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Why is St. Petersburg bothering to placate the Rays?

Jul 20, 2010, 6:30 PM EDT

I fully acknowledge that the Rays’ stadium situation is terrible, but I don’t get this at all.  Last month, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said that St. Petersburg is “not viable” as a home for the Rays, that he wanted to be in Tampa and, at the very least, wanted the entire region to woo his team as if it were a gift from the heavens above.

In light of that, if you’re the mayor of St. Petersburg, how don’t you simply not say “good luck, Stu!” and see what happens? The Rays are locked in their lease. They have absolutely no leverage to extract anything out of you. Sure, it might be nice if they stayed, but as the mayor of a city with unemployment problems and other priorities, how do you spend even an ounce of time on the Rays’ problems?

Don’t ask St. Pete’s Mayor Bill Foster, because he’s in the paper today talking about various options that might make the Rays happy. He’s submitting them to the city council and then will seek the Rays’ OK.

Look, I don’t for a moment pretend to know the ins and outs of Bay Area politics, but can someone explain to me why cities routinely bend over backwards to make sports franchises happy like this?

  1. The Rabbit - Jul 20, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    Your question may be rhetorical but I’ll offer an answer:
    Because many local elected officials are basically stupid and have acquired their jobs by default, not by virtue of any qualification or expertise in community planning, economics, etc.
    Not many people want to run for unpaid (in most communities) positions that require extensive amount of time away from work and family commitments.
    If they actually read any studies in planning journals on the long term impact of offering any deals to developers and corporations, they’d find very few success stories. Almost all these deals end up negatively impacting the community residents in the form of much higher local taxes while the city builds an infrastructure to support the deal it made. I wouldn’t expect a different result with a sports team.
    If a politician is aware of this and formulates a deal anyway, I’d have to suspect a kickback of some sort….but then, I’m from Jersey.

  2. Old Gator - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:39 PM

    To be honest with you, I don’t understand why, given an opportunity to demolish one of the ugliest, most depressing stadiums not designed by a marginal Bauhaus wannabe, the mayor would even hint that he wanted the team to stay there. That’s like an over-the-hill sprinter praying that his immune system won’t finally wake up and deal with his plantar’s wart.

  3. JC Bradbury - Jul 21, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    Why buy season tickets, when the taxpayers can purchase you the goodwill to earn lifetime rights to the owner’s suite? It’s fun to spend other people’s money.

  4. 44Fishy - Jul 21, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    He is doing this because he is in an elected position and someday he will want to be re-elected. If he’s known as the guy who let the Rays leave St. Pete, no one will vote for him.
    Right now there are a couple very attractive locations in Tampa. But they are not so much more attractive than the places in St Pete that the mayor is suggesting. So these options keep him/St Pete in play. But if he digs his heels in and tries to force them to honor the lease at the Trop, the team will definitely leave and the mayor will definitely lose with the voters.
    Bend, but don’t break…

  5. Dbuck - Jul 21, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    You named it with the politics. Tampa and St. Pete do not work with each other for anything. Moving the team to Tampa proper will be viewed as a huge embarassment to St. Pete, just like a re-hash what happened when the Lightning moved.
    The cities have an obvious big brother/little brother relationship, and lil brother is probably going to get pushed aside again. Not that I care. When I lived the in the area, I hated driving to the Trop after work to get to a game. What should be a 20 min drive turns into and hour and a half.

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