This is a repost from February, but we believe that it remains the only “regional” solution for a new Rays stadium. Let’s face it, if the Rays move across the bay, they will become “Tampa’s team” and St. Pete will be left out in the cold…

A Proposal: Rays Should Call Both Tampa And St. Pete ‘Home’

On Monday Stuart Sternberg called for a regional solution to the Rays quest for a new stadium and asked that Tampa and St. Pete “rise above municipal boundaries and work together with a common interest.” That left us wondering if the two sides can 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.

The proposal

  • A new privately financed stadium, with built-in tax breaks (not tax dollars), to be 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 1-4, home games will be split evenly, with 41 games played in Tampa and the remaining in St. Pete.
    • From year 5 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 1-4 to $1.30 per ticket. And after year 4, that number will triple to $1.95 per ticket.

The benefits…

  • The Rays get a new stadium in Tampa without having to fight a lengthy legal battle.
  • Tampa gets 41 major league baseball games a year in years 1-4 and up to 61 games a year after that.
  • 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.
  • St. Pete gets to keep the Rays, without having to go to court and 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.”

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19 Comments

  1. Cork Gaines says:

    Obviously this is a very rough proposal. There are many financial and legal considerations that most of us dont understand when it comes to this type of business. With that being said, I would love to hear what you guys think. What are the problems with this proposal? Do you like it? If you have specific problems, how can we overcome those within the framework of this proposal.

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    • Political_Man says:

      Kind of silly to even consider such a proposal IMO. Why would you build a stadium for the extra revenue it generates and then only use it 50 or 75 percent of the time or whatever you are proposing? All the while doubling your costs and maintenance fees in keeping up the Trop and the new stadium both? You would probably spend more in fixed maintenance costs on the Trop than you would take in trying to maintain it for a 30-40 games a year. Kind of a fun thing to talk about how it would work, but not even close to being a realistic solution. I'm not being harsh here but you guys should consider taking this article down. It does more to hurt efforts for a new stadium than help because it gets people talking and thinking about an option that is never going to happen. Just my opinion.

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      • Cork Gaines says:

        The Rays don't want to be in St. Pete.

        St. Pete is not going to let them leave.

        Think this idea is silly? Fine. But until you can propose a solution in which the Rays get what they want and St. Pete doesn't get screwed, THIS is the ONLY solution anybody has proposed yet.

        As for taking the post down? Um, no.

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        • Political_Man says:

          I really respect your blog and the work you've done. I sincerely mean that. This blog is truly one of the places I first check into in the morning. You are just happen to be DEAD WRONG even proposing this as a discussion and I hope you'll see the light and drop the subject altogether.

          I personally don't care if St. Pete thinks it's getting "screwed" and neither should you. Keeping the Rays in the Tampa Bay area is priority NUMBER ONE.
          All I care about is keeping the Rays in the area. I understand the point you are making but I can't for the life of me figure out how any Rays fan in the area could care if the Rays play in Tampa or St. Pete as long as they stay in the area.

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          • Cork Gaines says:

            I completey understand what you are saying, and for the most part I agree. But there is a problem. In an ideal world, what I think and what you think and what all fans think would matter, but that is not going to matter to the city of St. Pete.

            The stands to lose a lot of money and a lot of credibility if the team loses. And we are talking more than just the rent and the ticket sales. The city wants to be a "big city," and the Rays were considered the first step in that direction. And if the Rays leave, a lot of that hope will be lost.

            So if the Rays want out of the contract and if this goes to court, the city is going to seek much more than just the money still owed on the contract.

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  2. Ian says:

    If a brand new stadium is built in Tampa, why would anyone (even St Pete residents) ever go the the Trop?
    A new, beautiful, outdoor stadium would most definitely be the venue of choice for Rays fans statewide. Attendance would drop for the games in St Pete. It's not really fair.
    For the record, I love the Trop and enjoy baseball indoors, but coming from Orlando, I would most likely choose games in Tampa over St Pete.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      They would go to the Trop for the same reason nobody in Tampa is going to the Trop now. Because nobody wants to commute across the Bay during the week. If St. Pete residents really want to go to Rays games, they are more likely to go to the Trop.

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    • Zach says:

      There is also the weather element. A lot of fans, especially the older crowd in St. Pete, that like the indoor baseball and the 72-degree, no humidity and no rain.

      And the Rays could continue to schedule the postgame concerts for the Trop. They wouldnt be needed in Tampa and the dome is more suitable anyway.

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  3. Mike says:

    I don't see anyway that there will be private financing for a new stadium. The only way a stadium gets built is if at least 75% of the cost is publicly financed. Also, any new stadium has to at least have a retractable roof. I know I would go to a lot fewer games if I had to worry about the heat and thunderstorms every night, even if the stadium was in Tampa. Its one thing to leave straight from work to go to the game in the a/c, but if it was outdoors I would have to go home and change, plus we would have rain delays at least once a week all summer long.

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  4. Cork Gaines says:

    To clarify...this is by no means the BEST solution. This is just the ONLY solution that doesn't involve a lengthy court battle and/or St. Pete getting royally screwed.

    And quite frankly, I am beginning to wonder if this is the only solution that keeps the Rays in Florida.

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  5. Preston says:

    I don't care what happens. Tampa, Saint Pete, Whatever. I don't care. As long as they stay in the Tampa Bay area. I am worried that Bill Foster's stance on the issue is going to easily drive Stu away. This is scary stuff, and NONE of you can expect Stu to go ahead and blow more money on a team in a city that refuses to let the man break even. If I were him, I'd already be looking to sell the team.

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  6. JoeBucsFan says:

    It's tough Cork when you start to look at the reality of selling tickets, and to a lesser extent in-stadium sponsorships.

    The longtime Celtics situation was more of a novelty and only just like four games a year, I believe.

    But creative minds could do an awful lot with this proposal, and it would seem to save the legal battle. And it's especially attractive if the new stadium isn't a retractable roof (hard to imagine that it wouldn't be). Cheaper seats at the Trop, and July and August at the Trop when the heat is most unbearable.

    But if a new stadium isn't completely outdoors, then it's hard to see how this would ever happen on a big scale. Maybe just three "non-prime" series games a year at the Trop.

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  7. Bryan Spaulding says:

    If private investors are crazy enough to build a new stadium and take a flyer on a part time team then that's fine, after all it's there money.

    Realistically however stadium investors are smart and will want taxpayer support up front or a tax payer bailout plan when things don't go according to some rosey plan.

    Bottom line is that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for baseball nor be on the hook for baseball business loses. In this economy governments can hardly afford police and fire.

    Let's make it clear that the taxpayer wishs the Rays all the best but ... but don't come to us looking for money.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      I'm no tax expert, but I would think there are ways to get indirect money from the city/state without demanding taxpayer money up front. Maybe the city helps broker a good deal on the land with the seller getting land somewhere else from the city that is worth more. Or maybe the city ad state can promise tax breaks on the land and the property. So instead of giving the Rays money, they find ways to make the project cheaper for the Rays.

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  8. Bryan Spaulding says:

    With very few exceptions, government funding is derived from taxes and fees paid by others.

    Given the reality of limited reasorces and a challenged Florida economy, the real question is what is the role of government in baseball?

    Private Equity Groups, Venture Capital Groups and Hedge Funds hold billions ready to invest in deals that make sense.

    Asking those that pay taxes, who ever they may be, to pay for pro baseball, directly or indirectly, or to ask them to assume the business risks of wealthy investors simply does not make sense. (unless you happen to be a player or wealthy investor)

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  9. Cork Gaines says:

    Again, never said it was the best idea. And never even said it was a good idea. The point is, this is the ONLY way it works for everybody.

    So again, think this is dumb? Then I would love to hear your solution for how the Rays get a stadium in Tampa and St. Pete doesn't get screwed.

    So far, nobody has even tried to come up with a better answer.

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