St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker wrote an Op-Ed piece for the St. Pete Times, concerning his decision to withhold endorsement of the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposed waterfront stadium. Baker urges the public to be patient as he and the city council evaluate all issues concerning the proposal before they decide to recommend the issue for a referendum.
…I believe the best approach is to gather and evaluate as much information as we can before making a recommendation to our community. This information is equally important to our citizens in their deliberations. Among the important items which we do not yet have are the financial details of the proposal and the specifics of the uses proposed for the Tropicana Field site. Will the mix at the Trop site provide such things as new and unique retail, parks, hotels, work force-level housing and an expanded job base? In a time of state revenue reductions, the present city budget has no room for increased funding of the baseball enterprise.
It also is important to review the impact the new stadium would have on our beautiful and vibrant downtown waterfront. The city is conducting a traffic and parking study to determine the potential impact of the traffic from 81 home games on places such as BayWalk, the Progress Energy Center for the Arts’ Mahaffey Theater, the new Salvador Dali Museum and the waterfront residential towers. We also must consider the importance of our many downtown events, the largest being the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. We certainly do not want to jeopardize the success we have achieved in St. Petersburg’s historic renaissance.
After receiving a final proposal from the Rays, completing an evaluation and considering community input, I will recommend to the City Council whether to schedule a referendum.
While Baker praises Stuart Sternberg and the Rays for their commitment to the St. Pete area and the investments they have already made, he makes one not-so-subtle request to the Rays, that if met, could go a long ways towards earning the support of the city…
I also hope the ownership will take steps to more closely identify the team with the city, which has also invested time, land, heart and money into the franchise. It is true that the Rays are the team for most of Florida, but certainly St. Petersburg has played a special role in its evolution.
It seems pretty clear that Baker is suggesting that if the Rays were to change their name to the ‘St. Pete Rays’, their path to a new stadium would become much easier.
What is yet to be seen is if this will ultimately be a sticking point in the Rays’ efforts to garner the support of the mayor and/or the St. Pete City Council, or if this is just “wishful thinking” on their part. If changing the name is a crucial ingredient for their support, then the hopes of the Rays to land a new stadium could meet strong resistance as a change from ‘Tampa Bay’ to ‘St. Pete’ seems highly unlikely.
Changing the name would go against what Sternberg and the Rays have been trying to accomplish with the Rays. The Rays have taken several steps to expand their reach outside of the Bay Area. Next year, the Rays will move their spring training headquarters to Charlotte County in southwest Florida and for the second year in a row, the team will play a ‘home’ series at Disney World’s Wild World of Sports complex just outside of Orlando. The team has also sent representatives to various meetings in surrounding counties in an effort to promote the team in those areas. Changing the name to ‘St. Pete Rays’ would actually contract the perceived coverage of the Rays and make their goal of becoming ‘Florida’s Team’ more difficult.
Let’s hope this is just a veiled threat with little substance.
Opinion: It’s still early innings [St. Pete Times]