In a move that was probably inevitable but still surprising, St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster will now allow the Rays to look at new stadium sites in Tampa according to Stephen Nohlgren and Mark Puente of TampaBay.com…
“If your goal is keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa Bay until 2050, you have to let them look in Tampa,” Foster said.
Well, that’s great news. But my first thought is, “what did Stuart Sternberg offer Foster and the City of St. Pete?” This change of heart was too sudden and too dramatic to have come without a cost.
The two sides have been negotiating for months and Foster has always been very firm in his stance. So either Foster got an offer or a promise that was too good to pass up.
But Foster is not optimistic that the situation will be any better in Tampa…
“I think there is a big question mark as to whether or not Tampa Bay is a major league region…[the attendance] is a flag to the entire community. Are we a major league community? Are we a major league region? I think people need to decide what we are. We’re either going to be major league and support this team or we risk losing them.”
And he is not sure it can even happen…
“It’s somewhat humorous to watch (County Commission Chairman Ken) Hagan and (Tampa Mayor Bob) Buckhorn kind of backpedaling a little bit because they were all wearing their finest trying to court the Rays to look over there…Now that it might actually happen, you got Ken Hagan saying he’s not going to commit any taxpayer money to it, which is naive…And you have the mayor of Tampa saying he could come up with $100 million. But the private sector and the Rays have to come up with the lion’s share. That’s extremely naive.”
I have said from the beginning, and I’m fairly sure that Hagan has also always suggested, that no matter where the new stadium is built, all sides will have to get creative when it comes to financing it and a big chunk of the cost will have to come from the private sector.
That means tax payers will have to pony up some money. Maybe it won’t be two-thirds or even one-third, but they will have to pay some. And the Rays will have to come up with a chunk. But it is doubtful that those two sides can pay for it all.
That means outside investors, and if there is anybody that knows a thing or two about investing, it is Stuart Sternberg. So financing will need to be creative. But honestly, it is one part that has never worried me.
They will find a way.