The Hillsborough County Commission Chairman has had enough of the painfully slow (and possibly non-existent) pace the Tampa Bay Rays and the City of St. Pete are taking in their efforts to find the team a new home. And now Ken Hagan is hoping he can be the guy that finally leads to the break-up of the two sides (via Bill Varian and Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times)…

“I’m willing to be the boyfriend that causes the divorce,” he told the TampaBay Times…”I’m just beyond frustrated at the lack of progress regarding the Rays’ long-term future in the Tampa Bay region,” Hagan said. “For me, just sitting by idly and hoping issues will work themselves out is counterproductive.”

The biggest obstacle folks in Tampa face is the Rays’ use-agreement (it’s not a lease) with the city of St. Pete. So far, Mayor Bill Foster has stuck to the use-agreement which forbids the Rays from speaking with Tampa. City attorney John Wolfe even threatened to sue every team in baseball and any city that tried to lure the Rays if the team tried to break their contract with St. Pete.

But Hagan is hoping to change that.

According to Varian and Van Sickler, Hagan wants to speak directly with the Rays despite their use-agreement, and will speak with city attorneys in the near future about doing just that.

Hang on people. This ride is about to get bumpy.

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7 Comments

  1. doug says:

    Tampa needs to flie its own divorce of the Yankees before the Rays seriously consider Hillsborough. Polygamy has serious problems.
    (Hint: news item re: Bin Laden's wives seen fighting amongest themselves in prison). There is no other market in MLB wherein the home team has to seriously compete with division rivals for loyalty among its fan base as do the Rays. Cancel the Yankee broadcasts on 1040 A.M. and have Tampa insist that the Yankees move their spring training to the vacant facility in Ft. Myers created by the new Red Sox facility in Lee County as precondition of any serious talks...you will see just how serious everybody really is at that point. Unless the real powers in this community are serious about adopting the Rays as their own and not trying to have cake and eat it too resulting in a sharing of loyalties ($) among competing MLB interests, the support for the Rays will never be deep enough to guarantee success. Better for Pinellas to be the main player, if only it would.

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  2. Beth says:

    So if Hagan is the boyfriend, are the Rays female? Or is Hagan suggesting that's he's seeking a same-sex marriage?

    Doug -- I completely disagree with you about moving the Yankees out of Legends field. As a Hillsborough County tax payer, I believe the job of my county commission is to encourage economic activity that will produce tax revenues. Each year, thousands of New Yorkers make spring vacation plans that involve spending time in Tampa. Spring training games will not compete with Rays regular season games. If we banish the Yankees we don't necessarily win over the hearts and minds of local New York area transplants, and we lose the tourist dollars spent by New Yorkers throughout the month of March.

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    • doug says:

      It is not so much the individual fan that I'm commenting on...it is the political and corporate leadership and the degree of the committment to the Rays among political and corporate leadership which is going to be absolutely essential to the long term viability of out teams franchise. The situation they face here is absolutely unique among any MLB city. The Yankees have more than a mere spring training presence in this community.

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  3. Andy says:

    I whole heartedly agree with both of Doug's points!!! And I live in Hillsborough County as well!! If the competing organization were not in the Rays' Division, divorcing it would still warrant strong consideration. But, with this team not only in the same division, but also a perennial competitor for a playoff spot makes this particular divorce absolutely necessary!!! Legends Field sits on what to me is the perfect location for our region's MLB team!! That a Division rival prohibits this from occuring is unjust & unfair!!!

    Not only do we have to compete with this rival's Spring Training smack dab in the midst of our locale, we also compete all season long with the minor league teams of 3-4 other MLB teams (including 1 other division opponent). What we battle with here are the team loyalties that the MiLB teams afford some of our (partial-year) residents. So many potential Rays fans have moved here from other MLB cities and retain their loyalties. Adopting the wonderful, local team as a substitute can indeed happen (I used to be a White Sox fan!), but is harder to do if the original team has a local presence, even if it's just a minor league team. As Doug says, our position is very unique among MLB and gets very little acknowledgment as a factor in attendance issues.

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  4. Beth says:

    Well, I hope neither Doug nor Andy holds decision making positions within the county. Spring training is a great economic engine for our region, and the Rays success is in no way hindered by it. Transplants who bring their New York (or for that matter Toronto or Philadelphia) loyalties with them aren't going to suddenly become Rays fans because their team now trains in Fort Myers every March. And honestly, although I know I'm in the minority, I'm resigned to see Yankees fans filling Tropicana Field 9 times a year, paying premium prices and swilling beers. I figure they just subsidized Matt Moore's long term contract.

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  5. I think Bill Foster is simply doing his job. Hillsborough County's lust for St Pete's team is comical. The Ray's owners are like some one who knowingly buys a water front home at a discount because it's under the flight path of a local airport and then sues the airport to change the flight path.

    They couldn't afford the team to begin with and now expect to blackmail politicians somewhere to bail them out. Then they can start to make some real money, tax free. Problem is that Legends's Field only seats 14,000 and Hillsborough already has a gang of vampire squids sucking the lifeblood out of it, the Glazers.

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  6. ScottB says:

    Let's hope Hagen makes it happen. Pinellas County surely doesn't support the Rays, where as Tampa would clearly jump up attendence. Sadly the Lightning, that are in last place in their division, out draw the Rays and tickets cost a lot more.

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