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February 18, 2010
Yet another half-baked Rays stadium plan emerges
Throw another developer on the fire in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium chase: Former Tampa mayor Dick Greco says he's considering leasing land at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Hillsborough County (that's the Tampa side of the bay, for those keeping score) and building ... well, something there. Could be hotels. Could be the ever-popular "mixed-use development." Could be a stadium. "It could be a soccer stadium, it could be anything," Greco told the Tampa Tribune.
As trial balloons go, this makes the one about building a Rays stadium atop an old landfill seem downright specific, but it got Greco's name in the paper, so mission accomplished.
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Times sports columnist John Romano suggests that Tampa Bay should only consider building a new stadium for the Rays if MLB solves its competitive balance issues so that small-market teams have a shot at competing with the Yankees and Red Sox of the world. (Yes, some small-market teams are successful, but as Romano notes, "You cannot argue that a franchise needs a stadium to remain competitive financially and simultaneously argue that payroll disparity has no impact on what happens on the field. Either money matters, or it doesn't.") His suggestions:
- Raise the "luxury tax" on high player payrolls, or lower the threshold so that it hits more teams. Nice thought, but given that the Yankees have already been paying tax at a usurious 40% rate in recent years, and that didn't stop them from a free-agent-fueled World Series run last year, it's going to be tough to see how to slow them down. (Though a higher tax rate would generate some more revenue-sharing money for teams like the Rays.)
- Move either the Yanks or Sox out of the Rays' division. That's not gonna happen — Yanks-Sox intradivision matchups make too much money — but the Rays might want to push for relocation to the A.L. Central, which right now could be won by a decent Triple-A team.
- Eliminate the unbalanced schedule, which forces the Rays to play tons of games against the Yanks and Sox, while competing for the wild card against teams in the other divisions who play most of their games against weak intradivisional competition. This makes complete sense, but again is likely to fall to economic concerns (cf. above about Yanks-Sox games).
MLB commissioner Bud Selig, meanwhile, responded by saying the Rays need a new stadium. "I know it's the same message I've delivered a lot of other places, but it's so true here," Selig said at the Governor's Baseball Dinner. At least he recognizes he's becoming self-parody; they say it's the first step.