Results tagged ‘ Rays stadium ’

Tampa Fires First Rays Stadium Volley

 

pirate-weekend

 

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).

What a Difference A Year Makes

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“I’m sure it can, but talk to Stu Sternberg.”

Quite a statement made by out-going Major League Baseball Czar Bud Selig today to the media masses assembled during the Baseball Writers of America Association(BBWAA) briefing.

2014+MLB+Star+Game+News+Conference+-SQf36A1Hn1lI’m not used to hearing a civil tone concerning our region in regards to Selig, and it kinds of scared me at first. Most of the rhetoric pointed towards this region be it Spring or Fall has been pointed disapproval or admonishment towards the are not embracing baseball with both hands, but Selig today in his oracle seemed calm almost to the point of finding his point of Zen towards the whole Rays stadium situation.

Selig acknowledged the viability of baseball within the Tampa Bay market, but he also seemed to show more serenity towards the enduring saga than in the past.

The quotes uttered by Selig today seemed a more transitional than omnipotent  outbursts displaying his discontent and disappointment of the region’s snail-like pace towards clearing at least one achievable hurdle in the race for the Tampa Bay Rays to find a new profitable hacienda.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer It almost seemed as if we were not talking to the same man who 364 days ago during the 2013 All-Star break seemed to be plotting the ultimate revival or hostile removal of any baseball hopes or dreams within the Tampa Bay area.

This was the same M L B icon who in 2013 profoundly voiced his displeasure and loss of patience with this region of Florida stating: ”You cannot ask a franchise to continue, when they have been so competitive and really, really done a marvelous job, in a situation that is economically not tolerable.”

What a difference a year makes……or does it?

images (2)In 2013 Selig seemed to be bringing a double-edged message to the Tampa Bay community on the one sharp edge by voicing the stern narrative addressing the Rays dismal home game attendance numbers while at the same time using the dull edge of his blade to stroke the Rays leadership’s excellent job of putting a competitive product on the field within their limited revenue streams.

The 2013 edition of Selig sounded off like a disapproving leader who was about to summon Rays owner Sternberg to his chambers and lock the doors until a viable and achievable plan could be at least penned to paper.

The 2014 edition…..not so much.

Today Selig expressed some faith in the Tampa Bay market and seemed to be giving the reins solely at this moment to Sternberg. Selig also threw out a curve ball morsel today in that there could be a breakthrough in the Rays slowly-moving stadium evolution before he leaves office in January.

Bill-Foster-Some logic might point to the change in St Petersburg’s leadership within the Mayor’s office to being more open to letting the team at least chat region-wide about another locale, but it might come at a cost. But no matter what, you can bet any announcement will be made after the Rays finish playing in 2014, that has been the “Rays Way” stadium-wise since Sternberg took the helm.

And for one of the first times in my memory, Selig threw out an unforced compliment to the region that the “demographics in the market are good”.  But when asked later if his comment was possibly an endorsement that baseball in the region could work, the baseball czar just as quickly slammed the lid on the Tampa Bay Pandora’s box added, “I’m sure it can, but talk to Stuart Stenberg.”

Selig is set to leave his baseball throne this January, and with the recent reversal of the Oakland A’s stadium situation, the Rays remain one of his only projects that might not see fruition before he leaves his M L B post.

Possibly Sternberg has a master plan that has been viewed by Selig and has gotten a head-tilt to move in that direction with no current intimidation or threats from the top tier of baseball. At least not until a successor has gotten a feel for M L B’s top job, then all bets might be off.

images (5)So maybe Selig is letting Sternberg have the chance during the second half and into the Winter of 2014 to make some headway. Possibly Selig is providing a little distance between himself and the Rays stadium situation to afford the illusion of trust and respect the job will be done by Sternberg and his team without interference of the outgoing czar.

Guess only time will tell if this distance remains and if the confidence doesn’t cease come October.

But maybe Selig did take one last parting shot over the Tampa Bay bow when he spoke highly of the Montreal market as a possibly being revisited as an M L B franchise. “I wish them well. And I think they would be an excellent candidate in the future, no question about it.”

images (4)But Selig, the 2014-edition, remained steady and on point when asked repeatedly about his concerns with the Rays stadium debacle. “Stu Sternberg is working hard on that, and that should be his problem. I’m here to help him and he knows that. But it is a judgment call he has to make.”

Yep, what a difference a year makes.

Remembrance of the Rays Sail Stadium…5 Years Later

 

Sail

 

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

lang1The 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.

SP_278770_BORC_rays_20Most 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”. 

SailStadiumSpin 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.

sp_288140_ho_raysdesigBut 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?

Time for Foster to Release his Death Grip

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I think it is time. We have hit that moment where either we have to throw the Carolina blue curtain back and expose that some within the castle of Major League Baseball have given their ceremonial “thumbs down” on this once vacation and getaway vista for any viable baseball long-term existence. And within their recent comments to that effect, MLB and their top honcho Bud Selig have fired yet another cannon blast over the Tampa Bay communities bow and if we again stick our heads in the sand and hope the situation will evolve without comment, we could see this team take their balls and bats and move away leaving a huge void again in our sports lives.

doomsdayThere are groups within this community outside the Rays own fortress walls who have whispered and made subordinate plans and survival methods for this franchise to stay rooted in the Tampa Bay area, but there is also someone within the political arena who needs to take off his Bermuda shorts and pull on his “big boy” pants before this team packs their bags and beats a hasty retreat to a community that awaits them with open arms and checkbooks. If Tampa Bay had their own “Doomsday clock” we would have heard a distinct loud click of the minute hand as it moved one more moment towards our impending reality that too many moments have been wasted and only a clear and concise plan will move the hand further away from that final movement towards the end.

And it is not all St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster’s arms crossed and bullying action that have eroded MLB’s mindset to baseball surviving their low attendance numbers and minimal show of season long support by the fans or the local Tampa Bay community. Sure Foster and his threat of spanking anyone and everyone with lawsuits and punitive punishments has put any plans of a Rays stadium outside the kingdom of Foster’s own chalk drawn lines a political and financial nightmare, but maybe it is time to remind Foster of the fact most St. Petersburg voters have him firmly in their crosshairs as the main reason for the blockage of any real talks going on within the sunshine instead of behind the cloaked curtain with our brethren beyond the Howard Franklin.

tampa bay estuReality is there are plans out their for the revival of baseball on either side of that big divide we call the estuary Tampa Bay, but Foster’s firm stand and opposing legal thumb has kept any vocal talk of any progresses or recesses to the press releases or behind doors to keep the bay of lawyers barking within the city limits of St. Petersburg as Tampa and Hillsborough county make their own revival plans.

Maybe it is time Foster give a 2 or 3-week reprisal to let the Rays talk to whoever wants to listen or work with them in a stadium development and realistic plan to keep baseball in this cluster of cities that eagerly want an end to this drama and again rejoice in the sound of bat upon ball in that small cluster of 180 days that is the MLB season. St. Petersburg has already lost their Spring Training iconic focus with no team training here for some time, and no team looking to this community since the Mayor seems to be pushing the wrong buttons within the MLB hierarchy and no reprisal on the horizon.

Foster has to know there is a plan being whispered on the other side of the waters of Tampa Bay in the city that has the expansive land masses that can afford a stadium revival as his city lays surrounded by water on 3 sides and has limited space and populous to grow a sound foundation. This is hard for me to write because I am a proud St. Petersburg native who was birthed just a super human throw from Tropicana Field and have a firm and honest love for this community, but the reality is afoot that maybe the true answer to keeping the Rays and MLB in this region might be located across to our city rival, Tampa. Sure I wanted the stadium on the waterfront when it was announced in 2008, but a small segment of this city’s population put the same fear in the Rays as Foster is now employing and the Rays have remained silent until recently.

c4s_sternberg040111_168947cSure the Rays are now talking with both the Pinellas and Hillsborough County Commissions on their wants and needs, but is it too late and this is the beginning of the end because of Foster still keeping his thumb firmly on the Rays coattails to keep them on his city and not exploring any other vista for fear of them liking another vista instead of his fine hamlet. I know it is not lost on Foster that even if a Tampa plan unfolded, his city would get a nice chunk of change possibly helping his own city budget concerns and then leaving him with the demolition of the old tilted cap that is Tropicana Field, but also with a huge bit of acreage for further development and taxable income to the city.

It is time for Foster to pull his hands back and let the Rays talk among the community, explore beyond the confirms of the St. Petersburg city limits and at least see what offers and plans have been circumvented in blacked rooms and boardrooms possibly to find a plan that would not only keep baseball in this community for a long, long time, but also reap financial rewards and increased fan base that would make MLB eyes look further West to the Oakland A’s and San Jose debacle and leave the Tampa Bay area knowing progress is only a sunrise away.

thCAT487XNThe Rays talking with the two county commissions is firm starting point to an open discussion and possible back-and-forth motion of ideas and proposals that could escalate into a real and concise future home for the Rays that would make them economically sound as well as increase their fan base foothold within this community. Foster’s actions to me remind me of the old political “Good old boys” firm hand and an iron fist mentality that reined in this region in the 50’s and 60’s.

New ideas, plans and excitement will keep the Rays in this community and Foster holding the team tightly to his ideals and wants only makes them want to escape that grasp and explore even more. Foster has a right to want to protect his town’s revenues and most visible tenant, but his strong hand notions have not worked in recent years and maybe it is time to take another path, let the Rays venture eastbound and look at their options and explore the horizons that have been blanketed from them for so long. Foster knows if he wants a second term in office the Rays could be his linchpin to defeat or victory.

etc_friedman_072208_31476cMaybe the best thing Foster can do for St. Petersburg right now is release his grip a but and let the Rays do their due diligence. Who knows, maybe the team will see the Pinellas county ideas are not unfounded and possibly stay within the city limits. But the other reality is that Foster’s firm grip on the team’s stadium discussion could become even more constrictive in the near future and in effect choke the life out of the Rays stadium situation. Yep, it is time for the “big boy” pants to come out and we give viable options to the Rays before they decide that distant pastures have more appeal….outside of Tampa Bay.  

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.

Tick Tock Mayor Foster, Tick Tock!

I was reading an editorial today posted in the St. Petersburg Times website about the ongoing stalemate or strong arm maneuvers that have begun to permeate, and not with a great aroma from the St. Petersburg Mayor’s office.

I originally voted for Bill Foster as the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida because of his background working within the city structure even as the Florida Suncoast Dome was just a blueprint of the baseball future of this region. I really felt he had the heart and the soul figured out of the Tampa Bay Rays and their pursuit of a more feasible and fiscal future abode.

In his campaigning I thought I saw a Mayor who would embrace the Rays and each would walk a path towards enlightenment and harmony. Instead I’m now beginning to visualize more ands more daily an increasing sense of that regrettable small town insecurity that St. Petersburg, Florida has always fought with their cousins across the bay…Tampa.

Somehow Mayor Foster has embraced this insecurity like someone trying to steal his only child, refusing even a remote thought or a single word enter his ears of a possibility of the Rays moving from their home. For some reason Mayor Foster has been mute and vampant to even discussing the whole situation, and the ?Rays are growing tired of the silent treatment.

Some say the city of St. Pete has a lot to lose if the team explores outside its city limits, but in the Nation-wide scheme of things, St. Petersburg is looking selfish, arrogant and showing itself like a unbridled horses backside. This is the politician I elected into office, if he persists, his reign will be short and sweet.

There are other who are of the opinion that Mayor Foster is hedging his bets that the Rays finally drive across the city limits and violate his sacred trust. Litigation, bold judicial actions and even a bit of the old Florida back room politics of the past have reared their ugly head. This is not the progression or the tactics I expected from Foster. This is the work of a man with nothing to lose but his entire political career.

If he stops the Rays from crossing that imaginary line he will be toasted and held in high esteem by some in this community, but that same group is not the one flocking to Tropicana Field. The corporations in St. Petersburg have kept a low profile knowing a war is on the horizon, and will pick their battle mates after the first volley. I have a sneaking suspicion Mayor Foster will get the full Custer effect when his deep pocket allies finally fall on their own swords.

People are forgetting this Rays stadium fiasco is making our region look small time. It is making some within Major League Baseball wince and shutter at the possibility they even discussed a team in this region. It is making Mayor Foster MLB Public Enemy Number 1 without vocalizing it.

The city of St. Petersburg’s leverage on the Rays decreases with every tick of the clock, but why would the city bank on the fact the Rays would have to pay a penalty or even forgo some extra monetary damages if they trek across the bay. Don’t you think the Rays have not already got that same ideal prioritized, itemized and realized?

You think the team is going to wait until 2027 before hopping in a car and crossing the Howard Franklin? Really? You think the Rays have no done their homework already on any possible Hillsborough sites, and the fiscal collateral damage it could commit with even a public comment?

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg has been kind. He has not put a line in the sand, a proverbial “this needs to happen” speech out for all to hear, but it’s coming. Even the recent comments by his second in command, Rays President Matt Silverman and his First Sergeant Rays Manager Joe Maddon have not fallen on deaf ears outside the Mayor’s office.

The St. Petersburg City Council have heard enough to become worried, have heard enough to become banded and united in trying to stop the bleeding before the Rays amputate St. Petersburg from their stadium site list. The City Council have finally been made aware of the stalemate and chess match Mayor Foster is playing is becoming closer and closer to a “checkmate”.

The Rays are putting a great product on the field this season with their limited financial resources. The money pit, known as Tropicana Field, has seen millions of dollars poured into its inner core trying to revitalize a dying stadium. The structure is seeping into the Florida landscape, the building is starting to gasp and wheeze, it is beginning it final stages of sustaining MLB life.

I love Tropicana Field for what it has brought me personally over it lifetime. I enjoy games still sitting under its Teflon roof. I understand the need for more viable control over expenses and a possible freedom to re-invent the baseball stadium as we know it. By utilizing the newest technology trapping and possibly including a convention center to keep the money flow constant.

Mayor Foster can be commended for his due diligence in not bending or breaking to public opinions or scrutiny in this situation, but it is time to let a little civic pride go and try and work this out like a civilized community. Maybe it is a time for a unified “Kumbaya” moment, a civic awakening that if we falter here, the team is already headed for greener pastures.

I remember watching the video in college of the Mayflower moving vans backing up to old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, packing all the equipment, taking every last memory and ounce of civic pride with them before their trek to a town in the bowels of Indiana.

St. Petersburg doesn’t deserve that kind of legacy. Mayor Foster doesn’t want to be remembered as the man with too much civic pride to even dance with the Rays on this stadium situation before the clock runs out. The St. Petersburg City Council finally awoke from their hibernation concerning this issue, hopefully not too late to stop a journey over the bridge. Tick Tock Mayor Foster, Tick Tock!

Sternberg Speaks Honestly on the Rays Tampa Bay Future

 

 

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It was the Tampa Bay Rays stadium conversation and whiplash response most members of the Rays Republic knew was just peeking above the horizon. The Tampa Bay community as a whole had hoped such a cold water splash in our faces would have a more postmarked expiration date.

Somehow we all knew that the ever present sunshine attitude that surrounds our typical Florida Spring day would suddenly be darkened by an omnipotent comment cloud that would overshadow the usual optimistic banter whenever the Rays future stadium plans have been mentioned.

Just as suddenly the veil of silence has been removed from the Rays stadium debacle, and a few of the comments from Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg paint a more daunting image of an hourglass whose ribbons of sand are constantly spiraling to and end instead of a more optimistic conclusion.

Recently Sternberg told reporter Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:

“It seems clearer to me by the day that we’re going to be the last man standing (Oakland A’s stadium talks are in a more advanced stage of discussions),” Sternberg said. “And everything I know, and talking to these guys, baseball is just not going to stand for it anymore. And they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though. So it’s up to us, to everybody, to figure out how to get it right. …


Stu2008.jpg“We’ve come so far with this, with all the people who are interested and watching. I do believe we’ve grabbed into (them) a little bit, and to say it’s a good thing, it’s fun, it’s good for your kids, it’s a nice sport. … And that’s my real concern, that we won’t get to finish the job that I know we were right there to do.”

For the first time I can remember since Sternberg took over the Rays reigns, it seems like a hint of pessimism has crept into his tone when discussing the Rays future home. For the first time, Sternberg has bluntly envisioned both sides of the Tampa Bay region losing out if some sort of constructive movement is not made in the near future.

A good first step might be St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster allowing the Rays a little latitude to venture into other Tampa Bay locales without the threat of harsh legal actions or local repercussions by the Rays landlords possibly letting the process systematically eliminate some of these cost deficient locations from contention.

But that would be a huge leap of good faith by the City of St. Petersburg who has so much to lose not only in possibly losing their biggest tenant, but seeing a reversal in some of the recent positive financial surges in the city’s economically sensitive downtown core. Losing the team would turn downtown St. Petersburg basically into a ghost town again after 9 pm.

No matter how you try and twist, convolute or even manipulate Sternberg’s words, the message is loud and clear now. Major League Baseball with all its omnipotent power hover and circle above the whole stadium process like a lurking Florida vulture has the upper hand.

No longer is this only about St. Petersburg or even Tampa, it is about the future existence of our own Major League team in a town with rich MLB roots, but a transient populous that still has not fully embraced the Rays as “their team”. Even with the recent return of Spring baseball to Progress Energy Field (Al Lang) , the vibe concerning St. Petersburg is beginning to fade a bit more towards black than sunshine.


Stu2010.jpgI am not the only one to notice Sternberg’s particular word usage or possible hidden messages in his statements. Rays Index, another Rays top blog spot also noticed this one particular sentence that might heed this Tampa Bay region to having a few “burning the midnight oil” political strategy sessions. In a perfect world, both sides of the Tampa Bay region would meet in the same clandestine room.

Hidden within the midst of Sternberg’s comments is the small phrasing, “they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though.”

Immediately you see the unveiled reminder that the upper echelon of Major League Baseball loves the energy and past work Sternberg has done in rebuilding the Rays franchise from the ground up again, and might have some hidden agenda for his future.

The losers here will not be Sternberg, but it could be this region forever cast as a land of Spring baseball only again if the Rays do get harvested like an orange and taken somewhere else.

Contraction with a MLB/MLBPA labor negotiation in the near future is not an viable option, but if this region keeps their minds and mouthes closed for too much longer, it might be too late to salvage the fruit on the vine.


LockTrop.jpgI think the month of April will not only be the beginning of baseball again being played in St. Petersburg, but the beginning of the sands beginning an accelerated pace through the Rays hourglass. Sternberg has been more than vocally adamant that he is not the only person who might view this whole Rays stadium process as being stagnant for too long now.

Something has to be decided soon before the sands from the hourglass become quicksand that devour and destroy that forward progress of baseball in this region over that last 14 seasons.

 

The Tampa Bay community needs to make the first step soon, the first lunge into diluting this dark cloud and again bringing the warmth of the sunlight firmly back into view……or the cloud will overtake the region and when it finally begins to dissipate, the Rays may be gone…forever.

 

 

 

Rays want Tampa Bay to Show a United Front

Sternberg to Start the Rays “Baby Steps”

St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster is Eager to Chat with the Rays

 

If you have viewed the any of the three attached Youtube videos, then you might be with me that the City of St. Petersburg and its new Mayor Bill Foster are totally on board with speaking and discussing the Tampa Bay Rays future in the St. Petersburg surrounding community. We all know that sometimes the local media (Tampa Tribune) can show their own one-side response and closed-end stories relating to this pressing Tampa Bay issue. So it was refreshing to see on a St. Pete TV video taken during the April 15th session of the St. Petersburg City Council meeting that Mayor Foster was more than eager on video that he is “willing to work with the Rays as a partner” on the stadium issue.


And Mayor Foster and his City Council are well within their collective rights and civic responsibilities to take a bit of a breather and wait for the Rays to finish their current goals, then approach the Rays to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Mayor Foster showed great vision by saying the support for this team needs to be “regional” and not just localized within his city limits. And I loved Mayor Foster’s comment that ” no one here is the bad guy”, because in most of the media reports floating out there in Internet land from the Tampa-based side of the bay seems to place blame upon the City of St. Petersburg as being mute and deaf towards the Rays. We now know that notion to be a fable.

These videos show that Mayor Foster is more than receptive to having any type of discussions with the Rays on finding a suitable stadium resolution, but Mayor Foster also understands the Rays current code of silence as the team’s main focus is their pursuit of another American League East title, and hopefully more this season. And Mayor Fosters statement of supporting the Rays projects shows a distinctive positive open line of communications between the Rays, the St. Petersburg City Council, and Mayor Foster.

On the videos, you see that the City of St. Petersburg does respect the Rays organization fully and wants to keep a open level of dialogue with the Rays, plus are totally open to the notion of waiting until the end of the 2010 season before beginning serious Rays discussions. The City of St. Petersburg has somehow been viewed as the “bad guy” in this situation by not initially showing positive support for the non-binding findings of the ABC (A Baseball Community) Coalition because of their insistence in providing stadium options outside the city limits of St. Petersburg for a potential Rays future stadium.

The Coalition’s original mission statement was to seek inner St. Petersburg city location options to propose to the Rays organization, not venture out into other Tampa Bay locales. ABC Coalition took it upon itself to deviate from the original mission statement. The ABC Coalition final report is a volatile political firestorm that is mired in procedural potholes and fiscal limitation traps that could have condemned any talks between the Rays and St. Petersburg in an early effort to discuss the options based on the ABC Coalitions deviation from their original mission.

Because of the ABC groups refusal to follow the city’s set parameters, it instantly isolated the City of St. Petersburg to show plausible and viable local options within the city, and has been played out by opposing media segments as a convoluted and inaccurate portrayal of the city’s real intentions to ever consult with the Rays. Even though the ABC Coalition was first devised ,and originated in cooperation with former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, the ABC Coalition quickly took on a life of its own and veered way off course from the initial protocol to explore local St. Petersburg Rays stadium locations.


And by the City of St. Petersburg staying silent for so long on the final ABC’s findings, the City of St. Petersburg became the instant political scapegoat for organizations wanting to point a finger at a governmental agency in regards to the Rays stadium situation. By Mayor Foster’s own words, he spoke candidly that he ” can not make the Rays come to the table right now because they are busy trying to win a Pennant”. The past media reports illustrating the city of St. Petersburg collectively sitting on their hands or with their hands across their mouths has been greatly exaggerated, but that might just be the political climate right now to remain calm, cool and collected until the Rays make their next move..

By Mayor Foster saying he wants to ” assure their (the Rays) success not only on the field, but off the field.” It might be the first time we have heard an “official” voicing by a member of the City of St. Petersburg’s administration on the whole Rays stadium situation since the ABC debacle. But I really like the last segment of the third video where Mayor Foster stated that the “focus ( of the Rays) right now was to win a Pennant, and the focus of the day for us (City of St. Petersburg) is to demonstrate our commitment by getting fans in the seats.” You can bet there are a few Rays Front Office grins from ear-to-ear after hearing that wisdom coming from City Council chamber within the St. Petersburg City Hall.

I have to be honest that I really felt the City of St. Petersburg might have been stonewalling the Rays in regards to the whole Rays stadium endeavor. But the videos show that the City of St. Petersburg, and their Mayor are actually letting the Rays conduct their business currently at hand, before diluting and separating the stadium situation possibly as soon as after the 2010 season. That is the first real solid vocal evidence we have seen that the City of St. Petersburg is not tone deaf to the idea of a possible stadium, but also the first real vocal acknowledgment of open dialogue towards talking with the Rays.

Kudos to Mayor Foster for saying these thoughts during a City Council meeting. It is about time that the Rays Republic hears something besides the other side of Tampa Bay arguing and posturing for a potential Rays stadium. It shows there is an open invitation by the city for the Rays to sit down again with Mayor Foster and begin to hash out segments of the stadium situation in a positive vein. One of the reason I voted for Foster as our next St. Petersburg Mayor was his stark talk about keeping this team in our community. Another reason I voted for him was that he had a plan of having this entire Tampa Bay community co-exist with the Rays still situated within the city limits of St. Petersburg.


Most people forget that the land situated just off of I-275 and Ulmerton Road at the Southern mouth of the Howard Franklin bridge towards Tampa is within the city limits of St. Petersburg. It is one of the three ABC Coalition Rays stadium proposed sites. With the positive response by the St. Petersburg Mayor in these videos by showing his earnest desire to meet with the Rays, and hopefully secure a bright and productive future with the Rays remaining still within his fair city limits.

Some people within the St. Petersburg community had thought that Mayor Foster was tiptoeing this issue recently, or trying to hide it until later in the Rays season. These videos clearly show that St. Petersburg is granting the Rays space so that they can accomplish their seasonal goals, then both the City of St. Petersburg and the Rays can get down to business of securing the future of this team for the entire Tampa Bay regional community. I love it when I back the right (political) horse.
 

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