You know that group that has been investigating the viability of various locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg for a new Rays stadium? The group that apparently has zero authority whatsoever? Well, they released their initial findings, and they are about as bad as can be.

On the possibility of renovating the Trop…

…the Tropicana Renovations committee concluded that Tropicana Field needed to be renovated to be “a viable, marketable baseball facility.” However, such renovations were so costly…it was not worth taxpayers’ dollars when a new stadium could be built for a little more money.

On financing a new stadium…

The finance committee said Florida law complicates stadium financing and many of the creative ways other teams financed ballparks would be unavailable to the Rays. However, many teams have been successful with coming up with innovative financing ideas…and then convincing legislature to change local laws…The group speculated that in Tampa Bay, several million dollars a year could be readily available through state loans, tourist taxes, and other revenue streams, but the gap between available funds and the required funds is perceived to be great.

On the potential fanbase…

only 19% of Tampa Bay’s population lives within 30 minutes of Tropicana Field…Rays’ V.P. Michael Kalt elaborated. He said the 19% was “way below” any other team in a similar-sized market and “in the bottom-five if not dead-last” in the Majors…approximately 455,000 of the team’s 1.8M fans in 2008 came from out of the area (out-of-state or other parts of Florida), meaning the team likely averaged fewer than 17,000 local fans per game in 2008.

But the biggest blow comes via Aaron Sharockman. who has some more details and suggests moving out of the Trop may be the biggest hurdle.

  • Selling Tropicana Field during a recession doesn’t make financial or practical sense.
  • Financing a ballpark in Pinellas or St. Petersburg is difficult because the city and county are still financing the construction of Tropicana Field through 2016…

The most interesting news of all this is the quote from Kalt, because that gives us more insight into the mindset of the Rays. Similar to Matt Silverman’s quotes a few weeks ago, it is clear the Rays no longer want to be in downtown St. Pete.

So then the obvious question is: Why did the Rays think a new stadium on the St. Pete waterfront was such a good idea? That is the question the Rays are going to have a difficult time justifying.

Group releases findings on keeping Rays in Tampa Bay [10Connects.com]
Tampa Bay Rays, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are in no position to sell or renovate Tropicana Field, group says [St. Pete Times]

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6 Comments

  1. Beth says:

    This really depresses me. I have nightmares about the "Las Vegas Rays". There's no easy solution to build a new stadium, and I just don't think we will ever draw huge crowds at the current location, even if some of the flaws of the stadium were addressed (or I should say the apparent flaws...I don't mind the place). We are a relatively small region to support major league baseball; we are a relatively poor region (if you look at median incomes) and are stadium is physically located at the margins of our population centers.

    Things like stadiums, or transit systems, need to be planned regionally, because depend on the support of a region.

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  2. Michael says:

    "So then the obvious question is: Why did the Rays think a new stadium on the St. Pete waterfront was such a good idea? That is the question the Rays are going to have a difficult time justifying."

    My take on that question is that the waterfront idea was the best they could come up with and remain inside the city limits of St. Pete, which would keep them from having to get out of the Trop lease as long as they could convince the city/county/state to go along with it. A more cynical answer could be that the group has wanted to get out of St Pete all along and thought they needed to wait until when/if the politicians and citizens of St Pete shot down what seemed to be a fairly reasonable plan, which they predictably did. Perhaps the real answer is a little bit of both?

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    • I think you are right that it is a little of both. Why not shoot for the stars in downtown and if it works great, if not, well they tried.

      But I am just not sure how they can say st. Pete is a terrible place now considering that was their first choice. I just think they are going to have a hard time justifying it publicly.

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      • Beth says:

        I think the logic works like this:

        -- they are contractually bound to stay in St. Pete
        -- the only site in St. Pete that interests them is downtown/bayfront
        --the downtown waterfront site is out, so there are not a lot of St. Pete sites that appeal.

        Also, I'm a little less cynical about their promotion of their initial plan. Maybe they are just damned good actors, but the top leadership of the team seemed excited about the location and the design. The idea that they would have a striking site and original design, thus joining a small group of teams whose stadiums are noteworthy on architectural and urban design grounds, was attractive enough to outweigh some concerns about St. Pete in relation to the rest of the region. I think they believed that a noteworthy stadium plus an attractive, visitor-friendly downtown would draw folks for a unique urban experience. I'm not saying they were right == but that's how I read their reasoning.

        But heck, if they're going to be stuck outside of the city center, surrounded by a sea of parking, robbed of the "urban statement" they might have made....then the disadvantages of being in St. Pete become greater.

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        • Jason says:

          Exactly! Not sure there is anyway other way to spin it but I think you logic is spot on!

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  3. Gus says:

    I get annoyed that the City of St. Pete is now to blame for the Rays failure to draw. They came to this nuisance. Nobody held a gun to Stu's head and said buy this bargain bin franchise with 24 years to go on its lease in a stadium that is not well liked (but it clearly functional). If they had a killer stadium situation in a great market, the cost of the team would have been $400M.

    The current management has done a great job with the baseball part of the club and a good job with the Trop. They are plenty profitable now, even in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years in the state that (other than Michigan) has probably been clobbered the most. They will build their season ticket base if they can sustain some kind of decent performance, but the locals are hurting. Even the Heckler lost his tickets this year.

    I loved the Al Lang plan because it got the Trop property back on the tax rolls and took advantage of a great, historic site. But you have to win the locals over, and being a carpetbagger without any local residence with a hired bully (Kalt) whose main credential seems to be lying to the people of NYC and the State of NY to get the Yankee Stadium deal through isn't good faith. They are stuck. No other local government has any $ to give them, so they aren't going anywhwere in the short term. So focus on the baseball and trying to draw fans (restoring the season ticket holders who left over the years is a good place to start) and signing CC to a long-term deal.

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