That is the questioned posed by Noah Pransky

All we know so far is that the team HAS been sustainable in Tampa Bay – even profitable. So what evidence do we have that the team won’t be in the future? Are revenues expected to drop? It’s not like the team has major debt problems like a handful of others in the league…So, while fans are expected to believe the current situation is not sustainable; while local municipalities are expected to help subsidize a new stadium; and while St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster is expected to give the team permission to break it’s use agreement; the Rays should provide actual evidence of their needs, not their “wants”…Stu Sternberg owes it to the region to open up his books.

Pransky is absolutely right. And yet, we would still argue that the Rays need a stadium just as much as they want the added revenues.

Are the Rays making money under the current situation? Yes. Are they making a lot of money? Probably not. But you can argue that “maximizing revenue” would be a “want” more than a “need.” Although you can certainly argue that the Rays cannot compete consistently without a boost in revenue.

But there is another factor that makes a new stadium important. A factor that may be more important than crossing bridges, or moving to the geographical center of the fanbase, or getting closer to the corporate dollars.

That is, maybe this team just needs a new stadium to erase the one last taint from the Devil Rays era.

Even if you believe the Trop is an underrated experience (it is), and even if you think the drive across the bridge is not that terrible (it’s not), this fanbase is just sick and tired of being pounded on and being made fun of because of that outdated grain silo.

Let’s face it…nobody is going to respect this franchise until they get a new stadium.

And that psychological barrier has an impact on the team’s bottom line.

Let’s say you are a casual sports fan living in the Bay Area. And all you ever hear from fans of other teams, or from the talking heads on ESPN, is that The Trop SUCKS. And everybody curses the catwalks, and makes fun of playing baseball in a warehouse. All that is doing is making it less likely that the casual sports fans are going to become Rays fans.

And once we add in the tangible benefits of moving out of St. Pete, we can start to paint a picture in which replacing The Trop is indeed needed.

Maybe the Rays don’t need a new stadium to avoid losing money. But this team, and this franchise, and this fanbase, do need a new stadium so that we can finally put the Devil Rays in our rearview mirror.

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21 Comments

  1. Tom Thumb says:

    Great points. As a Rays fan since day one and a season ticket holder when I was in high school, I don't love the Trop. I in fact prefer the spring training facility much more and still associate the "Devil" with the Trop.

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  2. BizRays says:

    I think the folks that run Miller Park closed their retractable roof last night just to give us Rays fans a taste of what a modernized stadium could look like.

    I was just in Atlanta for a conference and I went to Turner Field for the Braves-Rangers game on Friday. Sure, the Trop is underrated but there's NOTHING like taking in a baseball game outdoors. Especially when the lights start to take effect.

    Look - I understand that outside in Florida is hot in the summer. But so is every other stadium outside of the ones in Seattle, California, or Minnesota. We need a new, centrally-located outdoor stadium, with a retractable roof and a nod to the Devil Rays era but a huge emphasis on the RAYS. Past, present, and future.

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    • Sarah says:

      I'll agree to an outdoor stadium when MLB agrees to have its season run from October through April.

      yes, there's nothing like outdoor baseball, except when you are playing in oppressive heat or in thunderstorms. It's a shame that outdoor baseball isn't going to work in South/Central Florida, but that's how it is. I'm not even a fan of a retractable roof -- it would add huge amounts to the cost, and it would probably be open only during April and (if we are lucky enough to be playing) October. It would add about $50 million to the cost, and we'd use it maybe 20 times a year. I'd rather invest that money in good architectural design and an effort to revitalize the area around the new stadium.

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      • Gus says:

        I agree, but note that the retractable roof typically adds approx. $150M to the initial cost, plus is far more expensive to maintain, probably another $1M a year.

        I'd rather spend that money on catching.

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        • Sarah says:

          How about a really good looking catcher? That would improve the area's aesthetics while also delivering better baseball.

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      • Mark E says:

        AMEN! Sarah

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  3. Steve says:

    I agree with everything here. There is not a compelling economic "need" for a new stadium - - certainly not a need that moving the team to Tampa is going to cure. But, as I said in the beginning, for a city that makes its living off of being a place where people want to visit, a new stadium in St. Pete would be a smart move. Unfortunately in this economic climate its not going to happen.

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  4. Don says:

    Lets see when was the last time I actually heard a FAN associate the Trop with the Devil Rays...let me think...ok NEVER...why don't you and NOAH?? actually ask Fans that go to games what they think about the stadium.. BEFORE you print stuff you don't know ... Noah explains what the fans think.. I don't think so " STUIE to Open his books to Noah...
    OK to show the "region" how many millions he makes..
    How about Noah showing us that 35,000 he made last year writing BS articles...

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  5. Bobby Fenton says:

    While "maximizing revenues" and all that financial stuff are typically the reasons cited for needing a new stadium, that doesn't mean they're the only reasons. If the Rays were given a "free payroll for life" coupon by MLB tomorrow, they would still need a new stadium. The Trop is not a good stadium. All anyone needs to do is go to the Trop, then go to any number of other major league stadiums, then go back to the Trop. In addition to the atrocious location, it's depressing, and it makes me like going to a baseball game a little bit less each time I go.

    So forget about making more money for the Rays. They need a new stadium regardless of finances because this is not the way Major League Baseball is supposed to be done. If you're satisfied having the 29th or 30th stadium out of 30 in MLB, though, then by all means, play at the Trop for another decade.

    We need to decide what is important. If we want MLB in our town and believe it is worth it to put in the resources it will take for a new stadium, then we need to do it. If it is deemed not worthy or too expensive and you think we should let them leave instead of bowing to big money owners and players, well, that's a perfectly valid opinion too. But we can't have both. That place is a joke.

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  6. rayalan says:

    I love the Trop and I have been to at least 5 or 6 of the new stadiums including the new Yankee stadium and I'll keep the Trop thank you. I simply do not understand why the Trop gets such bad press. The upgrades Stu added made it a very pleasant place to go to a game. I am a season ticket holder

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    • Raysfan4life says:

      Hey rayalan, I am a huge Rays fan. I am sorry but I do not agree. I feel the Trop is garbage. It is a cross between an abandoned airport hanger and a dungeon. Besides how I feel about the the actual field, the real reason people don't go to the games is the location. They have to get out of St. Pete. They need to go where the major business district is and that is downtown Tampa. In order for people who work in downtown Tampa to go to game, they have to leave work, cross the Howard Franklin Bridge in gridlock traffic, then once they do that, they have to deal with the game traffic. it could up too an hour and a half to do that. While most other stadiums, you can leave work, get a beer and just go. It is pretty sad that I could make it to a game quicker from Sarasota than people who work in downtown Tampa. Ironically, the only people who argue with me on this point are people who live in St. Pete or south of St. Pete. They can't sell out a game where they are now. Hillsborough county has proposed a stadium nestled between Meridian Street to the east and the Crosstown Expressway to the west, and between Whiting Street to the north and Cumberland Avenue to the south. Home plate is on the Cumberland side, so fans could look north and west toward downtown. Build a modern stadium in this location and I guarantee you the attendance numbers will rise.

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  7. Gus says:

    So local governments should break a validly signed lease and divert millions a year in tax dollars that could fund other community needs because ESPN makes fun of the Trop? We need to grow thicker skin.

    The locals don't want a new stadium unless (a) someone else pays for it and (b) builds it so it is 5 minutes from their residence. That is not happening. More importantly, the citizens of St. Petersburg have paid about $6M a year for the privilege of having baseball (and have done so every year since 1989 or so) and the citizens of Pinellas County have let an equal amount ($6M) of tourist tax dollars be diverted to pay for the Trop. The people in Hillsborough believed in the Easter Bunny and Tom McEwen and that a private stadium would be built on the site of a Tampa Stadium parking lot. That never occured. So get in your car and go to a game, or watch it on TV, but stop fretting about the stadium and enjoy the team. This is the best team the Rays have ever had. It would be nice to enjoy them and not worry about ESPN not liking the Trop.

    The Rays attendance problems (to the extent they have them) is 90% a problem of management's ticket pricing, of management's continued low payroll and management's angling to get a new stadium paid for by the taxpayers of Hillsborough County. Three years ago, downtown St. Petersburg was a perfectly fine location until they locals balked at the Al Lang plan. These guys would locate the team in Plant City if they could get a free stadium out of it. Frustrating when people don't see when it is so obvious.

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    • Raysfan4life says:

      Gus no way I can agree with you. You think the attendance problem is ticket pricing? Are you kidding? I have gotten into Tropicana Field for $16 dollars a ticket and I was in row 5 in the upper deck right behind home plate. I am sorry but that is cheap for a Major League Baseball Ticket. The stadium is a piece of garbage, but that is besides the point. They have had a winning team for the past 4 years and made the playoffs 3 of those years. Last year other than opening day, we didn't have one sellout durring the regular season. Its not working where it is. If you continue with the attitute of they have to stay in St. Pete, we will all lose the team as they will move out of state. They have to get to Tampa where the people are. And this is coming for a guy who lived in Sarasota for the past 7 years. St Pete is much closer to Sarasota than Tampa is.

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  8. Monte says:

    The Trop isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I made it a point to take three of my friends to the game and they were amazed how nice the Trop really was. They liked the fact that we went from 100 degrees outside to 72 degrees. Once the game started they didn't even notice we were indoors.

    I am a season ticket holder that lives in Polk County and I know that as soon as a outdoor stadium is built it will be the last year I buy season tickets.

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  9. Rome says:

    Excuse me while I take this bat and beat the dead horse who is over in the corner: A new stadium is a good idea. I think have a new stadium either any county wouldn't be a bad idea at all. I believe that a new stadium gives the surrounding communities an opportunity to build business around the development.

    If the Rays have a new stadium what would be the impact? You could attract all-star games, and different baseball-centric events , i.e. college and high school playoffs. You could have another venue to house some trade shows and concerts. A new stadium would be just another step in the modernization of the Tampa Bay area.

    Yes, I do realize that our area has needs like schools, public roads, and public transportation. However, we have been talking about school needs, public road upkeep, and public transport issues for years. Perhaps and new stadium could shed some more light and potentially attract private investors.

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  10. I think the taxpayers of Hillsborough County should pay triple taxes so that they can build a billion dollar baseball stadium. I think they should subsidize the price of beer and hot dogs. Beer should be $1 and hot dogs 50 cents. I believe that a ticket stub should be able to get you out of jail free for any DUI and or DUI/manslaughter charges. Joe Redner should be in charge of developing a cheerleader/beer serving squads. I believe that all Mexican males over the age of 58 and residing in Tarpon Springs should be picked up and brought home free of charge by limousine and be given free box seats right next to Rays dugout. They need to change the words to the national anthem from "Jose, can you see?" to "Miguel, can you see?" Then, I would be happy.

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    • Don says:

      You make as much(or more) sense than that from the above master minds that never go to games.... but they have Stadium solutions... but not the first idea about financing or making money from a business ...

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  11. Michael says:

    Article dismisses the important point of the north and east suburbs of Tampa who are basically completely cut off from the team.

    And the drive across the bridge is horrible.

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  12. Michael says:

    Also buried is the assumption that because the team makes a profit, then a new stadium is not required.

    The team probably makes a profit on the backs of league rules that disperse cash to markets evenly.

    With this money, the team stays afloat and sports perennially one of the lowest payrolls in the league.

    Having done so, using the absolute best GM in the business, we have scrapped together two playoff runs and one league championship.

    Unless we have an Andy Friedman cloning machine the "well it's working out for us so far" case is not a good one from a competitive point of view.

    The team need to put itself in a position where it doesn't have to rely on planetary alignment to compete in the hardest division in baseball. That will not happen in downtown St. Pete. It will not happen in a warehouse.

    The fact that the Trop is underrated is moot.

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    • Gus says:

      The reason the Rays profit is so much lower than bug revenue teams isn't attendance. When you net attendance v. their fixed capital costs, they come out middle of the pack (because they have virtually no lease costs).

      Where they pale in comparison to EVERY OTHER MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM is their pathetically bad, signed to give cash to a cash-strapped ownership group, TV contract with Sun Sports.

      I swear every time I see a Sternberg sychophant trot this out, it makes me sick. The revenue sharing in MLB is not really sharing the gate; it is really sharing the local TV revenues which vary so widely among the teams, the premise being that if the Yankees played in a 6 team league with other high revenue teams, you'd have a lesser league, and lesser TV revenues. It is a small (very small) step to an NFL model where all regular season TV money is captured at the national level and shared equally.

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  13. nate says:

    I was with you until "get a new stadium to erase Devil Rays tie". That's just throwing s--t against the wall man.

    Using the financials that were leaked onto Deadspin as a reference point, the Rays turn a profit, but they are only able to do so because of revenue sharing. We know that Yankee ownership has stated publically their disappointment in how the revenue sharing arrangement is working out. I'm sure there are others that are paying out that feel the same way. It would seem that over the long term the Commissioners office would pressure local ownership to get a stadium (which seems to be a league mandate as evidenced by all the new builds over the last 20 years) otherwise funds could be cut as a result.

    That is likely what Sternberg refers to when he says things are not sustainable.

    NOw would a new stadium fix things? I don't think so

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