Aaron Sharockman of the St. Pete Times, who is to the Rays new stadium as Rachel Nichols is to Brett Favre, has the latest on the quest to find a home for a new Rays stadium. And if this latest report is any indication, things do not sound promising.

All four sites that have been considered in mid Pinellas would require major and sometimes massive infrastructure improvements. At least two would require building thousands of parking spaces. And three could need road upgrades and possibly a new interstate exchange…The group studying the possible locations, A Baseball Community, has yet to consider the potential problems with any of the mid Pinellas sites, and declines even to talk about them. But the Rays recent acknowledgment that they prefer a location closer to the population center of the Tampa Bay area will no doubt trigger questions about the feasibility of such a move.

The benefit to moving to a mid-Piniellas location is the proximity to a larger population.

A team study determined that roughly 1.2 million people live within a 30-minute drive of the Gateway (north St. Pete) area, compared to 600,000 who live that close to downtown St. Petersburg. The team also says north St. Petersburg has almost twice as many employed people within a 30-minute drive…The Rays say only 19 percent of the area’s population is within a 30-minute drive of their current home, Tropicana Field. In Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Diego, and Minneapolis, the percentage is closer to 60 percent, the Rays say.

Of course, all of this comes on the heals of the failed attempt to land a new stadium at the site of Al Lang Stadium along the St. Pete waterfront. And don’t think the Rays won’t remind everybody that the waterfront would have cost the taxpayers a lot less.

One reason the Rays originally pitched Al Lang Field as a new stadium site was because it was the cheapest option available, said Rays executive Michael Kalt…Cost estimates for the other sites do not exist, but comparatively, the Rays and others acknowledge they will be more expensive.

At this point, the Rays are waiting for A Baseball Community to conclude their study before moving forward with a specific plan. But the silence coming from the offices at Tropicana Field is deafening.

The Rays understand that they need to work with the community to find a solution that is best for everybody, but they are also not about to settle for something that doesn’t maximize the potential revenues for the team. Besides, we don’t get the impression that Stuart Sternberg is somebody that is just going to let somebody else tell him what is best for his business. And right now, all the decisions are being made by people outside the organization.

In the end, the more the city of St. Pete drags their feet, the closer they are coming to losing their one professional sports team to the city on the other side of the Bay.

[St. Pete Times]

 
 

26 Comments

  1. I’m still a big fan of the Florida State Fairground (it would be very convenient for me)!

    As for the debate, now that Miami’s deal is finalized, MLB’s going to start putting pressure on the community to get something done before they’re forced to “move” the team. You’re right, it is going to get worse before it gets better. In this economic climate, the politicians don’t want to do anything that could look like it’s costing taxpayer money. I just wonder if the Rays would’ve had better luck w/ their little ballot proposal if they’d waited a little closer to the playoffs to announce it.

  2. Amanda says:

    But wasn’t the initial announcement made before (if not, towards the early part of) last season? They aren’t seers … they couldn’t have known that they would have made the playoffs.

    But the problem with St. Petersburg, is that you’re dealing with the greatest segment of snowbirds and older residents in the whole Bay area (except for the south Hillsborough area where the retirement communities are). From working in newspapers down there, I know the type who rallied against the stadium. They’re the type who wouldn’t approve anything that had to do with schools because “all my kids have grown up” or “I only live here for 6 months, so that doesn’t concern me.” I don’t believe in throwing money at schools to make them better, but dang it, it’s selfish to vote something down because it doesn’t directly affect you.

    I live near Charlotte, and it would benefit me for them to move up here, but the Rays belong in the Bay area. Period. I just hope Tampa steps up if St. Pete drops the ball. (Anyone have any word if Hillsborough is chomping at the bit to bring over the Rays if Pinellas won’t approve their staidum plans over there?)

  3. Joe D. says:

    I made a comment in the attendance tracker post last week, it’s relevant here too…

    I just got back last night from St. Pete, my girlfriend and I went down (from Orlando area) to St Pete to see the Twins V. Rays Game and the 3 Doors Down concert after the game, and spent the weekend. It wasn’t just the game, or a post game concert that we went there to spend money on, but we parked in one of the local office building parking lots for $10, spent $100 for hotel, $30 for concessions at the stadium (with out buying alcohol), eat 3 meal out while we were in town, and spent a day walking around John’s Pass shopping, and more money for parking.

    The cities and county really need to consider how many people a baseball team can attract, not just out of towner’s that want to come and see there Red Sox or Yankees because it’s actually cheaper to see at game at The Trop in prime seats then it is to see a game in a prime seat in New York but also people from in state that drive in to see games, and decide to spend the night, and make a weekend of it.

  4. Gus says:

    The reason the Al Lang site works is you get 73 acres of the Trop site back on the tax roll; but the team can’t win over the activists. The only non-downtown site that works in Pinellas is the Derby Lane site and you need some Obama infrastructure dollars for Gandy to make that work. For all of these reasons, they’ll most likely end up re-working something on the current site.

    The dirty secret is that the past year has proven what St. Pete people have said for a long time: put a good product on the field, and you’ll draw pretty well. That site may struggle some on weeknight games, but draws surprisingly well for weekday games and is great for weekend games. When full it is a fun stadium and comfortable. Move it to Tampa, and you’ve alienated the people who have supported you for years (especially the Bradenton/Sarasota people), so there is no perfect site solution. Keep working on the product and the fan base will build and you’ll have a good franchise bought on the cheap; good news is that most of the stadium pays off in 7 years.

    • Joe D. says:

      The key is renovating that Gandy Blvd, Gandy Bridge, Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway interchange. You have this awesome expressway that gets you around all of the Downtown Tampa Traffic, then it dead ends in to this awful. local, under construction, clusterfu*k before you can get on to the Gandy Bridge. There needs to be a way to get you from The Expressway to The Bridge, without all of the BS in between. it also wouldn’t hurt if there was an inter change somewhere up near US 41 that takes me from I-4 to the Crosstown Expressway.

      Also true about alienating the St Pete people, 3 Doors Downs singer Brad Arnold said between songs, on Saturday in the post game concert, in talking about the bands start that 98 Rock in Tampa, was the fist radio station outside their hometown to play them on the radio. In doing so he said “I guess I should say St Pete Slash ‘Tampa’”, and as he said “slash Tampa” he was soundly booed…

      • That’s what all that construction on the Tampa side of the Gandy is about. They basically added a giant median to support an overpass directly from the bridge to the expressway. I love the Derby Lane idea, but, don’t forget, the crazies around here got up in arms when Wal-Mart tried to move in. I couldn’t imagine what they’d do if the Rays tried to move here.

  5. Rayhawk says:

    I’ll tell you again, my freind whom I play golf with, says his Architectural firm has been given the go ahead Last Fall. To do a priliminary stadium drawing for next to RayJay, retractable roof.

    • Brixology says:

      Where exactly? I would think that the Bucs need the parking, so those lots wouldn’t be available, and I seriously doubt the Yanks are giving up their site. How weird would it be to have two baseball stadiums right next to each other?

    • I am sure what your saying is true, but who ordered it? Couldn’t have been the Rays directly. That is too risky if it gets made public. So maybe somebody in the back channels or somebody with the city who wants to make a play for the Rays to move.

      What we do know is that the Rays have asked HOK to see if a retractable room is possible for The Trop.

    • Gus says:

      The next time a local architect designs a baseball stadium that actually gets built will be the first time. I’m sure the TSA guys would love to have it there, as will any number of landowners. Still got 17 years to go to pay off the RayJay bonds (unless you think a tax increase is likely to be voter-approved in Hillsborough County).

  6. Carlos says:

    I thought the Rays had a contract with the Trop and the City of St. Pete that lasted for quite a while.

  7. Gus says:

    The City would expect to demand specific performance of the lease and not accept a “buy out”. I think they’d find a friendly judicial reception in the circuit court down there and the Rays know that. They are kind of stuck with each other for a while. Moreover, in this economy, sweet stadium deals are going to be few and far between and the controlling parties in the ownership group who made their money in Wall Street derivatives is likely worth considerably less than they were this time last years. All this leads me to conclude they ain’t going anywhere in the next 8-10 years.

  8. RaysFanNPR says:

    Couple of things I have seen that are worth commenting on. First, they are making an interchange over Gandy to the bridge from the cross-town. Secondly, they are also making a connector from I-4 to the Cross-Town near Ybor. Lastly, if you did move the stadium to the Florida State Fairgrounds. You would not be putting out the Bradenton/Sarasota people, as that site is only a short distance farther up 75 than the trop. Plus you don’t have to worry about St. Pete traffic. I doubt you would see the fairgrounds selected. You would have to lose the concert grounds and lose the fair. Both of those losses would not be made up by the revenue gained by the Rays. Granted, you would get more attendance, as you would be gaining all the rednecks in plant city. Make it easier for Orlando/lakeland travelers. Really anyone along the I-4/I-75 corridors would benefit from moving to the fair grounds.

    Finally, I don’t care what someone’s golf buddy tells them on golf course. Half the things said out there is BS to impress your buddies after a few beers. Drawings for a concept at a firm are made to try and bid for the job of designing the stadium. The go aheads like that are internal, not from the Rays or anyone else. Get real please.

    • Joe D. says:

      It’s good to hear from you and Michael Weber about the crosstown improvements, I come from Orlando, and that’s the easiest way in to St Pete for me, so those improvements are big time savers even with the stadium in it’s current location.

    • Gus says:

      Using sarasota-bradenton airport as the point of departure, it is 35 miles to the Trop v. 58 miles to Fairgrounds. Big difference there. Closer to cows and the lower incomes of Polk County. For a daily game like baseball in a spread out area like Tampa Bay, it is tricky. No location in Tampa Bay is as dense population wise as Atlanta or Denver or similar-sized cities. It probably has to be in one downtown or the other for infrastrucutre reasons, so unless you see a killer site in downtown Tampa, downtown St. Pete probably is as good a choice as any. Oh yeah, the state and its local governments are totally strapped. I think this talk is pretty pointless for now. Just have them get out of last place before they start complaining about attendance again.

  9. Sabine says:

    It isn’t merely a “lease.” The contract the Rays have with the City requires they play baseball in St. Pete, so long as the City provides a stadium and parking. They cannot play anywhere else until 2027. Injunctive relief is available for the City. A “buyout” would have to be huge!! Maybe Las Vegas could afford it. It is unlikely Tampa or Charlotte (home of the nearly bankrupt B of A) could.

    If the Rays hadn’t been greedy (if they had gone for a new or remodeled stadium on the Trop site, with an extension of ONLY the bond debt already in place), they might be well on their way to luxury suites and a retractable roof. Of course that would mean they would have had to share a realistic part of the cost.

    Keep in mind, if a restaurant came to the City and asked for taxpayer money to build their kitchen, they would have been laughed out of City Hall… why should a professional (private, for-profit) sports team be handled any differently?

    • Simple. Because a restaurant in and of itself is not a source of income or jobs for the city. The sports team is. There is debate over how much of an impact a sports team has but it does have an impact. And it does raise the profile of the city in a way a restaurant cannot.

    • Joe D. says:

      I agree with the notion that if a stadium made as much money as team owners would lead you to believe, then why don’t they front the money them selves and take all of the profit them selves as well.

      However, a stadium can bring in a lot more revenue then just a ticket, parking, and concession sales. When you start thinking about all of the events that a new stadium can bring to a town, like an All-Star game, World Series, and possibly help out with the Tampa, St. Pete, Orlando bid for the Olympics, that is a huge source of income, and money that would be dropped in the area by media, and visitors. An chance to show case all that St Pete, and Pinellas County have to offer beyond just the stadium, and could do a lot more to promote that then just the “Visit Clearwater, St Pete” commercial that runs during the Rays games and maybe get more people to include St Pete in their Florida get aways. When you watch baseball games at outdoor baseball stadiums the camera pans around, and shows off the city the skyline, and some features of interest, I’m not sure that people get that during a Rays game, they might show a shot of the pier, and then the next shot is of catwalk, and some tarp covered seats.

      • Sabine says:

        Guys, face it… there are 30 years of economic impact studies by academics (neutral parties, not hired by a team or a City) that show professional sports teams as having little (in some cases negative) impact on the local economy. I can provide a suggested bibliography, if you need one. Even the conservative think tank, the Cato Institute, came to that conclusion. The Gran Prix gives the City international exposure without costing the City huge amounts of on-going subsidies (as we give the Rays). That’s “bang-for-the-buck”!!

        There are also studies on how the olympics “help” a host city. Several cities have come close to bankruptcy by hosting the olympics. These events are all ego-gratification, rather than economically sound thinking.

        Oh, and an outdoor stadium in Florida is insane… the Marlins are going indoors from outdoors. Pretty skyline, sweaty fans, and thunder storms… an unbeatable combination. Ask season ticket holders what they think…. I have.

        • We are talking about two different things when we say “city”. I am referring to economic impact on local businesses. I am not sure how anybody can argue that a professional sports team negatively impacts local businesses. Maybe a few, but many more benefit. Especially a team like the Rays where studies have shown that one-third of the fans come from outside Pinellas. Those people spend money. They don’t take it.

          • Sabine says:

            When?? Ask the businesses that closed out near the Trop.

            Games start at 7PM; 2/3 of the fans are local; they run home from work, change, go to the game & eat there. At 10:30PM, when the game is over, they do not shop. Maybe a few will have another beer… just what we want on the roads. (Good for Ferg’s.)

            A large portion of the other 1/3 are from the surrounding communities (Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton, etc.), and don’t hang around after the game. The few who are truly from out of town may spend some money on hotels and meals. Shopping is no great shakes in St. Pete, and never will be, given the demographics. So, a few restaurants and hotels make a few bucks on 100-120 days a year (80 game days, plus a day either side of a series). And, on the days traffic is a pain, local people who might have eaten downtown stay away. So, except for hotels, it’s a trade-off. By the way, Marriott and Hilton are headquartered in far-away cities, so how much of the money spent on hotels actually stays here??

        • Joe D. says:

          I have a hard time believing that the stadium has a negative impact on Ferg’s, I also have a hard time believing that whatever municipalities that Ferg’s pays taxes to, wouldn’t miss that income. Just one example I know, but still you get my point…

          The heat and thunderstorms haven’t deterred the Florida State League from playing outdoor baseball since 1919, or people from going to theme parks or beaches in Florida in the summer, or from locals buying annual passes to them parks, and they go during the day none the less, most of the Rays games are played at night. Also, the Rays stadium plans called for sail roofing system would protect the stands and field of play from all but the worst of storms. I’ve been to games at The Trop when it rains, the thing that sucks is that when the game is over, I still have to walk close to a 1/4 mile in the rain to get my car.

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