Field of Schemes
sports stadium news and analysis


This is an archived version of a Field of Schemes article. Comments on this page are closed. To find the current version of the article with updated comments, click here.

July 06, 2010

Rays stadium wars, day 16: Rumors, rumors everywhere

I've been off on an extended holiday weekend, but fortunately for stadium news junkies, Noah Pransky's Shadow of the Stadium blog has been keeping up on the latest in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium battle. Among the recent developments:

  • The Tourist Development Commission of Pinellas County — for those not up on Florida Gulf Coast geography, that's the St. Pete side of the bay — is drafting a plan to use $70 million in hotel tax money to help build a new Rays stadium starting in 2015. (The 1% hotel tax surcharge is being used to pay off Tropicana Field currently, so won't be available until then.) If the TDC approves the plan, the county commission would then need to approve spending the tax money on a stadium — and, of course, the Rays would need to okay a Pinellas County stadium, not to mention come up with close to $500 million in additional funding.
  • The St. Petersburg Times notes that lots of other baseball stadiums have rail stations nearby, but Tropicana Field doesn't, largely because Tampa Bay has just about the worst mass transit of anywhere in the U.S. A 1% Pinellas County sales tax for public improvements expires in 2020, and if renewed could be used to build a rail station near a new Rays stadium — something that would first require building a rail line in the first place, something that voters could decide as soon as 2011, though even then it might not connect to Tampa, defeating much of the purpose for the Rays as far as luring fans from across the bay.
  • Meanwhile, a former Congressional candidate has started a website called Bases Loaded Orlando to lure the Rays to that city, according to Pransky (though he doesn't provide a link, and Google can't seem to find it).

Add it all up, and you get ... not much solid, but it keeps the Rays stadium debate in the papers, which is important for a team that's taking the long view in terms of what gets done and when. It's a strategy that's worked before, for the Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins among others: Keep enough balls in the air, and one of them might eventually fall where you want it to.


Thanks Neil, here is Bases Loaded Orlando:

Posted by Noah Pransky on July 6, 2010 02:36 PM

Ain't no way the Rays would move to Orlando. Traffic is a nightmare and there would not be enough support, same with all the other "pie" in the sky cities such as Charleston, Portland, et al. Furthermore, teams don't move. If there are better places, why didn't the Marlins move? They fought to get a stadium for 10 years, but never left. The last team to move was the Seattle Pilots. Not gonna happen.

Posted by Wade on July 6, 2010 03:53 PM

The Expos moved...

Posted by S on July 6, 2010 05:05 PM

Well the thing about Charleston and Portland is they're not showing interest anymore in the MLB and building a stadium for them. Orlando is now being mentioned with the Jacksonville Jaguars & Tampa Bay Rays. They're being used as pawns. The only logical location that could get done if the Yankees & Mets allow it, is the Northern New Jersey market. The studies show that's the place a team can go. But I think contraction is more likely in MLB. After Miami got their shovel in the ground, the 3 MLB parks that just flat-out suck are the Oakland-Alamedy Coliseum, Tropicana Field & Rogers Centre. Those 3 teams need new ballparks but I think they'll wait until 2020 before contraction would become the talk if MLB can't get those teams new stadiums. So don't be surprised if the A's & Rays eventually had to relocate.

Posted by MLB in Florida on July 6, 2010 06:42 PM

Portland = $150m stadium subsidy (w/no expiration date), lots of light rail lines, zero additional political support (they are letting their AAA affiliate walk this year) and a whopping two Fortune 500 companies.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2028 Portland Rays!

Posted by Greg on July 6, 2010 11:54 PM

Portland = $150m stadium subsidy (w/no expiration date), lots of light rail lines, zero additional political support (they are letting their AAA affiliate walk this year) and a whopping two Fortune 500 companies.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2028 Portland Rays!

Posted by Greg on July 6, 2010 11:55 PM

The stadium angle has really exhausted itself by now (that point may have been reached five years ago). What has been delayed up to now is owners and players seriously looking into the financial structure of the league. A sort-of attempt was made with the revenue-sharing and luxury tax plan...and the players almost went to strike on that one. I don't think more revenue-sharing is necessarily the answer. What has to happen is that future owners be very realistic about the true value of the labor compared to the cost of attending a ballgame. However, as we've seen in the NBA free agency madness, neither is going to happen soon.

But back to the topic of discussion, the Rays don't have any options that the ABC Coalition, the Tampa boosters, the newspapers and some local politicos aren't already giving them. That's putting it succinctly.

Posted by Transic on July 7, 2010 01:41 AM

The Expos had 30 years to build a fanbase. It didn't work. Furthermore, they were located in Canada. The Rays, were terrible for 9 years. They are building a fanbase. They Rays aren't going to move out of the Tampa area. Mark it down. Something like that would force baseball to "open it's books" as it pertains to showing "loss", et al. Not gonna happen.

Posted by Wade on July 7, 2010 09:31 AM

I went to college in Buffalo in the late 80's when there was a big push for MLB. They even built a stadium that was the model for Camden Yards and most modern ballparks. Despite Buffalo's efforts the MLB ship passed them by. I think Portland is in the same category. Sorry Portland not going to happen. If the Rays get a new ballpark it should be at the Florida State Fairgrounds and not St. Pete. You are closer to the Population center in Tampa. You have the Lakeland-Winter Haven communities within an hour drive and you will pull fans from Orlando.

Posted by Doug on July 7, 2010 09:59 AM


The team you are thinking about are the NBA Grizzlies which started as a expansion team in Vancouver in the 1995-96 season. That team only lasted six years before moving to Memphis due to Steve Francis and a slight drop in attendence due to the 1998-99 NBA Lockout. That is a sorry excuse to move a team.

As for the Expos, they were doing fine until the 1994-95 strike hit and forced downsizing to the point that attendence dropped to almost nothing and 2,000 people was a great crowd on most nights. It also didn't help that the Expos were the NL East leaders on August 12, 1994 and had the best record in baseball.

Posted by Jessy S. on July 8, 2010 12:01 AM


I would add to that the fact that the Expos had an owner who was pretty openly trying to relocate in Brochu. He held only a small share of the club, yet was the managing partner. He knew he could triple the value of his shares and be gifted an exec spot for life if he could move the club to the US.

Ultimately, fans would not support the team with that ownership group in place. They drew reasonably well (18-28,000 during their decent years - as good as several teams do today), but fans would not forgive Brochu. They never warmed to the similar temperament of Jeffrey Loria either - much like Marlin fans, I guess.

The Expos essentially had a deal for a new stadium in place, but Brochu and a couple of his cronies wouldn't accept it. Ultimately, Brochu sold out (hallelujah). Loria came in and suddenly that proposed stadium wasn't "good enough" anymore.

I'd like to believe that baseball could still work in Montreal. That with an outdoor stadium just south of the arena and a respected ownership group that did not include Brochu or Loria, fans would have returned. It is a vastly different city now than it was 10-12 years ago. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons it never got that chance.

Wade: Why do you believe the Rays moving would require MLB to "open it's books". However, they certainly can't move until 2027 without buying out their lease. Despite all the talk about moving, fear not. You'll have the Rays to watch (or not) for some time yet...

Posted by John Bladen on July 8, 2010 02:30 AM

NO, I am referring to the Seattle Pilots baseball team that (then) owner Bud Selig, bought and moved to Milwaukee in 1969, that team is now called THE BREWER'S. Have you heard of them?? Outside of the Expo's, that is the only team that has relocated since then. The Marlins have had terrible, atrocious, attendance for years, but they never moved. Why? Because it's extremely hard to do and MLB will be exposed in certain arenas pertaining to revenue, profit, loss...They don't want that. There are other teams that are leading their respective divisions but are ranked lower than the Rays in attendance. Do you think they are going to move those teams too? Not gonna happen.

Posted by Wade on July 8, 2010 10:43 AM

They would have to "open" them to provide good "reasoning" as it pertains for their excuse to move 'ala losing money, fan support in relation to profit, amount acquired through revenue sharing, the list goes on. They would not be allowed to move with actually proving something. The city of St. Petersburg was used by 8 different cities as leverage for new stadiums. There would be a firestorm of lawsuits against MLB if the opposite were to happen as it pertains to the Rays. The reason St. Pete was awarded an expansion team in the first was because the prior owner and the city of St. Pete filed lawsuits relating to hundreds of millions against MLB for "passing over" the Rays in 1993 in terms of expansion. St. Pete/ownership called their bluff, MLB caved and awarded a team to St. Pete in 1995. They aren't going anywhere. If you get a chance to read "Stadium for Rent" by Bob Andelman, you'll get an eye opening view of the sham which is MLB.

Posted by Wade on July 8, 2010 10:50 AM


I would never deny that MLB operates in a shameful manner (IE: effectively extorting it's host cities, like most other sports leagues). But this does not mean they will be forced to open their books.

The Rays ownership could, for example, simply pack up and relocate if they had a destination and facility. Lawsuits would be filed and, eventually, likely won. But the club would be elsewhere and the only recourse would be either a voluntary or enforced financial settlement for the city.

The city has a solid lease in place with the club's ownership. However, the club belongs to Mr. Sternberg, not the city. If he is willing to fight (and pay for) the legal struggle that would surely come, he could set up shop elsewhere for the 2011 season. He doesn't need to prove to Tampa that he's losing money. He only needs MLB's approval to move. After that it's a matter of financial settlement between him and Tampa in relation to breaking the lease & debt on the present facility.

Posted by John Bladen on July 8, 2010 03:29 PM

Hi John, that's just the thing, he would need to prove to either MLB or the city that he is losing money (he isn't). That's why teams don't move.

Posted by Wade on July 20, 2010 07:56 AM

Latest News Items