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…