ST. PETERSBURG — Pitching ace David Price is gone, closing a memorable era for the Rays. The debate about Tropicana Field isn't going anywhere.
A day before Price was traded to the Tigers, Rays manager Joe Maddon set the stage with familiar team refrain: The Trop causes poor attendance, poor attendance lowers payroll, lower payrolls force the team to part ways with favorite players.
"You lose (James) Shields. You lose (Carl) Crawford. You lose B.J. (Upton). A lot of good guys. That's what happens around here.'' Maddon said. "Until we build a new ballpark, it's going to continue to happen.''
Similar sentiments are bound to crop up over the next few days as fans, players and public officials digest the implications of the Price deal, as well as contracts soon to expire on other popular players such as Ben Zobrist.
The Rays want to explore potential stadium sites in Hillsborough as well as Pinellas counties, but St. Petersburg officials have blocked any cross-bay search, citing a Trop contract that extends to 2027.
Meanwhile, attendance that averaged 23,147 a game after the team's 2008 World Series run dropped to 18,645 last year and is on pace this year for 17,389, the worst in baseball.
The Rays and city officials have met several times since Mayor Rick Kriseman took office this year, and both sides say they are working amicably toward a solution. They are scheduled to meet again this month.
"We will miss watching David Price pitch for our Rays and wish him continued success in his career," Kriseman said in a statement Thursday. "Based on the leadership and creativity of Joe Maddon, as well as the talent that remains on the roster, I believe the Rays will remain competitive this season and beyond."