tropicana_field

As most people are aware by now, I am a Tampa Bay Rays fan (yes, one of the very few). Many of you are presumably aware of the stadium saga currently going on in the Tampa Bay region, specifically in St. Petersburg, Tampa and the city of St. Pete vs. the city Tampa.

The attendance issue has been going on for quite some time now, and only in the last 5-6 years has the issue actually been pressed and vilified. The Rays have consistently been in the bottom tier when it comes to attendance, typically either last or second to last, despite having a playoff caliber team the last 5 years.

Currently, the Rays play in Tropicana Field which is located in the city of St. Petersburg. Tropicana Field, or the Trop as it is locally known as, is often regarded as one of the worst, if not the worst facilities in major league baseball. From the rafter issues (also called rings), to the AstroTruf, to antiquated facilities inside the stadium, the list goes on and on. To make matters worse, the Rays are locked into a lease with the City of St. Petersburg, calling for the team to remain playing in the stadium until the year 2027.

Furthermore, the commissioner of major league baseball, Bud Selig has been on the record numerous times stating his disapproval of the Rays attendance issues and calling it a “disgrace”. Both Selig and Rays owner, Stu Sternburg have recently been pushing the issue of a new stadium to the region. However, current stadium talks are at a standstill, primarily caused by St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster, forcing the Rays to stay committed to their lease and has put into amendment that the Rays can not talk to City of Tampa officials, in regards to a new stadium or risk a lawsuit. Foster has just recently stated that now the Rays can in fact talk to the City of Tampa, if they pay a so called “browsing fee” to St. Pete. Keep in mind, that Foster is due up for re-election in the coming months.

This is just a basic synopsis of the whole issue, obviously it goes much deeper and is much more complicated, but I have no desire nor time to get into it all.

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So what needs to happen? Well it’s plain and simple. The Tampa Bay Rays need to move across the Bay to Tampa, as soon as possible, otherwise they will be moving out of state. Rays management, as well as MLB has made it clear that they want out of Pinellas County and St. Petersburg. So at this point, it’s Tampa or highway 75N out of the state.

Why Tampa? Well there are various factors to why the stadium needs to be in Tampa, including;

Location: 

The Trop is currently located in St. Pete, which is situated on a peninsula, bounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. St. Pete remains isolated, in the sense that there is only one way in and out of the area via interstate. Meanwhile, in Tampa, should a stadium be built in proximity to downtown (which is really the only relative option), you have a plethora of ways to get to the stadium, via access from 6 different highways in the immediate area (I4, I75, I275, Selmon Expressway, Selmon Connector and Veterans Expressway), not to mention you could possibly integrate a stadium in with the TECO Line Streetcar.

All of this results in much better and improved access not only for most Tampanians, but also to Central Florida residents (Orlando, Lakeland, etc.) and Brandon residents as well just to name a few.

Demographically:

Population Comparison:

Tampa: 347,645

St. Pete: 246,541

Hillsborough: 1.278 million

Pinellas: 921,319

Numbers don’t lie, plain and simple. Not to mention that a Tampa stadium location brings you nearly an hour closer to Orlando which as nearly 250,00 residents.

More Numbers:

In a report earlier this year, it was reported that St. Petersburg residents account for 300 season ticket accounts for the Rays, that roughly amounts to just under 1,000 in seat tickets per game and out of 6,000 total season tickets, 2,000 come from Pinellas County. To put that into perspective, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who if which play in Downtown Tampa have 10,000 season ticket holders, with estimates for next year putting them at 12,500. That’s nearly 65% of stadium capacity that is solely season tickets. Remember this is ice hockey…in Florida.

It should also be noted, that Downtown Tampa has 50,000 employees and Westshore has 93,123 employees daily versus downtown St. Petersburg who has 29,946 daily employees.

There should be no debate over this, politics and taxes aside, the Rays must move to Tampa, if the region is to retain baseball. The two cities must let bygones be bygones and come together has one and cement a deal for this to happen. For our generation and future generations of baseball fans.

IF

-Gonzo

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