Chances are, if you were to ask Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg if he has engaged in any activity that could remotely be construed as looking around in, oh say, Hillsborough County for possible sites to relocate the team, the mogul would insist that no, a thousand times no, he has not so much as even casually glanced in the general direction of Tampa. Not even a peek, or a brief stare, or even a twitch across the Howard Frankland Bridge.
For to engage in such behavior, as Richard Nixon once said, would be wrong. And thus, Sternberg would plead he has never, never, never, ever, ever, ever even uttered the words "Hillsborough County" in polite company. In fact he probably has himself blindfolded after landing at Tampa International Airport for the trip to St. Petersburg so as to not even accidentally catch a glimpse Tampa's skyline for fear of being turned into a pillar of cotton candy.
Still, a cynic might argue that for Sternberg and the rest of the Rays brain trust not to have ever noodled around Hillsborough County looking at potential stadium sites should they ever get legal permission from St. Petersburg to explore other options would be the height of management malpractice.
It's just a guess, but don't you think that of course Sternberg has undertaken numerous tours of Hillsborough, perhaps in the guise of merely looking for a decent cafe con leche.
So wouldn't it make simple sense for the St. Petersburg City Council next week to merely make official what is probably going on already and formally and legally vote to approve a proposal by council member Charlie Gerdes to give the Rays permission to explore a new stadium facility outside of the city in exchange for a $1.4 million yearly fee from the team to house hunt?
The Rays/Tropicana Field morass has tied the council up in knots for ages with several members acting as if they hold their collective breath, stomp their feet and clamp their hands over their ears, the future of the team will simply go away. But to where?
Earlier this year, council members Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton, Jim Kennedy and Bill Dudley all voted against allowing the Rays to search for a new stadium site. What this quartet of court jesters simply cannot grasp is the 85-acre Tropicana Field site is worth far more to the city in terms of jobs, economic impact and property taxes without the Rays taking up all the open space that sits relatively unused for most of the year.
The standoff between Kornell, Newton, Kennedy and Dudley versus reality has less to do with economic impact than it does with pride and hubris. St. Petersburg always has had a chip on its shoulder when it comes to sports and Tampa. Would Tampa want the Rays if given half a chance? You betcha. And in due time, Tampa might well lure the team, once someone figures out how to pay for a new stadium. But either way, the Rays wouldn't be leaving Tampa Bay, just finding a new home within it.
In the end, St. Petersburg would greatly benefit from a redeveloped Trop site. And in the process of being allowed to look around, Gerdes' plan would require the Rays to pay a $1.4 million yearly fee to conduct the search.
The council is set to vote on the Gerdes proposal next Thursday. It's time. It's time to grow up. It's time to do the sensible thing.