Remembrance of the Rays Sail Stadium…5 Years Later
Has it really been 5 years?
My how the time and seasons have flown by since the final nail was driven into the coffin that was supposed to be the Tampa Bay Rays Waterfront stadium. It was May 22, 2009 when the Rays wishes of bay side baseball took its last breathes on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg, Florida
The stadium was supposed to be the new glistening gem on the ‘Burg side of the estuary known as Tampa Bay. Where crisp and salty afternoon sea breezes and occasional showers were to bring outdoor baseball back to the region M L B style. The prototypical sail was to bellow high above the playing field as a new regional Tampa Bay iconic symbol where no balls would ever hide again, and those bloody catwalks would be forever confined to the Rays Wives annual fashion show.
May 23, 2009 was the date the dream officially died. On that date Progress Energy Field or better known as Al Lang won a reprieve from demolition and becoming a baseball footnote in the area. Most people attribute the stadium’s quick death to a lack of sufficient life support from local community groups who bantered and threatened lawsuits, public outcries and general chaos even before the stadium was more than a pipe dream.
Most transient residents or non-Florida natives who did not grown up in this region would not know that the city of St. Petersburg in the 1970’s went to great lengths and expense to clean up and beautify this same waterfront corridor between Beach Drive & First Street and the bay. The land not already occupied by buildings such as the Vinoy, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Al Lang and the former Bayfront Center were victims of the renewal wrecking ball.
5 years ago a group called P.O.W.W. (Protect Our Wallets & Waterfront) did a bit of an Irish jig as they took their victor’s strut around the stadium’s grave. The small but politically tight group basically put a line in the white silky sand and no one from the city or the Rays dared pop a big toe across it.
The Rays also did their own dance by stating that maybe the downtown stadium site might have been a huge oversight or more of a fantasy wish than a real reality for the team. Back then former Rays Sr. VP Michael Kalt stated in a St Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) article: “It’s pretty clear people did not want a ballpark down there. From what we’re seeing, we’re probably in that camp, too”.
Spin doctors were not only playing on the radio, they were doing damage control on this Rays PR gaping wound. The club did a 180 degree turn in their prospective in a 6 month period and to this day has not gone past initial conversations on another potential site either in Pinellas County or beyond.
Sure well placed volleys and comments have crossed both the Rays and St Pete municipal bows, but no movement beyond the political picture-taking and handshake on another potential Rays stadium. As the days tick away cities like Charlotte, N C, Portland Oregon, Nashville, Tenn., and even a city within the Rays own TV and Radio 100-mile radius market, Orlando grow more confident in their own possible M L B dream scenario.
But even as 5 years has now passed since the last physical plans have been shown for a potential Rays new home, you know there are a set of plans somewhere within the offices at One Tropicana Drive that fully explores and provides all the nuts, bolts and screw locations for a modern and sleek Florida baseball nirvana aka the Rays stadium. Problem is the plans might be 5 years old and the Florida humidity or moths might have gotten to it and it will be gone forever.
Oh, and did you know the original design for the Rays current home was suppose to have a sail style design with an open air vista down left field to center field?