Today's editorial indicated the mayor was stuck in 1986, and his approach toward the Stadium Saga "may get him to next year's election for mayor, but in the long run it is a losing one for the city":
Yet in St. Petersburg City Hall, it's still 1986. That is when the bitter fight between St. Petersburg and Tampa over baseball ended and the St. Petersburg City Council voted to build the domed stadium now called Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay has matured since then, cooperation has replaced old rivalries and the Rays have played at the Trop for 15 seasons. Only St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and City Attorney John Wolfe remain in denial, stuck in the past and fighting outdated parochial battles over another baseball stadium.As I've written before, the "every year that ticks off the lease" argument doesn't hold water since every year that St. Pete keeps the Rays at the Trop, it's recovering part of the investment it made in the team.
For those scoring at home, the Rays reasonably want to look in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for a site for a new stadium to replace the outdated Trop. A regional franchise needs to look at its entire market, and the Rays have ranked at or near the bottom in attendance despite fielding a competitive, entertaining team. Foster refuses to let the Rays look outside St. Petersburg or nearby Pinellas.
This is a fatally flawed strategy. Every year that ticks off the lease makes it easier for the Rays to leave Tampa Bay. Pinellas County commissioners understand the need for a regional discussion, and they plan to meet with the Rays. So do Hillsborough County commissioners, who should not back down. So does Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. So does the business community on both sides of the bay. So do pragmatic St. Petersburg City Council members such as Jeff Danner and Charles Gerdes. The number of public officials hiding with Foster behind pinched legal opinions shrinks by the month.
And while the Times is quick to bash Foster for not giving in to the Rays' request, it hasn't held team owner Stuart Sternberg to the same standards. The newspaper has repeatedly suggested Sternberg offer St. Pete financial compensation for the right to expand the stadium search, but there was zero suggestion of such a proposal in the Rays' recent reply to the city.