Hello? Mr. Sternberg?
Howard here. First, just wanted to let you know we have re-upped for our share of season tickets this year. We are pretty excited about it, although as loyal fans we are worried about the year after. Payroll issues, as you know.
But this is not why I am writing. I'm writing to say that from here on, it's probably going to have to be you, as owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, who becomes the driving public force on the eventual-new-stadium thing.
Frankly, the peek-a-boo act is getting old.
First you had that secret deal for a waterfront stadium in downtown St. Petersburg. This was a bad idea (both the "secret" part and the "waterfront stadium in downtown St. Petersburg" part).
After that proposal fell apart, the former mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Baker, put together a committee of Smart Business People to explore a new stadium.
This was perfect for you. Let the Smart Business People be the front guys.
In the end, the Smart Business People came up with a report that, seems to me, was pretty good for you.
In particular, they made a couple of wacky, crazy points:
• If there is a new stadium, maybe it should be closer to where more people are.
• Maybe, too, it should be closer to where more big Tampa Bay employers are.
Unfortunately for you, the people of the Tampa Bay area did not immediately leap up and cry: "Egad! We must relocate the stadium at once!"
In fact, the reaction of the city of St. Petersburg may be summed up thusly:
In double fact, the city now refuses even to listen to the findings of the Smart Business People. This strikes me as a little silly, like a kid putting his hands over his ears and going, "Na! Na! Na! Na!" Their claim appears to be that if they listen, they will be infected with legal cooties.
So if I were Craig Sher or Chuck Sykes or Alan Bomstein or any of those Smart Business People, the next time the city of St. Petersburg tried to reach out to the "business community," I, too, would respond: "Pffft. I have a gazillion-dollar business to run. Stuff it, Mayberry."
Here is more bad news: The new mayor, Bill Foster, who clearly said in his campaign that he would talk about a new stadium when the time came, is suddenly channeling his defeated rival, Kathleen Ford (or a script from his staff). It turns out that the old Tropicana Field is "just fine," we have a contract with the Rays, a deal is a deal, and, by the way, mumble-mumble.
In sum, the strategy of using the Smart Business People as a cover did not work.
The Fellowship of the Stadium has failed.
Which leaves …
I am going on some assumptions here. The first is that there is no way, no how, that the Rays will play in Tropicana Field for the full term of its contract.
My second assumption is that without an alternative, sooner or later, the team must leave. Either you'll be the owner when that day comes, or somebody else will.
My third assumption is that you must have some idea of what is acceptable, and what is not. For example, I keep hearing that even a compromise site in the Gateway area might not work. If that's true, would that mean the only alternative is … uh, to the east, if you get my drift?
So here is my question:
What do you want?