While Miami Celebrates, Tampa Bay Sits Wondering
I was visibly upset last night as I watched the Miami Marlins open their new state-of-the-art retractable roof stadium. It seemed like the journey for new baseball digs in our state started between our two respective teams about the same time. Where the Marlins have found favorable loopholes and provisional political help, the Tampa Bay Rays gave into a small local based group that did not have the votes to condemn their project or a Mayor who played the legal card much to the scoffs and chagrin of all involved.
Maybe I am a bit overly jealous that the Miami community and the (then Florida) Marlins found a way to fortify financially and as a unified community and get their alabaster white monument completed and looking simply amazing even before the Rays break ground on their own casa. I truly envy the South Florida community for getting things done, proving that baseball deserves to be in this great state at its highest level, and providing new and innovative fun for their fan base and (hopefully) promote a emphasis of growth for a future Rays home.
Of course my mood is irritated largely by the honest fact I still believe the Tampa Bay Rays could of/should of had their own “christening” in 2012. Over the last 4 seasons the plight of a future Rays home has eroded and been a huge community sore spot, but that was not always the case.
I remember standing in Centerfield of Progress Energy Field at the end of the Rays 2008 Spring Training home schedule straddling the make-shift proposed batter’s box and imagining Carlos Pena taking a looping swing into an invisible breaking ball that would eventually disappear into afterglow of the distant Pier.
I was excited and glad to be among the crowd when Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg stood at a podium downtown and announced the future home of the Rays would be nestled among the glass masterpieces growing skyward in the St. Petersburg, Florida downtown and would feature a radically designed sail roof designs and the emphasis for a vibrant and renewed nightlife in this sleepy hamlet.
This was about the same time the South Florida region began their own journey towards building a new fish tank for the Marlins with emmenities and features unheard of in a baseball stadium.
I was extremely envious last night as the television crews spoke of the special touches in and around the new Miami digs. The Bobblehead Museum idea was so awesome it still makes me chuckle. The fish tank behind Home Plate where people sitting in those expensive seats can thrust their camera phones or Canon lenses up close to the tropical fish and snap off a photo through the glass getting a special “up-close and personal photo op with their favorite Marlin as he strides towards the batter’s box.
Dang you POWW for your “David versus Goliath” moment making Sternberg cave and pull the entire downtown stadium and Tropicana Field redevelopment project off the table, sail and all to be stuffed into some darkened Trop. cubbyhole possibly forever. I was a part of the “Let’s Build the Ballpark” movement that never could get firm traction to move the POWW machine into a deep pothole. Even today we are as close to a new stadium now as we were in 2008, and that is totally disheartening. If the stadium proposal had even gotten to a city-wide vote…well you know which lever I would have pulled.
It especially bothers me that the Marlins will have a chance to host an future All-Star Game now while the Rays know in their present home, the event will never materialize. The only joy I had last night was knowing the rest of the Nation did not have a chance to laugh and put down this state while watching that fluorescent circus act the Marlins are calling a Home Run Celebration nestled above Centerfield.
I am tired of the Rays current “wait and see” attitude. After seeing “what could have been”, it is time to thump out “what could be” and get at least a iota of forward motion towards Tampa Bay having their own National moment at their own new pristine baseball palace. Unfortunately I think when the ball stopped rolling in 2008, the Rays lost all momentum and motion towards finding a solution. The stadium presently is like a sailboat with no wind, destined to sit idle until the seaward winds kick up.
I got to see Marlins Park under construction in 2011 when I was in the area transporting cars for Google. Boggles the mind this stadium is completed and the Tampa Bay facility is not even on the proverbial drawing board. I sit here watching the roof peeled back like a sardine can with a glimpse of the moon looking in and throughly wishing it was nestled along the waterfront of St. Petersburg.
I am not totally cruel tonight. I do applaud the Marlins and their ownership for building a facility that makes so many of the grand baseball stadiums built over the last 15 years tremble with the interesting technology innovations and fan-based treats nestled beneath the stadium’s glistening white retractable roof. I know there were hard decisions, rough moments surrounding the planning, building and primping of this space, but all has turned out simply magnificent. The Miami region radiated a glow into downtown sky accented by the open roof and the light flowing out into the warm Florida air.
Meanwhile in downtown St. Petersburg a tract of land once deemed the future home of the Rays stadium sits darkened and decaying. The Rays stadium movement seems stalled in the sugar sands of the local political arena, washing away any realization or hope of a new Rays stadium within the next 5-7 years….if ever. But tonight another region, who started their own quest for a new stadium gets to drink in the National praise and good tidings. If the presentation of the new Miami facility doesn’t stir the Rays punchbowl enough to get some Rays stadium momentum stirring, maybe nothing will.