The conflict over the Trop has been like a chess game; each move has been slow and calculated. For example, the city of St. Pete hired a bankruptcy lawyer while drafting the contract, a strategy to counter the team using bankruptcy as a means to escape its agreement.Even though the idea was called a "bold prediction for 2012," one can't help but to wonder how another round of Tampa vs. St. Pete would pan out.
But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has the power to change that game, by officially proposing a location in downtown Tampa for a new Rays stadium.
Buckhorn often speaks about the benefits of having the Rays downtown, but publically announcing a Hillsborough location for the Rays to call home could give the team’s owners the leverage to broker a way out of St. Pete.
How long can the Rays compete with the bloated salaries of the Yankees and the Red Sox while ranked second-to-last in average attendance? Certainly not for the next 15 years. Especially while serving as a pseudo-farm system for their two divisional rivals.
Mayor Buckhorn says the Rays “can’t start dating” until the team escapes its use agreement at the Trop. But offering a stadium site in Tampa could put the Rays back on the market.
I suppose Tampa leaders would keep talking about how a stadium across the Bay would be better for the team....then the Rays would be able to pit one city vs. another....then some bold leader would hitch his political wagon to getting a stadium deal done....then fans might forget that the Rays still haven't provided any evidence that they can't compete in their current situation.
Or, the local media could simply advocate real regional cooperation instead of pitting one community vs. another.