Much has been written recently about the future of the Tampa Bay Rays and if that future includes a move across the bay to Tampa. These reports have already led to threatened litigation from the city of St. Pete and what appears to be the first steps in a looming battle between the two cities to be the future home of the Rays.
This past weekend, Stuart Sternberg indicated that he was surprised by the lack of unity between the two cities and left us wondering why the two sides cannot work together to come up with a solution that is good for the Rays and will keep both Tampa and St. Pete happy.
Seem impossible? Maybe not.
Below is our proposal for the Rays to split their home schedule between The Trop and a new stadium to be built in Tampa.
- A new privately-financed stadium built in Tampa. Without going into the details, our gut says the Channelside-area is the best spot for a new stadium.
- After completion of the new stadium, Tampa Bay Rays home games will be divided between the new Tampa stadium and The Trop as follows:
- In years 1-5, home games will be split evenly, with 40 or 41 games played in Tampa and the remaining in St. Pete.
- From year 6 until 2027 (the end of The Trop’s lease) the Rays will play 7-9 series a year at The Trop (20-30 games), with the majority of the schedule played in Tampa.
- Until 2027, any home playoff games in even-numbered years will be played in Tampa. Any home playoff games in odd-numbered years will be played in St. Pete.
- If the city of St. Pete builds a new multi-use stadium prior to the expiration of the current lease at The Trop (2027), games would once again be split evenly between the new stadium in Tampa and the new stadium in St. Pete.
Financially, the city of St. Pete would take a direct hit from the reduced number of games at The Trop. According to the Trop’s lease, and based on the Cost Price Index, the Rays currently give the city of St. Pete approximately $.654 per ticket sold (~$1.2M in ’09) . To compensate for the reduction in games (and tickets sold) at the Trop, we propose that the Rays double this amount in years 1-5 to $1.30 per ticket. And after year 5, that number will triple to $1.95 per ticket.
- The Rays get a new stadium in Tampa without having to fight a lengthy legal battle.
- Total attendance for Rays games hosted in both cities would likely be higher than if played in just one city. In addition to bringing the Rays closer to a larger percentage of the local population, the reduced number of games in each city, will increase demand for tickets in those games.
- Tampa gets 41 major league baseball games a year in years 1-5 and up to 61 games a year after that.
- St. Pete gets to keep the Rays, without having to build a new stadium at this time.
- The Rays can potentially get a second new stadium in 2027 or move to Tampa full-time after the expiration of The Trop’s lease.
A franchise using more than one home in the same season is not unprecedented. Several teams have implemented a similar strategy with success, including the Green Bay Packers (1930s-1990s), Cleveland Indians (1932-1946), Boston Celtics (1975-1996), KC/Omaha Kings (1972-1975) and Montreal Expos (2003-2004).
Having Tampa and St. Pete share the Rays seems like a natural transition. The jersey already says “Tampa Bay.” Ok, actually they don’t. But the team name is “Tampa Bay.” Tampa and St. Pete should be working together. If they choose to fight, both could lose, and the new jerseys will say “San Antonio.”