Friday, June 22, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: So why is it taking so long to reach a Rays stadium deal? Or not?

Forgive just a pinch of cynical hyperbole.

For better or worse, the recent summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore was announced and thrown together in a matter of weeks.

And this was an international diplomatic initiative to discuss nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, which could obliterate the world, kill millions of people and forever change the course of human history, or whatever would be left of it.

Meanwhile, after nearly three years of hang-wringing and dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying, the Tampa Bay Rays are still trying to figure out where they will be playing baseball one of these days.

In theory at least, how hard should this be?

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Deadline clock ticking on Rays agreement with St. Petersburg

For years, the Rays have whined and moaned about what a horrible place Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg is to play baseball. And there is some truth to that complaint.

The Trop isnít much more than a glorified Quonset Hut with a gland problem. Attendance lurks somewhere between the crowd for Charles Mansonís funeral and an Adam Sandler film festival.

Thus it was that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council approved an agreement giving the team three years to begin looking elsewhere, including Hillsborough County, for a better splotch of land to build a new ballpark. The clock started running in 2016 and expires at the end of this year.

And we are still nowhere close to breaking ground. Or consider it only took a little more than a year to build the Empire State Building.

With a Dec. 31 deadline quickly looming, while the Rays have indeed announced theyíve settled on a site in the Ybor City neighborhood, precious little progress on advancing a new ballpark project seems evident.

To date, no formal agreement has been cobbled together to move the team to Tampa and there seems to be no firm grasp on how to pay for what would quite likely be a new ballpark at a cost of upwards of $800 million-plus. Or put another way, it only took about a year to plan the Normandy Invasion, the largest sea-based military assault in history. Yet the powers that be in Tampa canít figure out how to move a baseball team across the Howard Frankland Bridge.

Isnít this why God created lawyers?

As the Tampa Bay Timesís Charlie Frago has reported, under the current agreement, the Rays are obligated to pay the city of St. Petersburg $2 million a year between 2023 and 2026 if the team is playing in a new facility by then.

But what if the Rays canít make a deal happen and relocating the team gets delayed, which seems more than reasonable at this point? Nobody seems to know.

Or simply imagine that the Rays will have had 36 months to identify a site, agree on a design and arrange financing and very little appears to have materialized.

If the original agreement dies on the vine on Dec. 31, St. Petersburg could simply terminate the deal, begin redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site and begin collecting compensation from the Rays immediately.

Or a new deal could be reached with the team increasing the compensation to around $2.5 million a year. Or everybody could merely go back to the original deal requiring the team to remain in St. Petersburg until its lease expires in 2027.

Or consider it only took a year to build the original Yankee Stadium.

This soap opera is quickly becoming The Days of Our Rays. On and on and on and ...

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has been one of the most visible boosters of a Rays stadium in Tampa, told Frago he didnít think financial details of a new ballpark needed to be finalized before the Dec. 31 date.

But doesnít everything hinge on how to pay for the cockamamie ball field? It is true Rome wasnít built in a day. But at least Romulus and Remus had a line of credit.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18