Foster throws down gauntlet to Rays: I’ll talk Carillon stadium anywhere, anytime

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…


6 comments on “Foster throws down gauntlet to Rays: I’ll talk Carillon stadium anywhere, anytime

  1. Extracting a buyout from the Rays has to be their best option. There’s just no way that a new stadium anywhere in the region is going to boost attendance to levels that would make a significant subsidy worthwhile. The current numbers are just too low for what has been a very good team in recent years. You’d hope that Tampa would be smart enough to realize this, but if Sternberg can fool them into paying for a large chunk of a stadium then St. Pete should grab whatever buyout they can get.

  2. I have no idea what St. Pete’s business environment is like, but this may make some sense. If St. Pete can get the Rays to do a 49ers style deal (pay off the bonds with rent payments and seat fees), then I can see why keeping the stadium in the city would be preferable. If this business park is like a lot of business parks I’ve been to, there will be ample space for parking, decent access to freeways and space for restaurants, bars and hotels that the stadium could help support.

  3. Seat fees? Like a tax or a PSL? Is the Trop really such a bad place to watch baseball? A new stadium will only make tickets & parking more expensive.

    Another tragedy to the 2012 Tampa Rays much to Bud Selig’s delight, they had the 5th best A.L. record & still missed the playoffs; while 7th-win ranked Detroit goes. Proving once again, divisions are a fallacy.

  4. PSL’s might work in a “prosperous” area like silicone valley but not in central Florida. Any new mallpark will increase the cost of attending games and many that can afford to go now won’t be able to.
    If the Rayz had an out-of-market alternative they would have used it by now.
    They’re stuck hoping that they’ll get what they want in Tampa and it will pay off.

  5. I was literally thinking of seat fees, as in something similar to the $1.60 per-seat, fee I pay on each Milwaukee Bucks season ticket I have in order to pay for BMO Harris Bradley Center maintenance. I am aware that seat fees cut into the price that a team can charge for tickets, but it may be a way to pay off some of the arena debt if the Rays are open to the idea.

  6. “…as in something similar to the $1.60 per-seat, fee I pay…”

    Having the people who use the facility pay for the facility sounds good to me, but it kinda defeats the purpose of using extortion to get it built using OPM (Other People’s Money).