Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: New Rays stadium needs good team

As a marketing campaign, the Tampa Bay Rays' creation of a website to seek input from residents about what they want to see in a new stadium (ballparkremimagined.com), is a promotional stroke of genius.

Alas, it would seem Rays fans — up to this point, at least — show the creativity of a rosin bag.

Things are moving forward in the Rays' quest to find a new home in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties. Pinellas officials released a list of 17 potential sites that included Albert Whitted Airport, the old Airco Golf Course land, Carillon Town Center, a sod farm, landfills and the Showtime Speedway.

Who knew there were so many options in the most congested county in Florida?

The ballparkreimagined.com website features a lovely video capturing the charms of Tampa Bay from Ybor City to the Gulf of Mexico beaches. "We're a different kind of community," the voice-over notes. And that's probably true, although every other Major League Baseball town likely thinks they're "special," too.

At the moment, there are a number of postings on the site from fans about what a new Rays stadium should look or feel like. Rest assured no one in the Rays front office is racing into an architect's office with a print-out of the comments exclaiming "Eureka! We have our new stadium, courtesy of Skippy in Fort Lonesome!"

The contributions are pretty much what you would expect. Fans are concerned about the future location of the team. Others are concerned about traffic congestion around a new ballpark. Several listed a family friendly environment as high on their list of priorities.

To be sure, wherever or whatever form a new Rays stadium winds up, all those issues will obviously be part of the project.

Because at the end of the day, a ball park is a ball park is a ball park. You have a field. You have places to sit. You have the dugouts and the clubhouses. You have a scoreboard. You have places to buy a $50 bottle of beer and a $35 hotdog. And you have slobbering drunks — think of this as an added perk. Everything else is a matter of design —and money. Lots of money.

We can be reasonably confident that the end product of the Rays' stadium search will be a visually interesting building nicely accommodating the team's needs while also attracting a host of non-baseball events. It will be "breathtaking." That word seems to pop up a bit on the website. And can you ever really go wrong with "breathtaking?"

There is one thing that would be kinda, sorta nice to see in a brand spanking new Tampa Bay Rays Stadium. How about a really, really spiffy baseball team?

Terrific videos, user-friendly websites and the team's invitation to hear from its fans for ideas about a successor to Tropicana Field are all laudable.

But what's the point of fancy new digs, with all manner of consumer amenities, if the team on the field would have a hard time beating the Bad News Bears?

Tropicana Field's shortcomings as a ball park are numerous. But the chances are, most Tampa Bay Rays fans wouldn't care if the team played its games in the recreation yard at Hillsborough County's Falkenburg Road Jail as along as the lads made the playoffs.

Ah, the playoffs. Now that would be breathtaking.

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