Two articles in last Sunday’s edition of the Tampa Bay Times threw cold water on the prospect of a new stadium in Ybor City for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Times staff writers Charlie Frago and, surprisingly, John Romano offered contrarian views* on the stadium saga with the closure of the three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) window — which allowed the Rays to seek regionally for a new stadium site — looming in less than seven months, on December 31, 2018.
In an article titled Deadline clock ticking on Rays agreement with St. Pete: What happens next?, Frago posits that no one, who is willing to talk, sees any hope for hitting the deadline.
The takeaways from the article are threefold, and reiterate what others — including us at X-Rays Spex — have said for years:
- Hillsborough does not have enough money to give the team what it really wants or is seeking.
- St. Petersburg/Pinellas County can offer the team way more money than Tampa/Hillsborough County.
- Tampa’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn, wants nothing to do with the mess that could ensue.
What is laughable, however, is the assertion by Ron Christaldi, a leader in the effort to drum up corporate support for the Rays’ stadium effort, that an extension could be worked out should Hillsborough County not be able to hammer out a deal by the deadline.
I would hope that they would see that the discussions have happened in earnest and be flexible in the date, Christaldi said. You don’t want to artificially stop something that is progressing.
Christaldi also said Kriseman should be commended for his courage and commitment to the interests of the entire region in letting the team look around. With that approach, he said, extending Rays discussions with Hillsborough is more a blip than a meltdown.
Yet Christaldi’s narrow sighted view sidesteps the fact that both the Rays and Hillsborough County waited two years and one month to get the ball rolling on the Ybor location — favoring instead a stadium site announcement in February of 2018.
Meanwhile, and regardless of the jab in the headline Instead of fussing, St. Pete should help the Rays pack, Romano, in essence, is telling Tampa and the Rays they have had enough time to figure out this stadium thing. Either put up the money now, or move on.
…we still haven’t had the important debate. For all the arguing and fussing during the last 10 years, the building of a new stadium was always going to come down to the money.
The Rays are not going to build a stadium on their own. Hillsborough County is not going to fully fund one either. So the team and community need to find some kind of balance that works for both sides, or else begin planning for a future without Major League Baseball in the marketplace.
The point is, all the other debates are ultimately minor and pointless.
I know there might be some temptation on the St. Pete side to revamp the agreement with the Rays to extract more cash if the team leaves Tropicana before the lease ends in 2027.
Honestly, I think that’s shortsighted.
Instead of putting up more impediments, St. Pete should be helping the Rays pack their bags. Whatever extra cash the city might extract from the deal is going to pale in comparison to the windfall of kickstarting the development of the Trop land as soon as possible.
If the city wants to adjust the agreement, it should consider this:
Either the Rays come up with a signed deal in Tampa in the next 12 months, or else the team agrees to immediately begin negotiating for a new stadium on the Trop land.
Either way, St. Pete needs to know how to proceed.
The Rays stand to potentially lose property value if they move from their current location in Downtown St. Petersburg to Tampa, said Noah Pransky in a piece for Action 10 News.
That is part of the reason that neither the team, nor the City of St. Petersburg, is crossing Tropicana Field’s 86-acres off the list of proposed stadium sites.
In the end, the City of St. Petersburg made it’s formal stadium pitch in April of 2017, while the Rays had met with representatives from both sides of the bay multiple times leading up to their announcement four months ago. Had the Rays taken the MOU window seriously, and less like a glaring opportunity to build leverage in the stadium saga, the hope for a deal by the deadline would be more realistic.
*That is, to those deemed the loudest.