Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vinik Addresses Rays Rumors

Jeff Vinik faced the inevitable Rays-to-Vinikville Downtown Tampa rumors yesterday at Lightning Fan Fest, and told Tom Jones on WDAE radio (around the 5:55 mark here), "a new ballpark for them has been discussed long before I got here five years ago, and one thing I know is that we've got a lot on our plate, and we've got vision here on- and off-the-ice to do hopefully really good things."

"I think its critical for this region to keep baseball," Vinik continued when asked about the Rays' long-term viability in Tampa Bay.  "Personally, I love the sport of baseball - not as much as I love hockey- but I love the sport of baseball and I love this region.  And obviously, the development we're doing shows how much potential I think is here. And I think its important for a region to have major league baseball; to have football; to have at least one winter sport, hockey.  It's important for a region to have all three of those sports."

Pulitzer Prize-winner Will Hobson followed up with more {link to Times' site}:
Asked after the radio interview if he was opposed to a baseball stadium in Tampa, Vinik declined to answer the question, or any others.

(Commissioner Ken) Hagan said he doesn't believe Vinik's plans are a hurdle to a Rays stadium in Hillsborough. However, he acknowledged that a sense of urgency has been created by the prospect that Vinik's developments and others could vie for city money that might otherwise help fund a baseball stadium.

"There's going to come a point in time here where Major League Baseball and the Rays say enough's enough, and consider relocating outside of Tampa Bay," Hagan said. "We're going to reach a point where we're past the point of no return."
Of course, Vinik's non-committal answers likely means he's either working behind-the-scenes to make something happen with the Rays...or...

UPDATE: Other reporting on Vinik's plans include Jamal Thalji's story with Vinik's top deputy, Tod Leiweke {link to Times' site}.  Leiweke said building up downtown will make the Lightning opposed to the prevailing concept of a stadium making local businesses profitable:
Leiweke said Tampa Bay is an "unconventional market" for an NHL team, the "marketplace is spread out" and that there's not "tons and tons" of corporate support. The Tampa Bay Rays have similar concerns about the market for baseball in St. Petersburg.

The key to making the Lighting money, Leiweke said, is to lure major employers to set up shop around Amalie Arena. That will bring people who will live, work, shop, eat and drink in the Channel District — and buy hockey tickets.

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