tv coverage keeps potential customers at home. whether the excuse is rain, heat or the drive it’s easier and cheaper to watch at home that attending.
    folks don’t have as much disposable income these days.
    no, even with new mallparks/arenas the trend won’t change.

  5. I personally find it puzzling why living humans are called “crappy” or their actions “atrocious” because they won’t spend astronomical amounts of money and time on sports. Maybe its just a refreshing dose of perspective. I certainly don’t judge people by how much time they spend reading, playing chess, or working on cars–so why sports?

    I enjoy watching professional baseball in the stadium, but I certainly won’t dish out the $70 face value to sit somewhere near 3rd base at a Nationals game, nor would I ever consider watching any regular season game for $300+ to sit behind home plate. Nor do I feel “badly” when these seats are empty on a Tuesday night.

    These are, after all, private businesses. If they wonder why people don’t come, maybe they need to look at their own business models.

  6. I do want to note that as far as the comparison of Tampa people not wanting to go to St. Pete, but Orlando people would be willing to come to Tampa: there’s no bridge to cross in the latter movement. You’ve got to cross that friggin’ bridge over the bay to go from Tampa to St. Pete, which (and granted, I’m not from the area) I’m convinced is seen as a huge barrier. I know, we could argue that it shouldn’t be. But from what I know, traffic on it is terrible, and I’ll bet that’s keeping a lot of people from making that westward trek.

  7. In reality, Tampa-St. Pete was a relatively poor metropolitan area to begin with, and the housing collapse only made things worse. It doesn’t have a large corporate presence so season tickets and premium seats tend to be harder to move.

    Moving into a newer, smaller building with more expensive tickets is not likely to solve the problem, regardless of where it is built. They might get a slight uptick of interest in the first year or two, particularly if the team is good, but once the teams performance slips slightly or the stadium loses its shine attendance will drop. We’ve seen this already with the Buccaneers.

    Baseball is way too expensive now to depend on individual ticket sales. Teams need the year on year renewals that corporate season tickets provide. people driving in from Orlando, however remote a possibility, is not going to solve that problem.

  8. the howard franklin bridge is mental barrier for those east of it, with no toll and traffic that’s no worse than other mlb markets.
    the lack of corporate presence is what contributed to killing the expos, but now there’s nowhere outside their market for the rayz to threaten to move to – just like the a’z

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