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The Rays want out of St. Petersburg

Jun 22, 2010, 1:29 PM EDT

They'll stay in the region, but they want to be wooed. This makes no sense.

Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg said yesterday what everyone has known for a long time: the Rays simply aren’t viable in St. Petersburg.  Certainly not in Tropicana Field and probably not even if those cool stadium plans the Rays came up with a couple of years ago — but which the city rejected — ever came to fruition.

Which they now never will, because Sternberg says that, to be viable, the Rays likely have to be across the bridge in Tampa. Hard to say if even that would make the Rays viable. Tampa is turning into a Yankees town, I hear.

I think the most interesting aspect of this — which is kind of buried in the story — is that Sternberg is basically asking the whole region to woo him as if he were the owner of a team in another city looking to move into the area:

“If we weren’t here, how would people treat us?” Sternberg said
wistfully. “I think that’s how I’d like to see this community react. If
we weren’t here, I think it would take a regional effort to get us
here.”

But you are there, Stuart, and you have a lease to an ugly old dome that no one forced you to sign (or, rather, assume when you bought the team), so you can’t expect to sit back and wait for everyone to cater to your leverage-free butt as if you were gifting them something.

Not that I don’t sympathize — the Rays are in a lousy spot — but in case Sternberg hasn’t noticed, the unemployment rate in the Tampa-St. Pete area is close to 12% and property values are in the dumper. To expect the area to pony up a minimum of a quarter of a billion dollars to build you a ballpark in this environment is not realistic.

Personally I think this is step one — the pledge of local loyalty — to Sternberg moving the team out of the Tampa Bay area entirely. If and when the region doesn’t woo him like he wants to be wooed, he’ll move on, saying that he gave them all a chance.

Where to move? I dunno, but Sternberg himself says there are “at least five” better cities in the U.S. that don’t currently have baseball teams and, I’m assuming anyway, could have baseball teams without running afoul of baseball’s established territories. Let’s see, Vegas (which I don’t think is viable for reasons I’ve said before) . . . Portland (which won’t even bother to keep its AAA team) . . . Charlotte . . . OK, I give up, Stuart, which five do you mean?

  1. Richie - Jun 22, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    Funny how St. Pete was the place that all the teams used as leverage to get what they wanted in their current cities. Apparently it wasn’t the perfect place for a baseball team like they all claimed.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 22, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    I totally disagree about Vegas. I think a domed stadium there would be a huge draw for a baseball team. I think as long as the team was good…and the Rays can stay good with the right influx of cash…the Vegas area will support them. Plus, having the tourists come would be a big plus too. I know I would go whenever I went to Vegas, which is 2-3 times a year. I almost went to an Area 51s game, but it was too hot…thus the DOMED stadium would be an absolute necessity.

  3. Jonny5 - Jun 22, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    OK, I give up, Stuart, which five do you mean?
    What about Camden NJ? Of course Kevlar Uniforms may not breathe to well…… And the name would have to be changed… “Camden Crips” anyone??? They could keep the hats blue then…..

  4. Cru11 - Jun 22, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Austin, Tx.

  5. G2 - Jun 22, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    I’d like to think that I’d go to a ballgame in Vegas on one of my trips out there. But why? Too much to do in Vegas that I can’t do at home, the opportunity cost is just way too high for too many tourists to catch games.

  6. expos94champs - Jun 22, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    how about Montreal or Vancouver ?

  7. APBA Guy - Jun 22, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    The best part of a Las Vegas move would be the change to the AL West. The Rays would do well away from the Yankees and Red Sox. However, I think a more realistic option is closer to home, on the I-4 corridor around Disney World, between Orlando and Tampa. Lot’s of open space for building a dome and parking, plus you add the Orlando population more completely into the mix.

  8. Old Gator - Jun 22, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Halleleujah, an intelligent suggestion for a change. Of course the I-4 corridor. You pick up Lakeland, Orlando, and the mind-controlled Stepford wives and drones from Celebration as well. You have an excellent labor pool of cheap ushers, concessionaires and security guards from that 12% Unemployment Pool in Tampa, huge numbers of baseball-crazed German and British tourists vomiting out of the Virgin Atlantic A-380s over at Mouseland Airport…well, after all this current backandforthandbackandforthandbackandforthball lunacy gasps its last in a month or so, at any rate. I especially like to imagine the scene out in the bleachers when the Disney character actors take their day junkets to the stadium, whatever they’d call it – all those Broadway-someday-wannabes in their cool chipmunk, Little Mermaid, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Pluto and Wise Old Mandrill costumes jumping up and down and blowing on their vulvazoolas, or whatever you call those horrible things.
    And best of all, the Rays get to evacuate that Morlock dome they play in now, and in just a few short years those night terrors of being stalked by a Hellfire-expectorating hyperpineal predator drone in the T-Dump will fade from the players’ consciousnesses too.
    Yeah, I-4 corridor. Let’s do it!

  9. jdl1325 - Jun 22, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    @ APBA Guy – Except that half the attendance problem has supposedly been that the Tampa residents don’t want to travel across the Howard Frankland bridge to St. Pete. If you move the team 45 minutes east, then you cut off the Tampa and St. Pete crowds.

  10. Dan in Katonah - Jun 22, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Craig,
    Having spent a fair amount of time in Columbus myself (I have family in Powell), I was always surprised that it was not more of a potential location for a major sports franchise. It is clearly a college sports town, but I always figured a decent team could draw there. The Clippers games I have attended seem to be popular (stop wringing those damn bells). Any thoughts on the viability of that? Not like the Indians or Reds are so good…

  11. Craig Calcaterra - Jun 22, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    Just not a big enough area, I think Dan. The city itself is large — 15th largest, I think — but the metro area is only like 29th or 30th last I checked, with a media market squeezed from both the north (Cleveland) and the south (Cincy). Plus, it’s not a very industrialized town — lots of government, health care and education jobs here – so the corporate base for sponsorships, luxury boxes, etc. would be below average for a major league town.
    And though it’s not claimed as an official territory by either the Reds or the Indians (each of which are 100+ miles away), the city falls fairly neatly between those two camps.
    We handle hockey OK — the Blue Jackets draw well — and obviously Ohio State football is gigantic, but I can’t feature this city supporting a major league baseball team unless floods or locusts cause either the Reds or Tribe to move here.

  12. Rays fan1 - Jun 22, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    1) Had to change my handle a little–dorked up the registration process & ruined “Rays fan.”
    2) Central FL has (a) lots of retired folks from the NYC area and (b) there’s now a whole generation of people who’ve grown up in Tampa watching Grapefruit League Games at Legends/Steinbrenner Field–remember the Yankees have had their spring training in Tampa longer than the Rays existed. There are LOTS of Yankee fans in Tampa. So Tampa “becoming” a Yankee town isn’t exactly accurate–in a lot of ways, it’s been Yankee territory for years that the Rays have had to try to win over.
    3) The idea of the Rays moving was brought up in this blog in the off season as well–I’ll repeat my basic sentiment from then: I’ve no issue with them moving to Orlando. It would be a shame if they left central FL though. Can’t see it in the near future regardless, not many places are going to give sweetheart stadium deals in the current economy.

  13. bexleybay - Jun 23, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    It is not a question of which five cities would support a MLB team, the question is which five cities would take the Yankees? So the solution is to to move the Yankees to Tampa and move the Rays to NYC, it is a win-win situation. Lets see how the Yankees perform in a small market town.

  14. Ratpee - Jun 23, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    Vegas,Vegas,Vegas….
    Vegas is perfect for the Rays. They would be supported. Keep them in the AL East.
    Tons of Bosox and Yankee fans in Vegas. This team would do quite well.
    Las Vegas Rays!!!!

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