Home > Rays Talk > If the Rays Want to Stay in Tampa, They Must Move to Tampa

If the Rays Want to Stay in Tampa, They Must Move to Tampa

Tampa has a rich baseball history.

St. Petersburg does not.

Tampa is known as a hotbed for baseball talent with many current and former major leaguers, among them hall of famer Wade Boggs and World Series winner Luis Gonzalez.

St. Petersburg is not.

Tampa is already home to three successful professional sports franchises, all with championships to their names.

And again, St. Petersburg is not.

So, when it came time to bring a professional baseball franchise to the bay area, one would think that Tampa would be the obvious choice, right?

Wrong.

And for the first 10 years of the franchise, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays suffered, as ticket sales were the worst in all of Major League Baseball. It only took new ownership, years of great decisions a team name change to produce a winning product.

But even after a trip to the 2008 fall classic, the Rays still look to cut payroll. Team ticket sales in 2009 averaged just over 23,000 per game, only 1,000 more than 2008 and still well below the league average.

But the fans are hardly the problem, as team merchandise sales have increased sharply each of the last three years.

Though analysts such as Peter Gammons have written that the Rays should move elsewhere (out of state), it is time for the Rays, their fans and the city of Tampa to take a step forward and prove there is a market for baseball here. Other small market teams such as the Twins and even the Marlins have new stadiums in their near futures, why not the Rays?

If the Rays were to halt all plans to build a new stadium and keep their obligation to Tropicana Field until 2027, there’s no doubt they will struggle with money every year. Not only is the stadium a far drive for Tampa fans, it is continuously rated one of the worst in baseball. Tampa sports radio personality Steve Duemig recently called it a “dump.”

But where should the stadium be? Tampa is obviously the better choice, but to plop a baseball stadium anywhere there is space would be silly, and leaving St. Pete fans in the dust is unfair.

There have been talks about locating the stadium near Raymond James Stadium, which would make for a mega pro-sports complex similar to the likes of Baltimore and the future sites of the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins.

But a downtown stadium may be the better option, something similar to the Twins’ new Target field. With the area’s proximity to both the Howard Franklin Bridge and the Leroy Selmon Expressway, it will make for an easy commute for fans from St. Pete and nearby Brandon.

The fact is, if a World Series appearance can’t make fans commute to St. Pete on a consistent basis, than neither will a new stadium. Thus, it the Tampa Bay Rays franchise expects to flourish, they need to move to Tampa.

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Categories: Rays Talk
  1. Andy
    April 6, 2010 at 11:04 am

    What are you basing the baseball history between St. Pete and Tampa on? Expanding on this would strengthen your argument as I have heard stories about babe ruth playing in St. Pete in Spring Training. That’s pretty decent history. Just wondering your thoughts.

    • April 6, 2010 at 11:57 am

      St. Pete does have some history. Huggins-Stengel was a former spring training home for the Yankees, and the 430 right field wall is a tribute to the massive shots he hit there. But you can also hear legends of Babe Ruth and others playing at the UT stadium and Plant field. Tampa has rich baseball history at all levels, not just in spring training. Go to any high school field and you’ll see retired numbers of alumni that made it to the show. Go to the Saladino tournament and witness a baseball atmosphere second to none. All of that plays into it. St. Pete just doesn’t have that. Professional baseball belongs in Tampa.

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