Saturday, February 24, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Rays' stadium search a stew of money, politics, timing, Kismet

This could be your golden opportunity. If you have a vacant lot somewhere, you could be the lucky winner in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium site search. It seems, for all the hubbub and frenzied speculation over where the lads will next play ball for the foreseeable future, team owner Stuart Sternberg is having a harder time finding a place to bed down than Mary and Joseph.

After the city of St. Petersburg agreed to let the Rays look for a new stadium site, the hills were alive with the sound of moolah. Conventional wisdom suggested the team would quickly identify a number of available prime locales suitable for a new field of dreams and in short order a deal would be made for the land.

Of course, actually paying for a new home is problematic since the costs are estimated to be somewhere between a bazillion million dollars and zeroes stretching into infinity. Details, details.

It was also mused that the team would prefer to resettle somewhere in Tampa or Hillsborough County, perhaps grounded in the theory that since the citizenry on this side of the Howard Frankland Bridge was played for a chump when it literally gave the late Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer and his imps, Lo and Behold, a free Hellooooo Sucker! Stadium, perhaps those same marks would also gladly pay for a gleaming Rays ballpark, too.

But the quest to lock in a site for a new Rays stadium appears to have hit a glitch. As the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin, Steve Contorno, Charlie Frago and Richard Danielson have reported, the top five sites for a new stadium — three in Tampa and two in St. Petersburg — have gone "poof!"

Or think of it this way: Tim Tebow has a better batting average at the moment.

What to do? Well it seems Sternberg has turned into the Diogenes of the dugout, continuing to roam the moors of Tampa Bay in search of a perfect stadium site.

And if you think you have some unique insight into where the team will land, that's all very nice, but you're probably wrong. After all, this is a stew filled with all manner of ingredients from money, to politics, to timing, to Kismet. Did we mention money?

Now it appears we are in Phase II of "Stuart's Big Stadium Adventure," with four possible dots on the Tampa map emerging as possible sites: the Tampa Park Apartments between downtown Tampa and Ybor City, the International Ship Repair Docks, the Florida Fairgrounds and the Tampa Greyhound Track.

Or perhaps someplace else.

Based on absolutely nothing, one might conclude the fairgrounds footprint would offer plenty of space, easy access off of Interstate 4 and draw potential fans from as far away as Orlando.

The Greyhound track is intriguing, too, a site often pushed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist. Besides, a greyhound hasn't raced, or set a paw on the ground at the track since Lassie was a puppy.

It's close to downtown Tampa. It abuts I-275. It offers a fairly large chunk of land. And a Rays stadium just north of Tampa's city center could offer the potential for a considerable economic boost to both the Seminole Heights and Sulphur Springs neighborhoods.

Or perhaps not.

Wouldn't be interesting — and not all that surprising — if after all the navel-gazing, peering into crystal balls and mulling over tea leaves, if the Rays eventually wound up where they started, building a new stadium on the grounds of Tropicana Field?

Who knows? Probably not even Stuart Sternberg, the Flying Dutchman of the diamond.

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