Tampa Bay needs to keep this team
I totally agree with your June 22 editorial (Rays' reasonable pitch) regarding Stuart Sternberg's candid assessment that the Rays need a new stadium, not in downtown St. Petersburg, to remain financially viable and competitive in the best division in baseball, the American League East.
I fully understand St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster's position on this as he is obligated to protect the city's financial interest in the Rays and Tropicana Field and to enforce the lease between the Rays and the city.
We must always recognize and be mindful of the incredible asset the Rays are to the Tampa Bay area and how valuable they would be to cities that do not have major league baseball such as Charlotte, Portland and Las Vegas.
I agree with the Rays that we have given enough time to the thesis that if we have a winner they will come. We have had one of the top five teams in all of baseball for the past three years and still have not been able to average more than 23,000 fans per game. It takes an average of 30,000 per game to remain financially viable and competitive, particularly in the American League East. I firmly believe the team would be able to average 30,000 per game in a new stadium in the downtown area of Tampa.
We cannot assume that the financial obligation remaining on the lease at the Trop would be enough to ensure that the Rays do not get overwhelmed by a package from another city and move. The Rays and another city might well be willing to pay the remaining money owed on the lease, allowing the Rays to move after having satisfied the financial obligations under the terms of the lease. The city could certainly file a suit against the Rays for the hard-to-define other financial benefits they would lose if the Rays left. The risk involved in what a court might require the Rays to pay in addition to the lease payments might well be a risk they and another city might be willing to take.
I hope that the city would ultimately conclude that having the team stay in the Tampa Bay area far outweighs the importance of them being within the city of St. Petersburg versus losing them to another city.
Ray Easterlin, St. Petersburg
Team's value is questionable
So the owner of the Tampa Bay Rays has decided that it is time to reopen his bid for a new stadium, and that the public should shoulder the cost of building it so that he and his investors can make even more money than they are now.
When I was a journalist in Albany, N.Y., in the 1980s, a study was done on public stadiums to see if any of them a) came in under budget; b) made money for the taxpayers; and c) if the "ripple effect" from the project could be proven to occur.
The conclusions: a) few projects came in on budget, and most cost far more than estimated; b) none of them made money for taxpayers, and all of them required yearly taxpayer bailouts just to stay open and/or pay the mortgage; and c) the "ripple effect" was total fiction. Some of the money did go into the community, but as a one-time boost.
The tiny trickle of cash to event vendors could barely be measured, often was not taxed properly and most of the people were hired by the job with no benefits and no future.
The fawning and pandering of city and county officials — whose allegiance should be to the taxpayers — to get into team or corporate boxes should be an embarrassment.
If a shoe store cannot sell enough shoes it closes. The Rays company is a private for-profit business and should be able to stand or fall on its own, not be propped up by taxpayers.
Robert P. Curran, Beverly Hills
Location hurts attendance
One has to feel the anguish of the Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg when he candidly states, "Baseball will not work long-term in downtown St. Petersburg." Having lived in Baltimore most of my life before moving to New Tampa six years ago, I know that Camden Yards, where the Orioles play, is exceptionally accessible off the interstate. The stadium has abundant parking, and for those who do not wish to drive, there is light rail as well as numerous park-and-ride locations.
All the things that Baltimore's Camden Yards has, Tropicana Field lacks, particularly with regard to accessibility, traffic flow and parking. I've only been to a handful of games, and the reasons for not going more often are not so much the antiquated trappings of Tropicana Field as the frustrations surrounding the trip itself and the congestion through the labyrinth of St. Petersburg's streets.
The mayor of St. Petersburg may wish to fight the move, as is his right and his obligation to the residents of the city. But this fact remains: People will not support with their attendance a stadium that is practically inapproachable by either car, bus or train. Certainly not when all but six games are televised to the comfort and convenience of one's own home.
Earl A. Myers, Jr., Tampa
City deserves better
How can an astute Major League Baseball CEO stand up and condemn a city as a play site when just two years ago he was willing to commit $215 million for a new stadium in the same city? If this is his opening volley in negotiations, it is an insult.
Further, with the team being named "Tampa Bay," what does this city get out of it? As the owner of a St. Petersburg bed and breakfast, I can tell you that most of the lodging in St. Petersburg was empty for the World Series. Out-of-towners assume the team is located in Tampa and so they reserve hotel rooms over there. I get that surprised, "Oh, I thought they played in Tampa" comment all the time. Pinellas County tourists pay for the facility and Tampa gets all the PR. Outrageous!
Is ours the only team named for a city other than the one in which the game is played? Why not the St. Petersburg Rays? Are we not the Sunshine City? The team logo pictures a sunburst. Get it?
Finally, why is the Great Recession being ignored in all this talk of low attendance? Let's be at least a bit fair, Mr. Sternberg.
Ed Caldwell, Dickens House Bed and Breakfast, St. Petersburg
Cooperation is needed
Stuart Sternberg and his management team have been solid partners to the Tampa Bay region. Quietly, they have assembled a world class team with talent and personality, supported by a deep farm system. Unassumingly, they have added concert after concert, giveaway after giveaway, in the hopes of coaxing major league attendance to an inconveniently located and unappealing ballpark.
If this season has proven anything conclusively, it is the fallacy of the argument that the Rays were not drawing because they weren't consistently fielding a winning team. We have discovered that the Rays are not drawing because downtown St. Petersburg simply cannot support a major league team.
As a devoted Rays fan, and a fan of this ownership group's approach, I hope that St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and others put down the guns and think about the alternatives. It is clear that the Rays will not — and cannot — stay at the Trop until 2027.
The question we now face is, does Tampa Bay want a major league team bad enough for the region to cooperate? For municipalities to share costs and, perhaps, find ways to offset St. Petersburg's bond expenses?
The bottom line is simple: Another community out there will gladly foot the bill and embrace the Rays. And if we lose major league baseball, it is never coming back. And rightfully so.
Tal J. Zlotnitsky, Trinity
We can't afford this
Here we go again! The Rays want a new stadium! Well, I want the Hope Diamond!
The fact is, if these multimillionaires want a new stadium, they should build it and pay for it themselves. We're broke here! Attendance is down because people are strapped for money. It's $20 for parking, $4 for a bottle of water, $8 for a beer, and the price of tickets has reached the breaking point. We can't afford this anymore! Get it?
Nobody is going to buy me new work trucks, or build me a new office or warehouse. Why should we build them anything?
Bill Durnell, Holiday
Rays in Tampa? Bring it on, baby | June 23, Sue Carlton column
Tiresome Tampa boosters
We are Rays fans, season ticket holders for more than 10 years. We live in St. Petersburg and will follow the Rays wherever their new stadium is. We just want the Rays to stay in the Tampa Bay area. Somewhere in the Gateway area would be ideal for both sides of the bay.
However, we get very upset when we hear folks from Tampa talk and give all their answers to why the Rays should be over there.
Sue Carlton's column just reiterated some of those ideas. Isn't it just as far from Tampa to St. Petersburg as it is from St. Petersburg to Tampa? Wouldn't it be just as hard for a family to bring school-age children from St. Petersburg to a game in downtown Tampa? Also, traffic from St. Petersburg to Tampa between 3 and 7 p.m. is much worse than the drive the other way.
This is a Tampa Bay team which happens to be based in St. Petersburg, just as the Bucs and the Lightning are Tampa Bay teams based in Tampa. Can't we all start acting like grown-ups and support our local teams no matter where their home base is?
William and Marcia Hughes, St. Petersburg
Rays in Tampa? Bring it on, baby | June 23, Sue Carlton column
Distance is an excuse
I don't care where Sue Carlton lives. She works for the St. Petersburg Times. The citizens of St. Petersburg paid for the dome and worked hard to bring the team to St. Petersburg.
Being a season ticket holder since the beginning and attending far more than Carlton's two or three games a year, I find her article both offensive and disloyal to her employer and the community it represents.
Distance is just an excuse. I am also an original season ticket holder for the Bucs, and it's no farther for me to drive to Tampa for Bucs games than it is for her and all the others in Tampa to drive to St. Petersburg for Rays games.
Tampa already has three professional sports teams. Leave the Rays alone in the city that gave them "birth." I can't believe the editors of the Times allowed that column to be published!
Carol Crawford, Pinellas Park
What kind of game is this?
What is going on with the Rays management? I would surely like to know. Two years ago they were all ready to build a stadium on the water in downtown St. Petersburg. That was the ideal location. If they had had their way, construction would be under way now. What was great then is no good now?
Now, apparently, they don't want to stay in St. Petersburg. Is this all some sort of a game? By the way, I am a Rays fan and do go to games.
Newell Phipps, Clearwater
An unseemly demand
Stuart Sternberg's willingness to relocate the Rays outside of St. Petersburg is extremely frustrating and confusing. He says a new stadium is necessary for the team. My question is: Why?
Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are both almost 100 years old. Yankee Stadium was almost 90 when put to rest. Why can the Trop just barely squeeze out 20 good years?
Cries have been heard for an open air or retractable dome stadium. Some say baseball feels more authentic when it is played outside. But this is St. Petersburg, where temperatures routinely reach the 90s during the summer, and torrential summer showers aren't out of the ordinary. Tropicana Field's air conditioning is a nice touch and makes games bearable for the masses, and I'm sure the players appreciate it as well. Plus, with the current fixed dome stadium, rain delays aren't an issue.
Why should the taxpayers pay for a new stadium, and why now? With the economy the way it is, public dollars are at a premium. The Pier is crumbling. We need a new police station. With all these problems, the Rays have the audacity to not ask for, but demand a new stadium, or else they're splitting from the city? This is extortion. We never heard these demands during "the dark years" of the team.
If the Rays do relocate across the bridge, the core fans from St. Petersburg, the beaches, and all of Pinellas County will feel betrayed by an ownership that seems increasingly callous and hostile to the fan base. What will happen to the blooming "downtown renaissance"? If the Trop is empty, what can be done? Maybe the White Sox are still interested in our offer for a stadium circa 1988 …
Robert Blackmon, Gulfport