Where will Tampa Bay Rays land? We hear from Foster and Buckhorn listen01/30/12 Janelle Irwin
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The Mayors of St. Petersburg and Tampa are both hoping to be the long-term host of the Tampa Bay Rays. St. Peteâ€™s mayor, Bill Foster wants to keep major league baseball and Tampaâ€™s 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 wonâ€™t consider a new stadium location in Pinellas if he isnâ€™t also allowed to look in Hillsborough. But Mayor Bill Foster said thatâ€™s not going to happen.
â€œYou have an obligation to our taxpayers to put a baseball team on the field through 2027. Right now itâ€™s 2012. So thatâ€™s the biggest term. I always use marriage analogies and yes weâ€™re married. You donâ€™t get a weekend pass to look at the greener grass that could be somewhere else. No, we are committed. Now weâ€™re 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 thatâ€™s 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 â€œflirtâ€ with the Rays but he canâ€™t â€œconsummate 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.
â€œPeople say, â€˜well, why donâ€™t you put it where RayJay is?â€™ Well, think about the economic impact of Raymond James Stadium. Except for Chiliâ€™s and Mons Venus, nothing goes on. Thereâ€™s no hotels, thereâ€™s no retail, thereâ€™s no commercial development, thereâ€™s no residential, it just doesnâ€™t happen. You put that downtown stadium in the urban quarter somewhere between Ybor City and downtown Tampa, all of sudden Yborâ€™s connected to Tampa. Now Channelside works. Youâ€™ve 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 doesnâ€™t make any sense.
â€œItâ€™s a little bit frustrating to watch the drill that they went through to plan and pretend that theyâ€™re going to build an open air stadium in the old Al Lang Stadium when Iâ€™ve been to the stadium in the summer time. I mean itâ€™s incredibly uncomfortable. Itâ€™s not an outdoor venue. The teams in Miami donâ€™t go to their games outdoors. I donâ€™t know why they think theyâ€™d go here.â€
Raysâ€™ leaders have said they donâ€™t 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.