Tuesday, April 6, 2010
No end in sight for Rays' stadium search
What's new for the Rays, their attendance, and their future home? As Marc Topkin notes, no news is bad news:
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg continues to maintain relative silence in the discussion over a new stadium, but did say Tuesday he agrees with most of the findings of the ABC coalition report.
Asked if that included the inclusion of two Hillsborough County sites among three possible new homes, Sternberg said: “I didn’t disagree with much of what they said in the report.’’
Sternberg also talked about attendance, saying he was taking a "more realistic" approach after falling well short of his goal of reaching the major-league average last year, and won't set a target for this season.
He said season ticket sales were "bad/not good" and, while not providing numbers, that the decrease from last season to this year was "a reasonable amount, more than they should be."
What did that ABC Coalition report report? From an editorial in the St. Pete Times:
The ABC (A Baseball Community) Coalition makes a compelling case for a new ballpark with modern amenities in an area closer to the region's population center. Members have recommended for further study three areas -- North St. Petersburg and the West Shore and downtown areas of Tampa.
The group's research clearly shows St. Petersburg officials chose the wrong location for Tropicana Field, situated near downtown St. Pete.
The proven criteria for attracting fans to baseball games is how many live within a 30-minute drive. Only about 616,000 people live within a 30-minute drive of Tropicana Field -- the lowest, by far, in the major leagues.
Yet there are 3.2 million people in the Tampa Bay market.
Move the ballpark just a few miles north -- to the Carillon area of North St. Petersburg -- and the 30-minute number nearly doubles -- to 1.2 million.
The downtown Tampa "trade area" has 1.6 million people within a 30-minute drive. Hillsborough also has more corporations, whose support is key to professional teams.
My favorite Tropicana Field Fun Fact: the Rays' lease runs through 2027.
It's a funny thing. There's no political will in St. Petersburg to finance a new ballpark, and the team's attendance in the old ballpark is a really bad joke ... but the city is doing everything possible to keep the franchise from moving to another municipality in the region. And if there's any talk of moving the Rays completely out of Florida ... well, the howl you'll hear from the state's Congressional delegation will be its loudest since a certain someone floated the idea of privatizing Social Security.
I don't think the Rays will still be playing in Tropicana in 2027. I don't think the A's will still be playing in the Coliseum in 2027. But what happens between now and then, I'm having a hard time seeing.