Tampa Bay residents’ favorite Rays stadium site is … the Trop?

The Tampa Bay Rays stadium controversy might be turning into a slow-moving train wreck for the ages, with the team and elected officials battling over who can talk to whom and would-be stadium developers appearing and disappearing overnight, but there’s one thing everyone agrees on: The team’s current home of Tropicana Field is cursed by a lousy location. It’s on the wrong side of the bay for rich people from Hillsborough County to get there easily, and everyone hates driving across that bridge, and there’s nothing to do in downtown St. Pete and — wait, what’s that, poll of Tampa Bay residents?

A recent Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and AM 820 News Tampa Bay telephone survey of 521 Pinellas and Hillsborough residents showed that the single most popular stadium option is simply to keep the team playing at Tropicana Field.

Well, okay, some of those polled are in Pinellas County, on the St. Pete side of the bay. So it only makes sense that they would—

Even among Hillsborough residents, the Trop remains the favored site.

Oh. Well, then.

More from the poll: Residents opposed using any public money on a new stadium, 50% to 41%, even if their own taxes didn’t rise as a result. And only 16% of Hillsborough County residents want a new stadium in downtown Tampa, apparently because traffic is terrible there.

Now, one caveat: The Trop is the favored site only of a plurality of Tampa Bay residents (42%), not a majority, as various other sites around the region split the vote for places people would like to see the Rays move to. Still, you can make a good case that Tropicana Field is the lowest-common-denominator choice for where the Rays should play, as all the other sites are hated by even more people. And, of course, you don’t have to pay to build a stadium in downtown St. Pete, since there’s already one there.

I’d call this a game-changer in the Rays stadium battle, except that even more people said they wanted to see the team stay put in past years (54% in 2010, and 50% in 2011), and that didn’t do much to stop the insistence that the Rays’ problem is that they have a stadium in the wrong location. It does make you wonder, though, whether even if money magically fell from the sky to build a stadium, the team would be significantly better off moving to another part of the region with different traffic hassles. Or to put it another way, perhaps the problem with Rays fans lies not in their cars, but in themselves…

14 comments on “Tampa Bay residents’ favorite Rays stadium site is … the Trop?

  1. A little outside the scope to the site’s objective but do you know of any balanced reporting on stadium locations placement and their “success” rates? Yeah…kind of broad question but just trying to get a little more insight if there is any cred to the stadium location claims.

    People have told me Glendale’s location to the rich NHL fans is one of the challenges with their success in the desert but Oakland isn’t exactly in a wealthy area. (Oakland has been successful in the past)

  2. Have they ever done a poll where the two options were: A) The Trop or B) no team at all, ?

    Somebody needs to point out that a new stadium isn’t going to make tickets or parking any cheaper, and that the real problem is MLB’s revenue sharing plan & lack of a salary cap.

  3. Even more offensive was Buckhorn’s idiotic dismissal of the poll results and utter lack of substantiative facts in favor of handing a ton of money over to those crooks.

    Hizzoner is either incredible gullible and uninformed, or he just hopes the rest of us are. If he has a tough time with numbers and facts, he should look over at the ragingly successful season the Bucs are having in their taxpayer-fleeced stadium.

  4. “…and that the real problem is MLB’s revenue sharing plan & lack of a salary cap.”

    Yeah, cuz the Rays have had so much trouble fielding a competitive team under the current system.

  5. Don’t spin me, Keith. We all know in the long-term the Rays can’t afford the likes of Shields, Longoria, Crawford, Price, etc. The Rays are a more competently run version of the Pirates. Having team payrolls 5 times higher than the smallest is a mockery of parity.

  6. Longoria is signed until he’s 38. How long a term are you envisioning?

    Anyway, neither more revenue sharing nor a salary cap is going to solve the problem that top players have a higher marginal value in major markets. (Or to put that in English: The seats that David Price puts fannies in sell for 10 times in New York what they do in Tampa.) And I think you have parity backwards — if teams with small payrolls like the Rays are able to compete (so long as they’re competently run), isn’t that exactly the goal?

  7. The Rays have shown that “small market” teams don’t need to worry about the “long term” when it comes to player careers, with occasional exceptions for “face of the franchise” players like Longoria. The current system lets you hang onto guys at reasonable cost until they’ve reached the beginning of their peak years. And that seems to be good enough.

    As Neil said, competitive parity through competence sounds pretty good to me.

  8. I seriously, seriously doubt Longoria will play that entire contract in Tampa, that’s what I’m talking about. Dishing out long contracts is one thing, but fulfilling them in a Rays uniform is another. I don’t think a league with a Yankees & a Rays is sustainable, especially what these new TV contracts are going for, if those trends continue. Tampa will never be able to spend on $40M on 3rd base in 2013 or throw $161M on a starting pitcher like the Yankees can. The richest teams will always monopolize the best talent, and it’s a safe assumption that at least 1/3rd of the teams in the league never had a realistic shot of landing Greinke, Hamilton, Fielder, Pujols, etc. I’m going to assume New Yorkers aren’t thrilled that a seat costs 10 times or more than one in Tampa, or those pricey seats behind home plate that seem to be empty often.

    I’d rather see all MLB revenues put into one big pool & divided up evenly amongst 30 pieces. Isn’t MLB merchandising split up that way? I know nobody cares about Kansas City or Pittsburgh, but going decades in between playoff appearances is not good for the fan base & the answer is not more playoff teams like Sellout Selig thinks.

  9. And remember: I’m on your side – if the difference between the long-term solution for being competitive for a team was either a new stadium or better league revenue sharing, I would go with league revenue sharing, which doesn’t cost taxpayers anything.

  10. Taking all MLB revenues and dividing them up among the teams would sort of work — that’s more or less how the NFL works. Though then you’d have even more problems with teams like the Marlins mailing it in and refusing to spend any money on their team, and just living off central payments.

    I’m all in favor of revenue sharing, but getting it right is *hard*. If you can dig up a copy of Baseball Between The Numbers (looks like there are used copies on Amazon for $6), I have a chapter in there where I lay out the difficulties of a system that actually works, and how the current setup, while not ideal, isn’t all that terrible either.

    In any event, the Rays don’t have to spend $40 million on a third baseman anytime soon, because they have Longoria locked up long-term. And the Yankees can’t spend $40 million on one because they want to avoid the luxury tax. And by the time Longoria’s contract is up, I expect that cable revenues (which aren’t shared) will be dwarfed by Internet revenues (which are), so we’ll have an NFL-style system without anyone lifting a finger.

  11. The Rays are a business…

    Big business gets tax breaks…because politicians decided long ago they were a good thing (although you can debate for who).

    Big business creates business and taxes.

    The Rays aren’t staying in the Trop…doesn’t matter how many meaningless polls are put out. To say this poll was a “game changer” shows nativity or ignorance of how this is going to play out.

    St. Pete has two choices…1) Let the Rays leave (well before 2027) and get a small payout or 2) partner with them, give them some benefits and receive some benefits as well and keep them with a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Public sentiment is against any tax money going to the stadium…this puts the politicians in a bad position because in the end they still have to face the only two possible outcomes…lose the Rays or help pay for their stadium. Neither outcome is good for a politician when if they lose the Rays they will be in trouble or if they help finance a stadium they will be in trouble.

    In conclusion, this poll is stupid and meaningless…this site doesn’t know front from back and St Pete could do us all a favor and just hurry up and finance the stadium, push the Rays to Tampa, or work out a settlement for them to leave. We are all tired of the argument…

  12. I’d like to hear where you think the Rays are going to leave for, “well before 2027.” Even if they’re able to buy out the end of their lease, they still have to have a place to go, and there aren’t any better MLB markets out there. (Except maybe being a third team in New York, but that’s not going to happen.) And if this poll is correct, they wouldn’t even draw any better in Tampa, though obviously they could benefit from a new stadium if they didn’t have to pay for it.

    I’m with you on “tired of the argument,” though.

  13. I have a difficult time wrapping my head around revenue sharing arguments that people like mp34 have.

    Take hockey. There is a lockout and a battle over the (dwindling) $3.3B a year in revenues the league generates. Some suggest that the solution is more revenue sharing. But when a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs are bought with other properties for $2B and the estimated value of the Maple Leafs alone is $1B it is not short sighted for the owners of that team to want to keep their revenues to either a) better their product or b) keep as profit.

    I’ve read the Leafs make about $100M in profit every year thanks to the salary cap system and blind loyalty their fans afford them. That’s a 10% return on their $1B investment, which is right about where that number should be if someone is spending $1B to buy a hockey team.

    For them to suddenly start shoveling over $25M or more of that money into a generous revenue sharing plan to help out a lesser team, say the Tampa Bay Lightning, makes little sense. Now they are making a 7.5% return and if the current owners wanted to sell they will have a difficult time finding a buyer to match or exceed their purchase price when the rate of return is dwindling. The Lightning will contribute nothing long term to hockey (nothing TV wise, little ticket buying, contribute zero players) and any gains they offer will be fleeting, short term gains while the team is competitive. I heard tickets for the 2011 ECF were going for under a $100 for lower bowl tickets which is a far cry from what teams can charge in hockey cities for regular season games. But revenue sharers seem to believe that fans in Toronto and Vancouver should pay $350+ for good tickets so people in Tampa can watch hockey when the mood hits them. Seems pretty unfair.

    And the Yankee hate. Love ’em or hate ’em, the Yankees make a lot of money – money their fans willingly pay them. They pay to cheer Jeter and boo Rodrigez. They don’t pay to see the Tampa Devil Rays win a championship. That’s why there are fans in Tampa – to show up and buy tickets and support their team. See how that works? It’s funny, you are concerned a new stadium in Tampa won’t keep ticket prices cheap . . . but you have no problem “sharing” the money from teams whose fans are willing to pay premium prices for tickets and merchandise.

    And if you think a salary cap will be the magic bullet that will bring balance to any league – HA! A salary cap in MLB would push all the big spenders to develop the hell out of their minor league systems and dominate that way. Plus, remove money from the equation and players are going to choose teams that a) they can win with or b) they can maximize their cash (ie. endorsements).

    The best player in baseball will probably do well with endorsements playing in major markets like NY and Boston over playing in KC or Tampa any day of the week.

    The odds are stacked against teams like the Devil Rays and it’s up to their own fans to get behind them and give them the financial incentive to be better. The fans have to figure out how to contribute more than just coming up with new excuses explaining why they won’t be attending games at the Trop this year.

    I’m tired of this stadium argument particularly, I’m really tired of hearing from Tampa Bay area residents why they don’t support a 90 win team in baseball.

    • ( a ) The Lightning are doing fine, thanks.

      ( b ) They haven’t been the Devil Rays for years.