Allow me to be the first to congratulate the city of Tampa for momentarily winning the Tampa Bay Rays stadium lottery! Your prize? The Hillsborough County Commission and the team has assembled an impressive prize package — well, for them — where Hillsborough’s taxpayers get the privilege of paying for 81% of the projected cost of an $800-Million stadium!*
Assuming the team and Hillsborough can come to terms on a deal, the presumed facility will be located on a cramped plot of land that cannot support ancillary development, miles from the nearest I-275 on-ramp/off-ramp, and about 1/2 mile from that of I-4.
Fans from outside the general vicinity of the stadium likely will not be willing to spend 45 minutes to one hour getting to the stadium during rush hour traffic, only to find that surface parking could be more than a scenic walk from the stadium.
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) October 25, 2017
But hey, the vacuum created by the loss of some fans will be filled by others who currently find the 30 minute drive over a bridge and into St. Peterburg — where the ingress and egress into and out of the Tropicana Field site actually is efficient — too daunting.
Wait! What is that you said, dear citizen(s) of Hillsborough County? You personally prioritize things like infrastructure and mass transportation improvements, public safety, and waste water management — all of which Hillsborough doesn’t have any money for, much less a new stadium? Tough! County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Sternberg are fairly confident they can rake you over the coals.
Fret not though, you can worry about things like the effect of sea level rise in the more flood prone areas of your community after the 30 years it will take to pay off the shining beacon in your baseball panacea … you know, once those areas are swamped without the critical means necessary to pump the water out. But baseball in Tampa, am I right?!
Pop those bottles, and light those cigars!
On Wednesday afternoon, Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) reported that Rays principle owner Stu Sternberg is both “genuinely excited” about the proposed Ybor City site for a new stadium, and more than “cautiously optimistic” the project can be completed.
However, Sternberg also suggested that, based on initial projections, the team might only cover $150 million of the estimated $800 million cost — just under 19% of the total cost. That number was also bandied about in 2008 when the Rays sought out a waterfront stadium in St. Petersburg, yet Sternberg noted that it could go up or down based on revenue projections.
I would say our contribution could be largely based on the support that gets drummed up by specific municipalities or groups and us as well, Sternberg said. And if this falls on a lot of deaf ears then I have my answer.
The article also made mention of a certain level of disunity within the Hillsborough County Commission, not to mention the difficulty in figuring how to make up $650-Million difference without handing the team a sweetheart deal much like that of Raymond James Stadium and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hagan acknowledged negotiations over who will pay for a new stadium could take a year and won’t be easy.
I don’t know if we’ll ever get there, Hagan conceded.
As proof, three commissioners made sure to announce at the meeting they opposed taxpayer money for a ballpark.
While insisting the team is “going to go to great pains not to play them (St. Petersburg and Tampa) off each other,” and that they see it more as “put your best foot forward,” Sternberg positioned himself ahead of the long predicted tug-of-war between the two municipalities, saying that the the Rays “haven’t dismissed by any means” staying in St. Petersburg at a new stadium on the Tropicana Field site, and that they plan to continue to explore Baseball Forever’s plan to build a new stadium.
This is a daunting task. There needs to be support from the community in order to be successful in completing it, said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred from the GM Meetings this week.
In other words, do not expect Major League Baseball to chip in any money, leaving the likely burden on the taxpayers of Tampa. Sternberg, Manfred, and Hagan made their intentions clear: If you want the team to move across the bay, you may have to leverage the future of your community.
It’s worth it though, right? I mean Big Poppa Sternberg is going to make everything all right, similarly to how the Mets vastly improved the surrounding neighborhood just blocks from Citi Field.
In the end, these are the things that make me hate the sport and team I so dearly love. If the idea is to improve attendance — theoretically speaking of course, because the Rays clearly are more interested on increasing future revenue streams — these tactics may have the opposite effect on a fan-base that has supported the team from the jump … this humble blogger included.
If I may, there is a reasonable solution to the saga … one that has been discussed many times on this site — build the stadium where there is money to burn: the Tropicana Field site. But if there is one criticism of my fellow Baseball Forever campaign members, it’s that the business community, by way of the CEO’s within the campaign, had not done more. It’s plainly obvious that Sternberg is seeking the support of that particular lot, and it’s time for the CEOs of Jabil Circuit, Compulink, Duke Energy, John Hopkins, Bayfront Health, Raymond James, Franklin Templeton, L-3, Ceridian and Allstate among others, as well as major players in the community, like Bill Edwards and Rick Baker, to step to the plate and rally the troops.
* Well, that is unless Hillsborough County somehow finds $650-Million in the coffers and/or couch cushions, but don’t count on it.