The start of a new baseball season brings a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings. But, in the case of the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s also bringing a rash of commentary on the team’s stadium situation.
As unsurprising as the attention is, the similar nature of all the talk is surprising. Other than some good analysis of the pros/cons of building a new stadium from the St. Pete Times, all the editorials seem to urge elected officials to get off their glutes and get the ball rolling.
The Times editorial board calls on St. Pete city leaders to act promptly. The Trib wrote an editorial simply calling for a new stadium. And Trib columnist Joe Henderson echoed the editorial by repeating the ABC Coalition’s findings in column format.
An interesting take on it all comes from the website "Field of Schemes." The site usually provides a level-headed approach to stadium-building and public financing, and it criticizes Henderson for wanting to build a stadium “just because.”
(In full disclosure, the site also sells these snarky t-shirts which wouldn’t exactly get ABC Coalition-approval)
And just as I predicted back in the ABC Coalition’s infancy, columnists and editorial boards are jumping on municipalities to act. But where’s the pressure on the Rays to come back to the table with ideas (or even a fair request) of their own?
As reported back in March, the Rays are still sitting on the sidelines, “waiting for the process to play itself out.”
But the process has basically played itself out with the ABC Coalition having already delivered its final report. It will soon drift off into the sunset, but there’s no indication the Rays will sit down with any community leaders anytime soon.
Why aren’t they at the table if they want a new stadium so badly?
It seems that - because although they’re counting on public money for a stadium - there’s not much public support for one. So the Rays continue to wait.
They’re still following the stadium-building blueprint that so many MLB teams have used, but anybody in Tampa Bay hoping for a quick resolution on the Rays' future will be thoroughly disappointed. All interested parties right now are playing a poker game with very valuable leverage at-stake.
There’s no debating the fact (or the editorials) that local leaders need to step up and help build a stadium if they want the Rays here into the 2020’s. But it’s not going to happen without the team’s help too.
No municipality can build a stadium by itself, so until the team shows its cards – both what it wants and how much it is willing to contribute to it – we’re at an impasse.
The Rays’ brass is undoubtedly still bitter about the way the waterfront deal fell through in 2008. But it’s going to take a similar united effort for the Rays and the community to get what they’re each looking for. And making things more difficult, it will have to be in full public view this time around so taxpayers aren’t left with an equally bitter taste in their mouths.
The time is now for the Rays to step up to bat and contribute more than their disappointment to the process. And fellow journalists, instead of penning editorials that encourage elected officials to work with the Rays (since there's proof they ARE trying), maybe we should be pushing the Rays' officials to work with them.