Where will Tampa Bay Rays land? We hear from Foster and Buckhorn
The Mayors of St. Petersburg and Tampa are both hoping to be the long-term host of the Tampa Bay Rays. St. Peteâs mayor, Bill Foster wants to keep major league baseball and Tampaâs mayor, Bob Buckhorn, thinks the team could land east of the Bay. At a Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting last Wednesday, Foster said the Rays are contractually obligated to stay in St. Pete for at least another 15 years.
Stuart Sternberg, owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, is considering moving the team because he says playing at Tropicana Field is not sustainable in the long-term. Sternberg has said he wonât consider a new stadium location in Pinellas if he isnât also allowed to look in Hillsborough. But Mayor Bill Foster said thatâs not going to happen.
âYou have an obligation to our taxpayers to put a baseball team on the field through 2027. Right now itâs 2012. So thatâs the biggest term. I always use marriage analogies and yes weâre married. You donât get a weekend pass to look at the greener grass that could be somewhere else. No, we are committed. Now weâre committed in the partnership and I want to be the best husband, the best wife, the best partner, I want to be all of that to the Tampa Bay Rays. We have a proactive plan thatâs not a secret. We have a proactive plan that talks about marketing.â
At an event with Hillsborough and Pinellas Young Democrats on Tuesday night, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he can âflirtâ with the Rays but he canât âconsummate the dealâ. But in the event there is a split between the baseball team and St. Petersburg, Buckhorn said the best place for a Rays stadium is in downtown Tampa.
âPeople say, âwell, why donât you put it where RayJay is?â Well, think about the economic impact of Raymond James Stadium. Except for Chiliâs and Mons Venus, nothing goes on. Thereâs no hotels, thereâs no retail, thereâs no commercial development, thereâs no residential, it just doesnât happen. You put that downtown stadium in the urban quarter somewhere between Ybor City and downtown Tampa, all of sudden Yborâs connected to Tampa. Now Channelside works. Youâve got 80 games a year, 20,000 fans a game. You have changed the dynamic of downtown Tampa. The Riverwalk all of a sudden comes alive.â
The city considered turning the Al Lang Stadium site into a waterfront stadium back in 2008, but a referendum to build it was indefinitely postponed. Suncoast Tiger Bay member Barry Wilkinson said the idea of giving up a stadium with air-conditioning for one without doesnât make any sense.
âItâs a little bit frustrating to watch the drill that they went through to plan and pretend that theyâre going to build an open air stadium in the old Al Lang Stadium when Iâve been to the stadium in the summer time. I mean itâs incredibly uncomfortable. Itâs not an outdoor venue. The teams in Miami donât go to their games outdoors. I donât know why they think theyâd go here.â
Raysâ leaders have said they donât think the downtown St. Pete area can foster the kind of attendance they need. They have considered possible other Pinellas sites around the Gateway area. Foster and Sternberg had a sit down meeting this month, but were unable to come to an agreement. Unless something changes, the Rays will stay in St. Pete this season.comments powered by Disqus