Evan Longoria needs a little history lesson. The former third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays who now plays for the San Francisco Giants says he’s not convinced his former team can be successful here even with a new stadium in a better location. He might ask around his new bay area about how modern stadiums in smarter spots can draw more fans — and learn his new team could have been the Tampa Bay Giants.
The Giants’ old stadium, Candlestick Park, opened in 1960. It was often cold, damp and so windy a pitcher was blown off the mound in an All-Star game. It was miles from downtown, crumbling for years and considered among the worst stadiums in the country. The Giants’ attendance ranked in the bottom half of the National League — and often among the two or three worst — throughout the 1990s even though the team won more than half of their games in five of 10 seasons.
In 2000, the Giants moved to a gorgeous, more compact stadium downtown. A light rail station is across the street. AT&T Park is a destination attraction, and the Giants have ranked in the top five NL teams for attendance every year since the stadium opened. Funny how that works.
The Rays regularly rank at the bottom of the league in attendance in outdated Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. But there’s no reason the franchise cannot be successful if it moves in a few years to a modern, attractive stadium around Ybor City in Tampa that is more centrally located.
One more history lesson, Evan. The Giants unsuccessfully lobbied for a new stadium for years in San Francisco, and there was an agreement in 1992 for the franchise to be sold and moved to St. Petersburg to play in the dome. Other team owners rejected the deal, and Vince Naimoli eventually was awarded an expansion team that began play here as the Devil Rays in 1998. Of course, Longoria was 7 years old when the Giants appeared headed to St. Petersburg. But Longo should know his team’s future was secured by a new stadium before questioning whether his former team could achieve the same result.