Results tagged ‘ Florida ’

Tampa Fires First Rays Stadium Volley

 

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Boom!

First savoy concerning the Tampa Bay Rays future home has now been ceremonially sent over the city of  St. Petersburg’s bow.

No warning shot, no cautionary parlay, just plain old pirate warfare at its finest.

The cannon ball pierced the daytime sky and cut to the chase the St. Pete rivals wants and desires for the Rays franchise. Sure this first volley was not a direct hit by the larger metropolitan city who seems to have money to burn, and a populous eager to fill the seat of a still invisible stadium somewhere among their vast and ever expanding city limits.

download (1)It is the first move by our rival city to steal yet another sports franchise from St. Petersburg. I know some of you who have not lived here all your life might not know the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and Arena Football’s Tampa Bay Storm used to play under the tiled roof of Tropicana Field known back then as “the Thunderdome”.

Sure those two teams might have envisioned their stay in the Trop. as “layovers”, but Tampa has never really gotten over the fact St. Petersburg, before John C Williams and Peter Demens bought their tracts of land and laid their tracks was part of Hillsborough County.

In fact, before Demens won his bet to name the city after his own birthplace, St. Petersburg, Russia, this little oasis bordered by water on 3-sides was called Hillsboro Point.  Sometimes I truly feel the reason for such hostility among the residents of these two cities is such a childish case of peninsula envy.

imagesSo the Hillsborough County Commission (HCC) voted on Weds to let the region’s top sports management icon, the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) to act as their proxy in initiating a up front assault on poaching the Tampa Bay Rays from the clutches of St. Petersburg.

Come on, that is right in line with the thought processes of a quasi-pirate city to evoke a cannon fodder attack, send in the mercenaries from the riggings and let them take the pure frontal attack and counter measures themselves without the Hillsborough County Commission getting any blood or grime on their Sunday best.

And in a way it is smart. The TSA is a regional sports heavy hitter who has the monetary coffers to rebuff financial penalties that could be imposed by the city of St. Pete as well as a slew of Barbary lawyer types who have fought this type of battle before within the scope of sports relocation and providing adequate advance piles of legal paper that would choke even the most enthusiastic St. Pete counter attack.

download (2)Since TSA is only acting as an agent of the HCC, they are not a city trying to poach or do a classic snatch and grab of the Rays, they are a proxy agent of St. Petersburg’s neighbor to the west trying to entice and entertain the Rays voluntarily packing their suitcases and making a move knowing they have a legal ammo and financial booty in their treasure chests to stave off a St. Petersburg cloak and dagger move of their own.

With one of the Rays biggest early supporters, former St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster now job-less and bobbing in the briny Tampa Bay deep, his Mayoral predecessor, Rick Kriseman has recently approached the Rays to sit and institute a mutual parlay of sorts and with that, the H C C and  Tampa saw their chance to evoke their will and appoint the T S A as their own envoy to parlay on their behalf in regards to a future Rays home in their vista, not in the haven of St. Petersburg.

download (3)The H C C also on Weds. Appointed a small group to scout out stadium locations, seek out viable ways of funding such a venture as well as possibly begin working out some sort of agreement between the Rays and the HCC and Tampa.

Believe me the Tampa group has the population, corporate numbers as well as the financial ingenuity to evoke the Rays gaze from the St. Petersburg or Pinellas  County possible stadium sites. On their side also was the well-known opinions of Major League Baseball that the region would never be host to World Baseball Classic contests or a potential All-Star game as long as the area’s only baseball vista was Tropicana Field.

Within the volley over St. Petersburg’s bow was this comment by H C C Commissioner Ken Hagan: ” I’am cautiously optimistic that the time is very near. The message that we want to send today to Major League Baseball and the Rays is that Hillsborough County is ready, and we’re ready to hit the ground running when that time comes and I am hopefully it is imminent.”

images (1)It is going to be interesting to see what St. Petersburg, or for that matter, the St. Pete. City Attorney and City Council decide in a counter attack to this sly but well executed verbal volley by their regional rivals.

Will St. Pete send a legal counter, a frontal attack showing Tampa and Hillsborough will have to raise their funds via a tax hike or possibly legal referendums, to fight back that any region wanting this team will not only have to pay the Rays lease amounts through 2027, but will pay mightily if they want to steal this gem from the clutches of St. Pete’s hand.

And do not think for a moment the Rays fans in Sarasota, Manatee, Pasco and the rest of Pinellas County are not watching this battle with some concern. If the team went East, some of most of these fans would not be Season Ticket holders as their commute would double in some cases and their Rays ventures might be limited to weekend packs or limited visits.

images (2)This battle is not only about St. Pete versus Tampa, this whole region and the scattered Rays fan base all have to be both worried and happy someone has finally thought to beginning the discussion again for a Rays future home and that the first volleys have been fired.

Believe me, this is going to get really nasty and downright costly to one party before it is all sign, sealed and delivered.

May be best city win (as long as it’s St. Pete/Pinellas County).

Rays New Decal Shows Tampa Skyline, Not St. Petersburg..Oops!

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Everyone who knows me knows I’m proud of the city of my birth. Been boasting and thumping my chest about this hamlet that catches the Gulf breezes at night, and seems to celebrate Hurricanes instead of fear them. I’m one of those people who get a bit irritated and spit vinegar when the National Media forgets that the home of the Tampa Bay Rays is St. Petersburg, Florida and not Tampa, which is 16-20-odd miles to the NorthEast of Tropicana Field.

TamponBut I also understand that this region has always labeled their sports team as “Tampa Bay”, and many of them started or make their home across the Howard Franklin bridge in that 3rd largest city in the state of Florida. Sure I’m unhappy and down right spiteful towards people who have not gotten the memo that this team is situated in a borough that has been separated by government rule by the Tampians for over 100 years and we are considered their redheaded step-children at times.

So what do you think was my reaction when I opened a MLB Opening Day display for one of my Wal-Mart store deep in the heart of St. Petersburg, Florida and my gaze came upon the same decal centered in the photo at the beginning of this post. At first I thought it was a great decal until I begin to take a closer look and noticed it was not the St. Petersburg, Florida waterfront skyline I was looking at, but the Tampa skyline just a bit South of the Platt Street Bridge.

BSWas this a virtual mistake by either the graphic gurus at Major League Baseball home office in New York City, or maybe someone within the Rays fold accidentally put their John Hancock and approval on this photo to be used as the showcase skyline for this Rays decal. Either way, it will be a collector’s item since it is a mistake, or at least it is in my mind.

Sure it could be a subliminal visual message from someone hidden behind the MLB cloak as to where the Rays need to call home, but for now it is just a major cluster-boo boo and one I’m going to have nestled away in my Rays collection as another example of the haphazard way that most people outside of Tampa Bay still sees St. Petersburg as a town with those green benches, a Salvador Dali museum and a stadium that looks more like a tilted ball cap than a long-term homestead.

VinoyI’m sorry if I’m locale sensitive to the plight of this side of Tampa Bay always getting the short end of the stick when announcers and even ballplayers can not fathom with any intellect the city that they are staying in during their series with the Rays. Heck, ever since 1998 the only hotel to even house any MLB team that visited Tropicana Field has been the Renaissance Vinoy right on the waterfront of St. Petersburg with a firm view of the real Tampa Bay just outside their hotel or bus window.

I mean would any other MLB fan sit lightly on their fingers if someone called the vista that is their team’s home incorrect in the media or over the radio waves. I would severely doubt anyone would get the location of any other ballpark in the major leagues wrong for the pure fact that journalism is based on the simple fact of accuracy, accuracy, and an additional dose of accuracy. Would a Atlanta Braves fan be upset if someone voiced a suburb of the city as their stadium’s locale instead of Fulton County?

san_jose_athletics_2Would the Oakland A’s faithful be a bit harsh and up in someone’s face if an announcer already had them in San Jose or even mistake them for the cross bay Giants? Most would think I’m being a bit oversensitive right now, but if you look at the third photo on the bottom of the first photo in this post you will see a daylight shot of the Tampa skyline that matches up perfectly almost to the building of the Rays decal that was included in the Opening Day pallet.

Sure there are more than a few whispers and thoughts that the Rays could move their entire organization somewhere over the Howard Franklin within the next 5-10 years, but with not even a simple dialog currently being communicated, a future home possibly in Tampa is just words in the wind at this moment.

253750_10151395672823429_1707979118_nI do not expect too many people within the Rays organization to take heed or even investigate this for themselves, but as someone who supports this team, and as one of those fans who do reside in the hometown that encircles the Trop., I would hope someone would at least acknowledge the error even if it was a possible subliminal message to the rest of the Nation. Guess 100 years of Spring baseball in this region doesn’t get you respect, and it definitely doesn’t get any glimmer of accuracy.

Maybe it is Not all About the Attendance?

 

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It is kind of funny that the city of St. Petersburg, Florida is complaining about a $ 1.25 million dollar 2010 deficit after providing Rays fans with an envelope of protection, direction and the general upkeep needed for the Tampa Bay Rays remain tenants at Tropicana Field. Could the city have finally realized what the Rays have been complaining about and be asking for their own dose of empathy right now.

I extremely doubt it. It might just be the increasing stress of the city to still keep trying to fork out a $ 6 million dollar annual bond payment for the Trop boosted by an unknown cost deficit that seems to balloons the debt to a higher threshold this year. Then again, the city might not have provided themselves any revenue influx protection for itself heading into this economic downturn that has engulfed the region as a whole.

Suddenly the city of St. Petersburg staff was awoken by the Trop’s operational costs skyrocketing upward even as the Rays revenues did not drop into the red. But the city’s outlined contractual agreements providing police assistance pre and post-game has elevated along with another source that could not have been estimated or foreseen back in 1995 when the first agreement was signed by then Rays Team President Vince Namoli and the city of St. Petersburg.

Could the city’s officials premature optimistic thinking back in 1995 prior to their initial stadium agreement with the Rays that the team would/could draw up to 3 million fans a season been a forecast for the present financial disaster besetting the city? Current St. Petersburg Mayor David Foster was right in the center of the action back in 1995, and was one of the city staff members beaming at the potential windfall of seeing 3 million fans attend baseball games, and an additional figure up to 300,000 of fans traveling through this great city for concerts, football and non-baseball events each year.

The reality today is that only a handful of concerts or events take place between the last Rays game of the season and the beginning of Spring Training within Tropicana Field..

If this 1995 scenario had actually worked out, the city would have received an estimated $ 4000,000 windfall ( with 3 million fans ) during the Rays first full season in 1998. Back in 1995, there was the enthusiastic promise and monetary pledges of 32,000 local citizens showing their early support for the Major League Baseball squad. And the excitement piggybacked on the optimistic forecast that the Rays also could bring in 3 million plus fans like their MLB brethren the Florida Marlins did during their first MLB season. Supporting Major League Baseball looked like a sure fire bet for both communities in Florida at that time.

The scenario then began change drastically for the city when the recession began to take hold of this Tampa Bay community just as the Rays began to establish a winning tradition. With their new found winning ways, the city banked on the fact that the Rays would eventually transform from a break even or losing investment to a slightly profitable arrangement for the city. But they did not play into the mix a huge increase in day-to-day costs of providing the services and insurance needs of supporting the hometown Rays.

With deeper budget cuts and fiscal downscaling still on the horizon, the city knows that the Rays and City of St. Petersburg contractual agreement in regards to Tropicana Field is the one program that can not take a budgetary hit, or it could turn further sour for the city. There is no way anyone could have even envisioned this a fiscal fiasco 15 odd years ago in connection with the Rays playing in the city. Optimism reigned supreme in 1995 and even with a hint of impending darkness, the light at the end of the tunnel shown bright like the Rays post-2007 logo.

Could this once sleepy town known more for it’s green benches and Spring baseball downtown have bitten off more than it could chew? Could the sound of the fife and drum calling for everyone to get behind this team back in 1995 blindsided the city to leave some of its municipal common sense at the doorstep. Could another factor not even a pending issue in 1995 provide the lubrication for the eventual fiscal slide by the city towards this deficit. Did the rippling effects of the September 11th terrorist attacks filter down to play a part in the city’s troubles today?

According to a St. Petersburg Times article, the city of St. Petersburg paid about $ 160,000 a year in property insurance premiums back during the early years of the Rays playing at Tropicana Field. After those horrendous attacks on September 11th, the city’s insurance premiums instantly quadrupled to around $ 760,000 annually. Add in a few devastating Hurricanes that destroyed and pummeled communities around and near Tampa Bay and the city of St. Petersburg’s property insurance premium suddenly ballooned to around $ 2.2 million. Even with a slight reprieve in 2010 of the premiums scaling back to $ 1.7 million , the fiscal damage had already been done.

There was a thought briefly that the Rays partnership offshoot of the forming of the Sunburst Entertainment group within Tropicana Field might help bring in additional concerts and events to Tropicana Field and boost the probable revenue stream a bit for the city. But those events have not yet materialized and combined with the Rays management selling their shares of a regional United Football League (Orlando) franchise, it appears the St. Petersburg Bowl held during mid-December will be the only substantial non-baseball event to be held at Tropicana Field besides the yearly trade shows before the Spring.

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Escalating insurance costs are still the main culprit in the city not being able to turn the Rays revenue plan into a positive offering in the city’s coffers. Low attendance figures at Rays 2010 games only plays a minor role. Still the city of St. Petersburg and the Rays need to find a viable solution towards a profitable management scheme to bring events besides baseball constantly flowing into Tropicana Field between the Rays last scheduled game and their future opening day date.

The city of St. Petersburg currently nets only .66 cents for every ticket scanned at Tropicana Field. In 1998, the Rays first season, the city took in only a $33,000 windfall even after 2.5 million fans graced the Trop’s seating areas. Much less than the estimated revenues forecasted in 1995, but still a profit. Even with 1.9 Rays fans attending games in 2010, the city only garnered $ 984,000 dollars in revenues from ticket sales. Quickly the dome’s property insurance premiums ate the figure up providing no financial relief for the city.

Back in 1995 the local St. Petersburg vibe was alive with the Tampa Bay Storm winning Arena Football League Championships, and the Tampa Bay Lightning making their first postseason NHL appearance at Tropicana Field when 28,103 fans tucked into the domed stadium for a playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then the concerts have disappeared from Tropicana Field accept during the Rays Saturday Night Concert Series, and the Lightning and Storm vacated the Trop for a new arena built on the channel in Tampa.

With the Rays ownership constantly looking eastbound to the other side of the bay for a possible stadium site, it is due time for the city of St. Petersburg to become increasingly proactive to not only insure, but assure that the Rays can play their baseball within the city limits of St. Petersburg for a long, long time. But that side of the bay is also crying municipal deficits that might hinder stadium discussions right now.

Either the Trop has to become a more feasibly functioning business asset or the loss column will only grow bigger for the city of St. Petersburg. Something has to give in this fiscal tug of war. Hopefully it will not end up with the city finding itself sprawled out on the ground with the Rays taking their balls and bats and leaving for another home. But sooner more than later, something has to give.

Ray’s Rally on Friday in St. Petersburg

 

 

 

The Rays may have fallen short of a World Series title, but that’s no reason for the region to postpone a party.

St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker said Thursday morning that plans were in the works to host a rally commemorating the Rays’ historic season, which ended with Wednesday night’s loss in Game 5 of the World Series.

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The rally is tentatively scheduled for Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET in St. Petersburg’s Straub Park and will feature manager Joe Maddon and several Rays players.

“We are getting all kinds of calls from fans and media asking where the celebration is going to be,” Baker said in a phone interview on Thursday morning. “So we are going to try to honor that.”

Baker agreed with Rays owner Stu Sternberg’s comments that the club’s successful season has opened up baseball to the entire Tampa Bay area. In fact, Baker was willing to take Sternberg’s assessment one step further.

“It’s had an incredibly positive effect, I think, on the whole west coast of Florida,” Baker said. “There’s been so much bad news right now. This has been such a lift in the sprits for people in the community.”

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