That day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived: When Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and local officials will announce where they intend to build a new half-billion-dollar-plus stadium, but not how on earth to pay for it:
The team told St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman it plans to put all site selection efforts into the Ybor City location first identified last October, Kriseman said during a City Council meeting Thursday…
The team will formally announce its stadium site preference at a press conference scheduled for the Tampa Baseball Museum in Ybor City, Friday at 1:30 p.m., Kriseman said.
Here’s a photo of the site, courtesy of Tampa Bay Business Journal:
And here’s a mockup of how a stadium would fit there, courtesy of WFTS-TV:
That’s certainly workable, if a bit compact. But then, compact sites have led to some good stadium designs, like the San Francisco Giants‘ AT&T Park, and — gaaaaaah, no, wait, we’re just playing into their hands! This is right out of the standard stadium playbook: Make a big deal of announcing a site, get everyone debating whether it’s the right site and what it would mean for fans — no more driving across the bay bridge if you live in Tampa! more driving across the bay bridge if you live in St. Petersburg! — and hope no one notices that you still have at minimum a $400 million funding gap, or at least that you can shift the debate from “should we build a stadium?” to “we’ve picked where the stadium will go, now we just have to see who draws the short straw to pay for it.”
The only discussion on that front yesterday came from Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan vowing that some local business leaders will lead a push for more corporate sponsorships, which, spoilers, ain’t gonna raise no $400 million. Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn immediately called Hagan’s announcement “bush league” (for announcing it before Sternberg got to, I think?) and that he intends to focus on “whether this deal makes sense,” which the Fox 13 News headline writer turned into “Buckhorn vows to make ‘best deal’ for Rays, taxpayers,” though that quote isn’t actually in the article.
In any case, feel free to debate the pros and cons of the Ybor City site, but try not to get distracted from the real issue here: Stuart Sternberg wants a new stadium, and wants somebody to pay for it who isn’t him. Because forgetting about that while staring at a shiny stadium site is exactly what he wants you to do.