Getting out of the contract with the city of St. Pete is going to cost the Rays a lot of money. Remember, the Rays have a “use agreement” contract, not a lease. So it is more complicated than just “buying out” what is left. The city of St. Pete is also going to want to be compensated for any dent in the local economy that is caused by losing a Major League Baseball team.
We have long suggested that the Rays, the state, and possibly the city of Tampa would have to offer something tangible in return for losing the Rays.
Stephen Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times suggests that one way to appease the city of St. Pete would be for the Rays to move their spring training headquarters back to St. Pete.
We think Nohlgren is on the right track, but spring training may not be the answer.
First of all, the Rays like being in Port Charlotte. It expands the Rays reach into Charlotte county. But more importantly, Pinellas county already has enough spring training.
Rather, the more enticing move, one we have long been a proponent of, is to move the Rays triple-A affiliate to St. Pete and the site of Al Lang Field.
Nohlgren does say that a minor league team would likely follow if Al Lang is renovated, noting that the Rays can’t control where their minor league affiliates play.
It is true, the Rays do not own their minor league affiliates. But if the Ray and the city of St. Pete worked together to build a new minor league park on the site of Al Lang, and then offered a single-A or double-A franchise in another city a spot at the triple-A level, many minor league owners would jump at the opportunity.
And while the Rays struggle in St. Pete, we think a triple-A club in a new park on the water would do very well.