The Tampa Bay Rays story so far: Owner Stuart Sternberg, unhappy with low attendance at Tropicana Field, wants a new stadium, preferably across the bay in Tampa, preferably paid for by people not named Stuart Sternberg. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, with a lease that not only binds the Rays to Tropicana Field through 2027 but restricts them from even talking to anyone else about a stadium in that time, tells Sternberg (and neighboring jurisdictions) that if anyone breathes a word about new stadiums anywhere but St. Pete, he’ll sue. Sternberg says he’ll happily talk about a new stadium in St. Pete, but only if he can talk to the other side of the bay, too. Everybody engages in a years-long staring contest.
Now, Foster appears to be trying to get some momentum for a new stadium in his town, inviting Sternberg to talk about the proposal for a stadium in the Carillon business park, and even offering to fly up to New York to meet with him. No response yet from Sternberg, but this is clearly meant to put him in a bind: If he accepts the offer he gives up on his position that any stadium talks need to include Tampa as an option, but if he turns it down he looks like a jerk for not being willing to discuss the one proposal on the table that has, well, really crappy renderings, anyway.
It’s a clever move by Foster on the one hand, but on the other you have to wonder if his insistence on keeping the Rays on his side of the bay is really in St. Pete’s best interest: The latest estimates of a stadium’s cost are between $540 million and $570 million, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and with nobody having any idea yet who’ll pay for this, it might be cheaper just to let the Rays walk. (Or, better, to ask them to buy their way out of the lease if they want a new stadium in Tampa.) Sternberg may not want a stadium on the St. Pete side of the bay because of Tampa residents’ alleged gephyrophobia issues, but his bigger goal is to shift the debate from “Will the Rays get a new stadium?” to “How and where will we build the Rays a new stadium?”, and Foster’s move does help him in that regard.
Meanwhile, it turns out that no one has bothered to talk to all the people whose homes and businesses are on the proposed site of the Carillon stadium, and who are now getting antsy about what would happen to them under this plan:
[Robert] Szasz, who is three years into a 15-year lease, is open to the idea of moving his cafe — for the right price.
“If they’re willing to relocate us or do something about us still existing during the development, I would definitely be interested,” he said.
You might want to notch that $540-570 million estimate up a bit…