Thursday, April 28, 2016


It's well known that the Tampa Bay Rays, and owner Stuart Sternberg, have been trying to get themselves a new stadium. Tropicana field is, to put it nicely, a nightmare. With its catwalks that often disturb airborne plays, it's in need of a serious facelift. And in Florida, the sunshine state where baseball should be a big deal, it just doesn't seem to be happening.

The Rays are the youngest team in the league. They took over Tropicana field in 1998 when the team was established. It's gone through a number of renovations, including being the first major league facility to use FieldTurf. They have also seen the lowest attendance in major league baseball. Back in February the Rays released an outline of what they hoped to get out of a new stadium, and sat down to discuss it with Hillsborough officials. The entire thing was well thought out, with the stadium being easily accessible being a priority, and modeling the new stadium after Camden Yards. It is logic for the Rays to look for a new home. The Trop has not been very kind to them. It would also make sense for the Tampa to invest in a new stadium for the team. It would bring in jobs, and more revenue to the city, while keeping the game of baseball alive there. That is not the case, though. At least not for the Rays.

The city of Tampa recently worked out a $40 million deal with the Yankees, to keep them in Tampa through 2046. The $40 million will go into updating Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The enhancements include new concourses, a new fan greeting area and a new fan gathering area with 360-degree views. This extends their contract that was set to expire in 2025. It's great news for the Yankees organization. But what does it mean for the Rays, and baseball in Florida?

This seems oddly familiar. Brief history lesson:

When Walter O'Malley became the primary owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he started looking for a new home for the team. There were attendance issues and a number of other problems that could not be resolved. The city turned him down twice, refusing to give him another space in Brooklyn, or the then unoccupied land in Flushing, Queens. At the time, the Giants were also looking for a new home. The state of the Polo Grounds was deplorable. New York City was even less willing to re-home the Giants. The Giants had a less than memorable time in NY. They began looking into moving to Minneapolis. O'Malley wanted nothing more than to keep the Dodgers in New York City, but Ebbets field could not home the team any longer, and the city was unwilling to even consider moving them from their Flatbush home. So he did what any good owner and businessman would do. When he heard that LA was looking to move the Washington Senators to the West Coast, O'Malley sent word that he was interested in moving his team. He convinced Horace Stoneham, Giants owner, to move to San Francisco to keep teams on the west coast. The team did well but the fans in Brooklyn and New York mourned the loss. Seeing how the loss of revenue from the teams affected the city, they decided to allow a stadium to be built in Flushing, Queens... the same location where O'Malley had wanted to rehome his Dodgers.

Now I'm not saying that Sternberg will move the Rays out of Florida. They are trying their hardest to keep the team in the area. But at what point does he give up? Let's be honest for a moment, the Yankees are not Tampa's team. The Yankees is New York's team. Having an updated facility for spring training is great, but is it logical for the city to pour $40 million into a training facility when they could easily give that money to their Major League team? It would certainly bring in more revenue and jobs to Tampa if they gave the Rays the money, and land, to build a new stadium. It could possibly increase attendance for the team. It seems like a win for both Tampa and the Rays if they have a new stadium. But that's not what Tampa did.

By giving Yankees money, and extending their contract, they gave the Rays a subtle sign. Florida is the perfect place for baseball. The major league teams should be more than welcomed. But that is not what is happening with the Rays. They are delegating the team to a facility that no longer works for major league baseball. The team is floundering. It makes me wonder how much longer the organization will wait until they take a page out of O'Malley's playbook and start looking for a new home.

--Erica Morales BYB Senior Writer 
Twitter: @e_morales1804

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