Rays deliver stadium wish list: lots of space, ballpark village, oodles of public cash

In advance of their first stadium talks with Tampa officials on Friday — which were held, no joke, in a Rays team store — Tampa Bay Rays execs released their one-page wish list for a new stadium. The highlights:

  • “The site should be approximately 20 acres in size and support the geometry necessary to accommodate a professional baseball playing surface.” Duh, though not wanting to be wedged into a confined space could spell difficulties for Tampa’s plan to build a stadium on the site of a low-income housing project.
  • “Create an authentic sense of place around the facility and develop a come early-stay late culture around home games.” This is way easier said than done, especially since most baseball games take place immediately after work; it probably best translates as “We want one of them ballpark districts like all the other cool teams have.”
  • The stadium “should honor the rich history of baseball in Tampa Bay.” Presumably this means a statue of Evan Longoria, or maybe even Longoria himself, bronzed and placed out in front of the main gate.
  • “The ability to structure a public-private partnership that would support the construction of the Rays next generation ballpark is critical.” This is the big one (hence that “critical”), and translates as “gimme some money.” While Rays owner Stuart Sternberg would probably love lots of acreage and something allowing him to pretend that Tampa Bay has a rich baseball history, this is going to come down to a building where he can make the biggest profit, and the best way to do that is to spend the least out of his own pocket to begin with. And come on, right now the guy can’t even afford apostrophes, so take pity on him, okay?

As for the meeting itself, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said afterwards that “I’m cautiously optimistic that at the end of the day we’ll be able to find a long-term solution that’s  mutually beneficial for the entire Tampa Bay region,” which means exactly nothing. (Can you envision a scenario, including one where the two sides started grabbing Raymond bobbleheads off the shelves and flinging them at each other, where Hagan would not have said this afterwards?) While it may seem like the Rays stadium war has been going on forever, it’s only just begun in earnest.

7 comments on “Rays deliver stadium wish list: lots of space, ballpark village, oodles of public cash

  1. To be fair, leaving aside the Rays–a very good, almost Hall-of-Fame quality team could be put together with players from the Tampa Bay area: Strawberry, Gooden, Pinella, Al Lopez, Wade Boggs, Gary Sheffield…maybe managed by Tony LaRussa, with the payroll coming from Cleveland/Tampa’s own George Steinbrenner.

    Obviously, this hasn’t translated into a great local professional team.

  2. When, after multi-city bidding, the double speak hall of fame is completed and dedicated, the inaugural class of phrases inducted will surely include “public-private partnership”.

    gdub- Aren’t those guys too old to play baseball?

  3. I know it’s chic to bash the Rays and I know the sardonic is a trademark, but the Bay area DOES have a rich baseball history that goes way back beyond Evan Longoria. That’s just a throwaway shot with not much behind it.

    Al Lopez was from Tampa. Minor league teams go back decades. The local high schools have produced Hall of Famers and near Hall of Famers. Spring Training goes back decades. The Florida State League and its teams have developed hundreds of future Major League players.

    And, again, it’s chic to bash the Rays, but they have more AL pennants since 1998 than the Blue Jays, Indians, A’s, Mariners, Orioles and Twins.

  4. I’m actually somewhat of a Rays fan, ever since their 2008 run. But “a bunch of players grew up here and we made the World Series once” is going to make a pretty sad design theme for a stadium. (Maybe they can get Red Grooms to make a sculpture of a stingray leaping over Al Lopez?)

    Also, a bronzed Evan Longoria is just funny. And will probably be more productive than an unbronzed one by the time his contract runs its course.

  5. I still don’t see Tampa and/or Hillsborough county coming up with the kind of money that Sternberg expects. They’ve been dreaming about rail transit systems and that is the one type of expenditure that will take priority over constructing stadiums for billionaires.

    And maybe the politicians will avoid getting stuck in a situation like St. Louis where the life of the public debt to build a stadium extends years beyond the time the team will be willing to use it.

    Nice deal if you can have the public build you a heavily subsidized new workplace every 15 years or so.

  6. I don’t know how you get away from not having a bronzed statue of George Steinbrenner. It’s probably in a lease for the Tampa Yankees somewhere. Taking territorial rights to the next level.

    As I’ve said here before, Tampa politicians will find money and land for a sports stadium. It is basically all they do. The train will be half finished and high schools will stop teaching if that’s what it takes for a Tampa-based team.

  7. “allowing him to pretend that Tampa Bay has a rich baseball history”

    But it does, though. It’s just almost all minor league and spring training baseball.